Study suggests car marketers shift Web use

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A new survey being released June 6 found Web site sponsorships by car marketers and sponsored buttons on sites are the only two areas with rising annual click-through rates since 1998. Click-throughs on banner ads, pop-up windows and direct e-mails showed annual declines in the same period.

In late May, consultants CNW Marketing/Research and surveyed 3,806 cybersurfers who said they intended to buy a new vehicle within the next three months. Car ad agencies were surveyed to determine what percentage were buying online ads in various categories.

While click-throughs on pop-ups are dropping, more car ad agencies are buying them now as compared with 1998. But the study also reveals consumers find pop-ups the most annoying of any online ad forms. Pop-ups scored 9.1 points with a score of 10 points being "extremely annoying," indicating advertisers should stay away from them, said Art Spinella, VP at CNW.


The auto marketers' direct e-mails scored No. 2 on the annoyance scale among those surveyed. That's because although the consumers requested those e-mails, they are getting more e-mails on more car-related topics than they asked for, Mr. Spinella said.

The carmakers collectively spent $72 million in advertising on the Internet last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Mr. Spinella questioned the effectiveness of those ad dollars, citing declining click-through rates and rising consumer annoyance levels to pop-up windows, sponsored buttons and direct e-mails.

"Clearly what's on there now isn't working," he said. "No one really knows what works, so everyone is trying everything they can."

Tom Healey agreed: "None of the automakers is really saying exactly what they're doing on the Web or what they expect from it," said the partner at consultancy J.D. Power & Associates. "A lot of them are trying to find out what works."

Toyota Motor Corp., Tokyo, for instance, is the exclusive worldwide auto sponsor of the Gen Y music site at But Ashley Farr, president of Spike Internet Radio, Los Angeles, said his 24-hour music site doesn't run any banner ads. Visitors who click on Toyota's unobtrusive logo on SpikeRadio's home page are taken to the corporate Toyota site.


Ad expert Lee Weinblatt, CEO of Pretesting Co., Tenafly, N.J., said his research found some banner ads and pop-ups can lower brand images if they don't match a brand's character.

"The Internet is not a source of advertising," he said. "It's an information source, and you can get fast information from your home."

Consumers who are hunting for information on a particular non-car site don't want to be bothered by car banner ads, pop-ups or buttons because it breaks their concentration, Mr. Weinblatt said.

"It almost makes you look desperate, like an encyclopedia salesman years ago who stuck his foot in your door."

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