How This Regional Toyota Marketer Connected TV Ads to Dealer Visits

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In June and July, 652,000 households in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas saw at least twice as many TV ads promoting summertime deals on the Toyota Camry as others in the region. Not only did Gulf States Toyota target these households specifically based on data showing they were in-market car shoppers, the regional Toyota office measured whether the addressable ads led to an increase in foot traffic to dealerships by directly tracking when anonymized mobile devices associated with the targeted households showed up in stores.

Now, with a newly redesigned Camry set to launch nationally this August, Gulf States Toyota is planning sales events to sell the remainder of its 2016 stock of the sedan, and that means a similarly sophisticated targeting and measurement effort will be in place this summer. This time, the regional office may even try to target only people who have shown an interest in buying a sedan, if feasible.

"As a regional office, it's so critical for us to be hyper-targeted," said Summer Craig, Gulf States Toyota's senior manager of integrated media, noting that the pinpointed ad buy shows dealers "we're really thinking through how we're spending our money."

Last year's campaign marked the first time the privately-owned regional Toyota office ran addressable TV advertising, and was "definitely the first time that we had held any kind of media accountable to physically going into a dealership," said Ms. Craig. The regional office acts as a wholesaler and middleman among around 150 Toyota sellers, managing inventory, assisting in dealer relations and running marketing campaigns that do not mention specific dealerships.

The process involved three key players: audience data provider Experian, addressable TV ad seller AT&T AdWorks and mobile location data firm NinthDecimal. First, AT&T, which offers DirecTV inventory, imported audience data associated with in-market car shoppers from data broker Experian. Following some refinement tests, 652,000 households were determined as the target audience. During the campaign run, those households were shown up to three times the number of ads others in the non-targeted audience were, accommodating advertiser rules for optimal frequency, and ensuring ads didn't run back-to-back, for example.

"Essentially what we did with this is we increased frequency to households that were shopping," said Ms. Craig.

The ads ran in DirecTV inventory and featured Toyota's familiar spokeswoman, Jan, trying to convince an enthusiastic shopper that in the Camry 1 Summer Sales Event, there are actually more than just one Camry left to buy. A heavy TV watcher in Dallas, for example, might have seen the spot run two to three times each day over a six-week period.

The campaign results showed that the ads sparked 19% more Toyota dealership visits from those targeted compared with the control group. NinthDecimal also found that 80% of visitors traveled 10 miles or fewer between their homes and the dealership.

When it comes to measuring whether the advertiser's partners are helping to find in-market car shoppers, said Brent Hillyer, Gulf States Toyota's VP of marketing, "This is the most effective way we've seen yet."

Following the campaign, NinthDecimal provided data including device IDs associated with the households in the DMAs targeted and whether those devices were present at a Toyota dealership to Experian and AT&T. From there, the information was matched against data showing which households were exposed to the Camry 1 event ads. The result was a hashed file that had the visitation data stripped of personal identifiers that were associated with the exposed and control households.

NinthDecimal gathers data on 150 million mobile devices each month through relationships with publishers of around 75,000 apps, according to the company's President David Staas. Some data is derived through ad calls made to the apps, and in other cases the app publishers agree to provide location data to NinthDecimal in exchange for analytics services. The firm's database matches lat-long information to actual business locations.

"We're providing services for them such as doing measurement studies as well as audience analysis of who their customers are," said Mr. Staas.

As with the majority of mobile location data collection, these partner publishers require users to agree to share location data when they download the apps, or sometimes when location data is gathered after download. Many mobile apps, once they have this permission from users, collect background location data, which tracks the location of devices at all times, whether or not the app is in use, and often when apps don't require any location data to perform core functions.

Ms. Craig said NinthDecimal has had a relationship for a couple years with Gulf States Toyota. The advertiser originally worked with the data firm to buy mobile media, but recognized the potential value of their device-tracking capabilities, which led to the Camry 1 campaign and the goal of tying household-targeted ads to actual dealer visits.

While she said it is possible for her to learn how the ads affected actual car sales, that was not what the advertiser was interested in. While car sales are obviously important, she said, it's Gulf States Toyota's job to spur shopping behavior through marketing and measure that behavior, rather than to take credit for a vehicle sale that may have involved several other interactions. "Marketing doesn't sell cars, marketing gets people to take an action," she said.