By Greg Dixon, VP of Automotive Client Development, TVSquared
Auto brands have been a mainstay on TV for decades. With its unprecedented reach, what better way to spread the word about a model launch or sale? But what surprises some is just how forward-thinking the industry is when it comes to using TV for performance too. In fact, auto brands are some of the most sophisticated advertisers when it comes to leveraging TV for response – site traffic, search, dealership visits, app activity, you name it.
To get a better understanding of what aspects of TV are performing best, we analyzed more than $10 billion in TV ad spend from nearly 200 clients (across tiers). Response, cost, and audience data from January-June 2019 was evaluated to find the highest and lowest-performing TV buy elements for auto advertisers.
Before diving into the findings, note that every advertiser is different – what works for one, will not necessarily work for another. While these can serve as a framework to use, there’s no substitution for continuous measurement and optimization of TV campaigns.
Analysis of Auto TV Advertising
Programming Genres: Animation Is a Hidden Gem
What we found when we looked at programming genres was really surprising, especially because animation yielded the strongest response. Despite having a very low spot count among the analyzed brands, Animation had a response rate that was 28 percent higher than any other genre.
This begs the question, why animation? Many auto brands prioritize live-action entertainment such as dramas and sports, the latter of which was the most-purchased genre, delivering average results. In many ways, animation is uncharted territory, offering a chance to connect with viewers during shows that don’t seem to be oversaturated with comparable spots.
Furthermore, animation tends to attract viewers far beyond auto’s “target” audiences. Child-focused animation means parents are likely nearby watching with second-screen devices in hand. While more general animation can attract a wide range of viewers. Since cars are high-consideration purchases that involve careful research and multiple discussions, this genre may provide an ideal “vehicle” for connecting with varied audiences.
Spot Lengths: 15s Hold Their Own
Not surprisingly, 15- and 30-second spots were the most common creative lengths among the analyzed brands. While 30s are the gold standard – an ideal length for conveying effective, actionable messaging – we found the performance of 15s to be very strong too.
When compared to 30s, 15s had a 50% higher response rate and came at a cost per response (CPR) of 25% below average.
While it may seem like a strong case for 15s, there are caveats. Since 30s are the most commonly used length, it can be difficult to purchase 15s that coincide with dayparts or programs that deliver strong response. Experimentation and continuous creative optimization are key. Don’t completely abandon standard 30s for 15s, but rather aim for a strategic balance of both.
Days of Week: Auto has a Case of “The Mondays”
Based on our analysis, the best strategy for deciding which days to air spots is relatively straightforward – later in the week means better results. Saturday and Sunday were the best performing days, delivering response rates between 7%-15% above average. This makes sense; people have more time on the weekends to devote to researching major purchases (we see the same trend with other high-consideration verticals like travel and appliances).
Monday was the lowest performing day overall, in addition to being significantly more expensive. Inventory was 10% more expensive per response than the average. Compared to weekends, it was 18% more expensive in delivering response.
Looking at the data, auto brands should test and learn – moving a portion of spots planned for Monday through Wednesday to later in the week to take advantage of stronger response rates.
Dayparts: Daytime Domination
Among dayparts, Weekday Daytime and Weekend Daytime were consistently the most cost-effective, with CPR rates of 37 and 20 percent below average, respectively. They were also the most effective for driving response with above-average rates between 21-33 percent.
On the other hand, Overnight and Late Fringe were the least effective, costing double to triple the investment per response and delivering low response rates.
You can download the report, “Taking Back the Wheel: TV Ad Performance Insights for Automotive Brands” to access more insight and tips on spend efficiency and effectiveness for advertisers.
About the Author
Greg Dixon is the VP of Automotive Client Development at TVSquared, the worldwide leader in TV attribution. With more than 20 years of experience, Greg has successfully led advertising sales efforts for companies like Volvo, Comcast, and General Motors.