Advertising Age: What do you think is the best kind of marketing to get cars moving off lots -- TV, newspaper, print, digital, e-mail, outdoor, events or something else?
JAKE LOWEPRESIDENT, ANDERSON AUTOMOTIVE GROUP, RALEIGH, N.C.:
DAVID PENSKEDEALER AT DAVID PENSKE CHEVROLET, KING OF PRUSSIA, PA.:
BRAD BARNETTGENERAL MANAGER, AVONDALE TOYOTA SCION, AVONDALE, ARIZ., (THE DEALERSHIP IS A "ONE-PRICE," NO NEGOTIATION STORE THAT OPENED NEARLY FOUR YEARS AGO):
BRIAN ALLANBRIAN ALLAN GENERAL MANAGER, GALPIN FORD, GALPIN PREMIER COLLECTION, VAN NUYS, CALIF:
Ad Age: Are you in favor of incentives? Why or why not? What's working now?
Mr. Lowe: While all incentives help spur sales, we believe targeted incentives are the most effective because they help us move the needle in problem areas. All of the factories seem to have different ideas on how best to spend their resources, but we've found over our 50-plus years in business that dealer cash works better than customer cash in helping us move slow inventory.
Mr. Penske: There must be a catch to bring customers in on incentives. We tried gas cards and had little response. We perceive that customers do not understand how they work. And you can't just offer low interest rates. It needs something else attached to it -- like 0% with $500 cash back. Customers understand that.
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Ad Age: A lot of the major automakers are talking about moving big chunks of their ad budgets to digital marketing. Do you think this is a good idea?
Mr. Lowe: Moving money to digital marketing is an effective strategy for the factory and the dealer, but ultimately it may be more valuable to the dealer. Most dealers are way behind the factory in embracing the internet and learning how to interact successfully with the customer in a digital world.
Mr. Penske: Our Chevrolet ad group and King of Prussia Auto Dealers Association are spending more and more dollars on digital without adding to budgets. ... The trend toward digital has been in the last six months to a year. We have not seen a major shift to events or outdoor. But the shift is out of newspapers and more to TV. Classified advertising is starting to slide, although we're doing local community-newspaper advertising.
Mr. Barnett: I do believe that manufacturers and stores alike are making a positive move when they reallocate advertising funds toward enhancing the customer's online-shopping experience. If we as automotive retailers fail to recognize the benefits internet marketing offers, we are eliminating a large audience we wish to view our message.
Mr. Allan: Digital marketing certainly is a requirement today -- and a good idea. And not that digital marketing is any more cost-effective when done aggressively. For the dealer, the true cost of internet leads and the specialized people to handle them often are not reflected in many dealer advertising budgets. Fewer people read a physical newspaper, but they still get the news bulletins, e-mail alerts and electronic versions of newspapers. Manufacturers who make digital marketing engaging and give a customer the information they want in enticing ways seem to succeed the most.
Ad Age: If you could change something about your marketing, what would it be?
Mr. Lowe: It's no secret that cutting through the clutter of today's marketplace, where customers are exposed to 3,000-plus messages per day demands agility. So at Anderson Automotive, we actually assess and adjust our marketing strategies and tactics on a monthly basis to ensure we keep pace with our customers and competitive environment. Every four weeks or so, our senior executive team meets with our general managers and our ad agency to evaluate our messaging, marketing mix and media buys and make whatever strategic and tactical changes are needed.
Ad Age: What kind of support do dealers or ad associations need from the factory when it comes to moving vehicles?
Mr. Penske: Our advertising association does local advertising, and Chevrolet does national to supplement dealer budgets. That's based on the number of cars shipped to various areas. Chevrolet has changed the way they run dealer ad associations. They may have a little less spend, per se. I don't know exactly what the manufacturers are doing. Our budgets are the same. We're fighting that battle the best we can.
Ad Age: How have you changed your marketing to reach more customers and be more cost-effective?
Mr. Barnett: Avondale Toyota Scion has recently focused a lot of energy into updating our website to try and create a more interactive and informative venue to showcase what our dealership has to offer. ... Dealers recognize the importance of the internet today.