By Jennie White, Client Solutions Manager, Meta’s Automotive Digital Retail Team

In the early 90s, static banner ads launched on the Internet were considered groundbreaking. Today, ads can have rich videos that quickly evolve into interactive augmented reality experiences. The evolution of ad creative has helped marketers to up-level their dealership marketing strategy – telling better stories, driving brand loyalty, and reaching new audiences. But creative in digital is still very abstract and is constantly changing with evolving consumer behaviors.

Consumers are absorbing media at a record pace, making it much harder for brands to grab their attention. Fifteen years ago, the market research firm, Yankelovich, estimated that the average person saw 5,000 ads per day. We can only assume that number is higher today given that research now shows that people spend 13 hours and 11 minutes on average consuming media every day.

Advanced Technology to Quickly Create and Deliver Efficient Dealership Ad Campaigns

As media consumption evolves, Meta has advanced its machine learning technology, which now allows marketers to reach the highest converting audiences with little manual input. Traditionally, marketers had to pre-select audiences, input manual bids, and breakout placements, which left them little time to focus on broader strategy and creative. Advanced marketers now trust Meta’s technologies to do the heavy lifting and optimize to reach the right audiences when it matters most.

The advancements in machine learning have led to better performance and freed up time for marketers to focus on bigger-picture strategy. One example is Meta’s broad audience targeting; we found broad targeting (e.g., United States; ages 18+) was 2.2X more efficient than detailed interest targeting (e.g., car enthusiasts, parents, and football fans. When it comes to time savings, a 2019 survey showed that 77% of media buyers and strategists in the U.S. said automated tools saved them significant amounts of time spent on manual and tedious tasks, with most reporting they gained back between one to four hours per week, on average.

Earlier this year, Meta launched the Meta Advantage product suite. Meta Advantage harnesses the power of Meta’s advanced automation and machine learning technology to help marketers quickly create and deliver efficient campaigns. One of the core products under “Meta Advantage” is Advantage+, which allows marketers to automate an entire campaign flow from end to end. A popular feature is Advantage+ Creative, which automatically creates variations of your static or video ad and shows a personalized variation based on what the user is most likely to respond to.

Using Creative Best Practices to Reach Car Shoppers and Optimize Dealership Ad Spend

The combination of recording breaking media consumption, machine learning-powered automation, and time savings should empower marketers to prioritize creative above all else. Why? Creative has replaced targeting by becoming the leader in reaching high-quality audiences.

Research has shown that when advertising campaigns use creative best practices:

But what makes good ad creative? Short-form video is one of Meta’s leading creative types. For example, Reels continues to grow quickly across our apps – both in production and consumption. There are now more than 140 billion Reels plays across Facebook and Instagram daily. That’s a 50% increase from six months ago (3). This shows the opportunity to capture consumers’ attention and drive the business outcome you’re optimizing for through video – whether brand or direct response.

Knowing that video creative is the leading driver in marketing performance today, how is your business resourcing toward it? Who is responsible for creative development? Are you following best practices? How are you testing creative? Are you testing new products?

A Framework to Up-Level Your Dealership Marketing Strategy

Outlined below is a framework to help you up-level your dealership marketing strategy at every stage of the creative journey.

Step 1: Master the basics with mobile-first creative.

Meta has developed a list of guidelines that should be considered table stakes for any creative launched on Meta. Through countless studies, we’ve found ads that follow the guidelines below drive the highest performance across brand and direct response objectives.

  • The brand name should be in the first three seconds of the video.
  • Videos should be 15 seconds or less.
  • Video ratios should be 4:5 for in-feed placements and 9:16 for vertical placements (e.g., Reels or Stories).
  • All videos should be developed for sound off, meaning the message should be clear to users who don’t have their sound on. Master this by using clear visuals, text supers, and closed captioning when possible.
  • The video should lead with the main value proposition, product, or message from the beginning. Don’t wait until the end of the video to introduce what you’re trying to sell.

Recommendation: Run an audit of your creative to ensure it follows the guidelines above. For creative that doesn’t meet these guidelines, work with your creative department or Meta Business Partner to reformat the assets.

Step 2: Shoot for social.

We must be mindful of how audiences consume media across different platforms and devices. To advance their creative strategy, marketers must shoot and develop content with the mobile consumer in mind.

  • On your next creative shoot, work with your team to film footage optimized for social.
  • Ask the cameraperson to flip their camera to capture vertical footage and ensure they frame the subject for this format.
  • Film content that tells the brand or product’s story in 15 seconds or less.
  • Capture behind-the-scenes moments and embrace ‘lo-fi’ footage that feels unpolished and real. Meta research shows that mobile-shot Stories ads have a 63% chance of outperforming studio-shot ads for purchase, app install, and checkout initiatives.
  • Frame for mobile by having the product or hero character at the forefront of the scene.

Recommendation: Work with your creative team to storyboard mobile-friendly content before your next production shoot. If you don’t have time or resources for a production shoot, start filming with your phone and use Meta’s in-product tools to optimize your creative, or work with a Meta Business Partner to help with creative development.

Step 3: Experiment with new creative types.

Think about ways you can differentiate your brand from the competition by exploring new creative formats and strategies.

  • Partner with creators and let them create content on your behalf. Creators can also help you unlock new audiences, especially younger cohorts.
  • Review Meta’s full list of available ad units and start testing with ones you haven’t leveraged before, for example, Collections or Reels.

Recommendation: Pick one new product or strategy to test quarterly or at a cadence that makes sense for your business.

A Strong Measurement Foundation & Collaborative Approach

Success throughout these three steps requires that you also have a strong measurement foundation. Each variable, strategy, and technique mentioned above can be measured using Meta’s A/B Testing tool, Conversion Lift, or Brand Lift. Work with your team to form a hypothesis, align on campaign goals, and determine the best measurement solution to track results.

Marketers must stay hyper-focused on creative innovation as consumer media behavior evolves and technology advances. Creative responsibility no longer lives with the creative team; it needs to be in the DNA of everyone who touches marketing – data scientists, strategists, media buyers, and leadership teams.

Creative comes with its fair share of challenges, but by taking a collaborative approach that focuses on experimentation and measurement, creative will soon become the leading driver in your marketing efforts.

Source/Notes:
(1) Meta data: 235 Brand Lift tests April 2021-2022; 14,780 A/B creative tests April 2021-2022
(2) The value of performance branding” by Meta, March 2021. Research findings do not guarantee future results.
(3) Meta Q3 2022 Earnings Call
(4) Meta data, global, July 2019, September 2019, Analysis of aggregated results from 10 multi-cell brand lift studies and conversion lift studies

About the Author

Jennie White is a Client Solutions Manager on Meta’s Automotive Digital Retail Team, where she manages digital-native automotive brands. Jennie has worked in digital advertising for over 10 years and has specialized in creative development for social channels. Before joining Meta in 2016, Jennie worked at two of Meta’s badged business partners in marketing and sales.

View More Dealer Magazine articles

This article was originally published in the Nov./Dec. 2022 Issue of Dealer Magazine. You can view the latest digital edition as well as past issues of Dealer Magazine here.

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