How Addressable TV Is Changing Auto Marketing

An interview with Sr. Director of Addressable Stephen Eidelman and auto journalist Jim Motavalli 

Cadent Cadent on March 10, 2020
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This interview, conducted and written by Kathy Newberger, originally appeared on Cadent’s MediaVillage microsite. 

There are car people. There are media people. And then there are people who are both — including longtime auto/marketing journalist Jim Motavalli and Stephen Eidelman, Senior Director of Addressable Advertising at Cadent, whose focus is connecting automotive marketers and agencies with data-driven and addressable television. When you have two experts like these in a room, you know the conversation is going to be good.

Fortunately, I had the pleasure of listening in when I hosted a conversation between Motavalli and Eidelman about trends in auto marketing for media and beyond. The two also discussed the issues that people at the center of that automotive and media Venn diagram should know.

Media Trends: More Complex Choices for Advertisers

Motavalli kicked off the conversation by pointing out that as media consumption habits change — and particularly as viewers consume video across a wider array of devices and services than ever before — it creates pressure in the media business that he’s seen before. As an auto journalist, car magazines used to be his bread and butter, but “mighty institutions have fallen trying to depend on auto advertising.” Consumers no longer rely on those magazines for car specs, and automotive advertising today, he says, is less about information and more about associating a brand with a lifestyle.

Eidelman agreed. “Advertisers follow consumers, and changing media usage patterns affect how manufacturers use all types of marketing channels: social, mobile, even print,” said Eidelman, who previously worked at Group M’s Modi Media, at TubeMogul on programmatic TV, and as part of DISH Media Sales, so he’s well-versed in the capabilities of all types of media. “But when it comes to TV, what’s really been changing, driven in part by data and technology, is that now auto marketers can use television at the top of the funnel for brand-building, and the bottom of the funnel to identify households, through hundreds of data touchpoints, and target households when they’re further along in their customer journey.”

The Path to Purchase: More Winding Journeys for Consumers

Although most automotive purchase research now takes place online, the dealership is still the primary place where sales take place, Motavalli says. That can be a challenge for marketers who might mistake an enthusiast’s interest for buying signals online.

Eidelman and his team at Cadent can identify who’s actually visited a dealership, versus who are auto enthusiasts just liking or viewing certain pieces of content. “Depending on where people are in the journey,” Eidelman said, “we can craft messaging that speaks to their current need and deliver that through TV.” He cites as an example the ability to use relevant creative to target segments such as young families that move to the suburbs and are likely to be in the market for the SUVs and crossovers that Motavalli says are so critical to the industry.

“Auto marketers are one of the more sophisticated verticals we work with at Cadent,” Eidelman said. “We’ve seen explosive growth across addressable television and OTT. Auto marketers are there because consumers are there.”

And when it comes to traditional linear television versus OTT, Eidelman made a point that Motavalli agreed is important: “It’s less about thinking of TV as a piece of furniture in someone’s house and more about finding that customer where they’re watching.” So, Cadent works with advertisers using the same datasets and targeting segments across devices and services, Eidelman said.

Targeting and Branding

Both Eidelman and Motavalli also agreed that just because a marketer can target a tiny fraction of the viewing universe, brand-building doesn’t lose importance. “Consider Maserati or Ferrari or Jaguar…” Motavalli urges. He says that manufacturers create vehicles that might only appeal to 5 percent of those who buy their brand, but unless they create that aspirational model, those aspirational buyers will look elsewhere. “It isn’t Jaguar unless you have the F-type,” he said. “That’s what creates the brand.”

And, for Eidelman, “if you’re really looking to market a vehicle with narrow appeal, then addressable is a good tactic because you can hyper-target and not waste on mass reach.” He warns that if auto manufacturers only reach a targeted audience once they’re in the market for a car, they lose out on building brand equity. That’s why he works with brands to plan tactics across their entire marketing journey.

Data and Attribution

Eidelman notes that auto advertisers were the first to “lean in” to data-enhanced advertising because they were already comfortable using Polk and IHS auto registration data. So, looking at targeting beyond demographics to include psychographic and behavioral triggers came naturally.

He adds that there’s no better indication of what type of vehicle someone will buy than what they’ve historically purchased, and that his company’s auto predictive models take that into account. This allows Cadent to help its auto advertisers serve the optimal creative to each audience. “We’re working with marketers who are very sophisticated in working with registration data so they can target buyers — and, see the impact of the advertising they’re doing,” he said.

One of the datapoints that he says is “super-crucial” to most of Cadent’s auto advertisers is a “days to purchase” analysis, which compares when a consumer was exposed to either the first or last impression to the actual conversion (i.e., purchase) date. “What you find is exactly what Jim was talking about earlier with the lengthy purchase cycle,” Eidelman said. “They’re able to see what it is really and adjust for future campaigns.”

Eidelman added that Cadent’s recommendation for auto marketers just getting started with addressable TV is to lean in and understand where the waterline is first. “If you test addressable, do it correctly,” he said. “Don’t dabble and stick a toe in the water. Level set from the start and understand what’s possible with the medium.”

The last couple of years has been important in educating the market about addressable, Eidelman pointed out, noting that awareness of the medium is much higher. “The conversations don’t sound like science fiction anymore,” he said. “Brands certainly have invested more into data and their technology stacks. Now it’s more of a matter of accepting addressable as a core part of the media mix as brands and agencies realign and invest more in data-driven strategies.”

Learn more about addressable TV.

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