Although national automotive ad budgets are often planned three years in advance, the successes in digital media and marketing on local campaigns have brand managers rethinking those appropriations more frequently.
Such was the case with Toyota’s Scion line, a brand designed for younger auto buyers.
“Come March, we will likely have discussions as for how much we put toward digital, but I know it’s going to be positive and they will probably look at what they need to do to put more funding into digital spend on the national level,” said Mary Pham, Scion brand manager for Toyota Motor Sales who oversees marketing for 52 Scion dealerships in Northern California. Pham was formerly a digital marketing manager for Toyota.
Regional dealerships originally focused on “sponsorship of events to radio and some TV on a local level,” Pham said. That’s changing and Pham is moving some marketing resources from traditional channels into digital, online and mobile advertising.
Locally, there are guidelines brand managers and vendors must follow that are outlined in Toyota’s rulebook, dubbed “Toyota Dealer Advertising Covenant,” which assures dealers get equal representation in their respective territories. Ensuring vendor-partners were on board with those guidelines, Pham helped spearhead a corporate-supported digital advertising pilot for Scion’s San Francisco region over the past year. That region, which consists of seven dealerships, now invests 80% of its marketing budget in digital channels – a far cry from automotive’s collective past that dealt heavily in direct mail.
“There is a digitally attuned audience in this market and that was something I felt we needed to get a hold on for Scion,” Pham said. “The buyers we target for Scion are young buyers and most of them have a smartphone or iPad with them or a computer with them on the BART train, so it was interesting that the dealers weren’t looking at that digital behavior that aggressively until we did this campaign.”
Through the seven-dealer pilot rollout, Scion worked with Google AdWords partner and marketing vendor ReachLocal to manage search and display retargeting. Over the course of four months, the brand saw 4 million impressions on Scion banner ads through Google’s Display Network. The local campaign generated more than 28,000 click-throughs to regional dealers’ websites and Scion’s San Francisco metro market dealerships claimed double-digit sales growth.
“We broke up the campaigns into make, model, geo or brand names, and then moved the bids around to make sure we had the highest efficiencies to create those conversions you see in the results,” said Scott Lucas, director of ReachLocal Automotive. “We worked with Scion to make sure we were in the proper zip codes with all of the targeting, whether it was for mobile, display or traditional search,” to prevent dealer overlap.
To get granular with its targeting efforts, ReachLocal combined data Scion collected on competing brands that cost Scion business with available Scion units at each retail outlet. ReachLocal then overlaid that into campaigns to target via geo-fencing, and to determine which keywords it should bid on for its search marketing. These were tied to incentives such as lease deals on 2012 or 2013 makes at select dealerships.
“We were able to create custom campaigns and keywords to drive that traffic to individual stores,” Lucas said. In addition to the seven-dealer pilot, Scion added for one month outlying geographic areas that consisted of 10 stores, but that just reinforced that while there wasn’t as much traffic in the outliers, “major metro market areas like San Francisco or San Jose and even Sacramento” benefitted greatly from mobile conquesting and retargeting within their respective regions.
“As I move more into this digital space and try to figure out the whole ecosystem for Scion, I’ll be looking more at mobile advertising,” she said.