EDMONTON, Alberta -

By now, online advertising has permanently rooted itself in the Canadian automotive industry. It’s pretty much mandatory for legitimate dealers, as clean criminal records are for legitimate babysitters or judgmental tones are for dental hygienists.

And it’s not going anywhere. Over the past four years we have seen an explosion of growth in this format of advertising while traditional media channels are steadily losing traction.

So where should you focus your attention? If you break it all down, you’ll see that the great majority of this online growth can be traced back to three forms of online advertising: Paid search, sometimes referred to as Google AdWords or PPC; display advertising (think banners); and remarketing, where you subtly remind people about your dealership for many weeks following their latest visit to your site.

Beyond these three areas, growth has occurred, but not in the same explosive way. But new forms are emerging. If you feel that you’ve reached your ceiling with paid search, display, and remarketing campaigns, we can show you new roads to progress.

Here we’re going to tell you more about two newer formats of affordable online advertising that can give you a head start over your competitors.

But first, a disclaimer: If you’re just getting into a campaign, paid search and remarketing are absolutely fantastic places to start. Once you have mastered those, then you can move on to what we are going to talk about today.

Got that? Then let’s get started!


We all know that Google is by far the number one most popular search engine. But what’s next in line?

It’s not Yahoo. And it’s not Bing.

It’s actually Google’s adopted little brother — YouTube.

The first thing I want you to do is start thinking of YouTube as a search engine, not a cat video database. YouTube is extremely popular in Canada, regularly used by over 91 percent of the online population.

Also, like the new Costco on the outskirts of town that no one seems to have discovered yet, YouTube’s marketing platform is extremely underused by Canadian auto dealers. From an advertising perspective, this is like having an eager stadium-sized crowd, and no band on the stage. Blast that snare drum and kick open the door.

So now we know a little about what makes YouTube exciting for Canadian auto dealers. But what are your options as an advertiser?

There are a number of ways that you can advertise on YouTube: it could be through a video (InStream); within the video listings, similar to search in general (InSearch); or next to the video while it’s playing (InDisplay). Of all the InStream ad placements, the most common are what we call “Pre-Roll” (the short clip that plays before the desired video). This is what we’ll be focusing on for this article.

Even with pre-roll advertising there are a few more choices for how you can proceed as an advertiser. You can pay to guarantee that the entire ad is watched, or you can work in a model with that little “Skip Ad” button that people love. If people do indeed choose to skip your ad, you don’t have to pay for that impression.

Let’s make sure that hit home — you don’t have to pay for an impression when someone skips your ad. This model is called “True View,” and a few dealers are taking great advantage of it.

In this instance, you still get a bit of your branding out to everyone, but you pay for only those viewers who want to see what you’re selling; if they were too impatient to get to their Bruno Mars video, chances are they were never going to buy a Hyundai Genesis from you in the first place. At least not today.

With the formats down, now let’s talk about targeting. With YouTube, you still get the same great ability to target potential consumers that you do with other formats of online advertising. You can target individuals based on where they are located, what they are interested in, and even their demographic. 

Perhaps you want to target “men aged 18-34 in the GTA” or “women who enjoy travel.” Line up those crosshairs and convert.

OK, so now we know that we pay for only those viewers who are interested in our message, and that we can laser target different groups.

But what about the results?

Last November, Google released a study entitled “Digital Drives Auto Shopping.” Here are a few of the key findings from that study specific to online video:

  • Online video research is on the rise among auto shoppers.
  • The amount of time spent watching video is growing. Over half of auto shoppers now watch 30 minutes or more, and 1 in 4 watched an hour or more while researching.
  • Online video was the top ad format for driving brand consideration.

Now those are all very encouraging statements, but two parts of the study really stood out above all else:

  • Video advances brand discovery and consideration
    • 57 percent agreed that watching videos online helped introduce them to new brands.
    • 65 percent were able to narrow down their options after viewing.
  • Shoppers are taking action after watching video
    • 49 percent visited a dealer
    • 37 percent searched dealer inventory

Can you say conquest and conversion! If these numbers don’t get you excited about YouTube, check your pulse.

I can appreciate that some of you might be thinking, “Hey Duncan, that sounds great, but producing a video is too hard or expensive.” Or maybe you don’t know where to start.

The first bit of excellent news it that video production is scalable, and there are a number of different price points available to dealers in Canada. If you’re looking for production assistance, get in touch with me and I can point you in the right direction. And here are a few quick pointers if you’re unsure where to start: 

  • Be concise and direct: You don’t have a lot of time to capture viewers’ attention before the urge to hit the “Skip Ad” button becomes all-consuming.
  • Think conversion: Make sure that you tell the viewer what you want them to do immediately after watching your ad.
  • Be at least somewhat current: Don’t post your TV commercial that you’ve been running ever since Canadian Idol was a thing.  Freshen it up.

Want a few examples to better see what this looks like in execution? Fire me an email, and I would be happy to send you a few scalable video ads we’ve filmed this past month. I mean it. YouTube is a great place to launch your online advertising strategy to the next level.

There is a huge vacancy waiting to be filled by progressive dealers looking to get more leads from their campaigns. And if you’re paying for only the ads that people watch to the very end, while still getting five seconds of free branding for those that aren’t, what have you to lose? Hint: a golden opportunity.

Gmail Sponsored Promotions

Knew about YouTube advertising even before it was cool? Looking for the next thing? Check out Gmail Sponsored Promotions (GSP). Currently this is a beta product in Canada, and you might need some help accessing it. If so, reach out and we can hook you up.

So what is a Gmail sponsored promotion? Basically your ads appear directly in the Promotions section of someone’s Gmail inbox, neatly above the rest of their subscription newsletters and e-blasts. With GSP you can show your audience a simple subject line, some teasers and full-page ads above regular email, but not so much as to annoy recipients who didn’t log into their email to be bombarded with ads.

When they click on your promotion it opens like a normal piece of email, and they are presented with a full sized rich media advertisement to interact with. Pretty simple.

You also have the ability to focus your targeting in a number of different ways, whether it is through interest categories, demographics or keywords from the recipient’s inbox. You can even target people by the types of emails and newsletters that they may receive. Want to send someone who gets Car and Driver an ad about your new luxury convertible? Bippity-boppity-BMW 2 Series!

This is a very new product, but the results are bankable. From the campaigns we’ve tested so far, we’re seeing a cost per click under 75 cents and click-through rates over 3 percent. (That’s about 300 percent higher than a decent rate.)

Get in While the Getting’s Good

So to summarize, once you’ve set up your triple-threat offence of search, display and remarketing, there are still a number of other new ways to bulk up your online advertising presence; we touched upon only two today. If they seem daunting and out there, just try to remember how you felt back when you first heard someone utter “paid search” and “Google AdWords.” How did those work out for you?

You can still be very early to this party. Better book a babysitter.