Smarter Use Of Art & Science Stretch Auto Budgets Further

Smarter Use Of Art & Science Stretch Auto Budgets Further

The majority of adverts uploaded to Facebook aren’t created for Facebook as its priority. This is causing huge inefficiencies and poor performance for brands, many of whom are facing up to shrinking budgets. Tom Phillips (main photo) managing director at Connecting Plots shares lessons from 12 campaigns they optimised for auto brands…

It’s no secret that 2020 has been bloody hard for, well, everyone. The pressure is on marketers to do more with what are likely to be substantially squeezed budgets – the great paradox of advertising.

So we conducted extensive testing, in partnership with Facebook, and discovered a way brands can double the efficiencies on their existing digital spend, using automotive campaigns as a case study.

It boils down to a much better use of art and a smarter application of science. Specifically, better audience identification with platform-specific creative to improve performance. It sounds simple, so why aren’t most doing it?

With this mix, the average topline stats were:

● A 2x increase in reach for the same budget

● 50% reduction in cost per lead

● 45% reduction in cost per incremental car price configurator and finance conversions

● 54% reduction in cost per model page visit

The science

Finding the right audience is vital in the media market. With so many targeting tools and so much data at marketers’ disposal, the parameters around campaigns on Facebook platforms are getting increasingly complicated, yet still based on linear customer journeys. Campaigns with multiple ad sets, each targeting a different audience, take time to set up and go against best practice.

We thought that there must be a better way so we looked at best-in-class performers from other areas such as eCommerce, to understand how they were identifying their audiences.

We found these marketers had long since given up on the traditional method of setting an audience and then asking Facebook to find lookalike audiences based on those parameters.

Instead, they make full use of the platform by looking at the actions buyers are taking on their way to purchase, then incorporating machine learning tools to find people who are more likely to convert based on these intention parameters. E.g. people who paused on a retail ad, visited a certain page etc.

We applied this to 12 different auto campaigns and let the machines dictate which of the creative was served to each person based on their behaviours and intention signals.

The Art

Producing above-the-line creative in the automotive space is a craft which has been honed over decades of experience, although some may say it’s become formulaic.

But when it comes to social and digital platforms, the vast majority of global creative isn’t optimised for the channel. On Facebook alone 89% of auto creative submitted is sub-optimal and therefore isn’t effective. Money is being left on the table.

There are two factors at play – context and content.

Buying cars has traditionally been driven by emotion. So when it comes to full-funnel marketing we need to eke out an advantage at every step by marrying the right content with the right format, in the right context. The matching luggage approach is out and the fit-for-purpose/channel approach is in.

Conversely, 60% of auto shoppers buy on functional values so in ‘traditional’ channels we’re typically told to stick to one or two main messages to avoid diluting the emotional impact.

But, with digital, we can balance the functional and emotional through a full-funnel suite of assets tailored for different messaging along the spectrum of brand, model, features and benefits. This ideally is planned ahead in pre-production but as we’ve proven during Covid, is also achievable by adapting existing creative.

The best part about this is that any question of which creative message we think is going to perform best is removed and instead the algorithm, which is ultimately consumers deciding their relevance, drives performance.

Theory put into practice

We asked 12 auto manufacturers what the top reasons were for buying their cars, and what creative assets they had on hand that showcased these benefits. It unanimously boiled down to tech, safety, body style, and interior.

From here, we adapted existing TV and outdoor ads into a suite of fit-for-channel assets to hero these features for specific models.

These six principles we used to guide how we shaped this creative into digital assets aren’t anything new, but they’re often overlooked and worthy of a reminder.

1. Frame the context for the content – Know exactly what part of the customer journey you’re speaking to and which messages are most relevant in this context. In this instance it was further down the funnel and we focused on features.

2. Stop thumbs – You are competing in a newsfeed where people are looking for pleasure. Use a bit of unexpected movement to draw attention to a model or simplify a feature to make it more enjoyable for consumers.

3. Say it with no sound – Don’t leave it to chance, be explicit about your features visually.

4. Use More Space – 99% of ads are viewed on mobile devices so maximise the real estate in 4:5 and 9:16 and the opportunity for clarity of take-out. Be sure to include a nice big logo for the client.

5. Don’t forget the basics – Leverage your distinctive brand and product assets and land a clear call-to-action.

6. Hand-in-glove – All of this can only be achieved with platform, media and creative partners working together to get it right.

This wasn’t particularly complicated, time consuming or expensive to do – costing less than a small car and turned around in 2-3 weeks. It’s not about creating digital “matching luggage”, it’s about digital media and creative enabling a breadth of targeted messaging, saying the things that matter to the right people in the best way possible. You can check out the finished products here.

Squeeze the most out of every cent

If you’ve made it this far, you should understand the significant efficiencies that a strategic approach to digital campaigns can have.

When you consider these campaigns are the ones which are usually on 24/7 for brands throughout the year, and with the results we’ve shown can be achieved, it’s well worth a little time and money putting these practices in place. It actually works – saving you money and delivering you better outcomes in the long term.


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