Automotive marketing sits at a crossroads. As if macroeconomic conditions weren’t enough of a challenge, key media channels like TV are being subjected to radical transformation, including viewer fragmentation, ad avoidance behavior and fundamental shifts in the business models of all sides of the ecosystem. Auto marketers have historically been quick to embrace new advertising opportunities and, true to form, many have begun experimenting with our topic today: dynamic and personalized video.
First, a bit of context. The media universe was already on a path toward fragmentation well before the interweb came on the scene. Cable brought niche-i-fication to television. Magazines grew to cover a tremendous array of interests. Digital technologies have only accelerated and intensified this trend, providing an even lower-cost way to create and share content globally. The barriers to creation of great content –- including video -– have mostly been torn down.
And then there’s the distribution side of the equation. What was amazing about TV as a marketing channel was the massive reach, power of shared experiences, and the raw emotive potential of sight, sound and motion. The medium was the primary, if not the only, way to get video content viewed by a significant audience. Everyone tuned in and watched the program –- a linear experience that looked pretty much the same whether you were in a Manhattan high-rise or on a Colorado ranch.
Through Visible World’s partnership with advertising platforms like Doubleclick and Tremor Media, advertisers have the ability to target ads to more than 1,100 major sites based on ZIP code, content, demographics or date and time.
Today, of course, video has become a much more personal and interactive experience. On-demand viewing is on the rise — whether DVR, VOD, mobile or web-based — and we’re finding ways to add interactive content on top of and around the video itself. More recently, we’re seeing an explosion of social content and functionality around video that shows no sign of slowing down.
So what do you get when you take video, and add: on-demand consumption, fragmented and multi-device distribution, interactivity and social functionality? I think the answer is still to be determined, but I know this: you get a very different kind of media – and out of necessity, a very different way to market automotive brands in and around that media. I think what it means to marketers is that we need to stop BUYING attention and start EARNING attention.
One way to do that is to get so relevant that the message isn’t really perceived as advertising. Howard Gossage famously quipped, “People don’t read advertising. They read what interests them. Sometimes, it’s an ad.”
Targeting technologies are getting smarter and smarter, and are beginning to enable that level of what might be considered personalization. We’ve been using dynamic banner ads for years – I recall a series of expandable ads we built for Expedia a while back that were powered by XML feeds that pulled in the latest deals in different categories. The next evolution of that would have been to begin targeting destinations based on contextual relevance or behavioral history.
What I think is even more interesting is that technologies like this –- that have powered the dynamic web for what feels like ever –- are making their way to video. I’ve written before about Visible World, and they continue to be a leader in the space. But other companies like Real Time Content and Qmecom are also delivering this capability for online video.
The idea is the you can take a piece of video content –- let’s use a 30-second spot as an example, or better yet, multiple :30s –- and break it down into smaller clips, apply targeting criteria and business rules, and then reassemble at time of delivery for a narrowly targeted spot.
To really understand the potential of this, let’s look at some examples of how automotive marketers can leverage this capability:
- The easiest adjustment is a dynamic end slate that would pull in the address of the closest dealer, bringing simple geographic relevance.
- Narrowly target car models featured in the video spot based on contextual relevance. For example, if someone is browsing the buying guide for sedans on a site like Edmunds.com, the video ad from Toyota could feature the company’s line up of sedans, and ignore SUVs and trucks. More specifically, if the user was reading a Camry review, then the video ad is all about the Camry.
- Broader contextual relevance might also be an interesting play here. For example, car models featured in video spots could be changed based on type of content being browsed (forgive the broadly generalized stereotypes): mini-vans for parenting sites, sports cars on male-targeted sites.
- Video’s effectiveness as a response channel is often undervalued. With dynamic video, a marketer could test different financing/lease offers at zip code or DMA level. The call to action may be to visit your dealer, which we’ve personalized with the closest dealer. Success might be measured via foot traffic/lead generation, and then offers would be optimized by zip.
- The direct response concept could be taken a step farther by linking to online lead gen or, on TV, to a mobile response mechanism. Online can track down to detail of creative unit delivered. Mobile can do the same with unique keywords by creative. The program may again be measured via foot traffic/lead gen and optimized accordingly.
- The marketer might also use anonymous cookie targeting to identify current owners of the brand family. Instead of a promoting a new car, the video ad might feature accessories or services.
- The ultimate power of this technology is realized when integrated into email/CRM programs to deliver highly personalized videos – providing an overview of a particular model that the consumer expressed interest in, for example. You could even take this a step farther and address particular features based on what the consumer has disclosed (interested in green car with high gas mileage, but still wants refined luxury experience and integrated technology like Bluetooth phone support). A detailed and personalized model overview could be produced to address each feature. I just test drove a new car yesterday, and would have loved to get a follow up email with that level of personal detail.
For automotive marketers in particular, this kind of technology makes a ton of sense. Some manufacturers are, in fact, already using these technologies and strategies. In some cases, video assets that could be used to assemble these kinds of ads likely already exist, so there is potential that no additional video production needs to be done. It’s just a matter of crafting a segmentation strategy and implementing the targeting.
As these technologies continue to advance their capabilities and marketers wrap their heads around the possibilities through smart experimentation, we’ll begin to see “advertising” become less of a bad word in the minds of consumers. The ongoing recession creates a temptation to stick with the tried and true, rather than risk experimentation. But to not take advantage of powerful targeting capabilities –- and to let other marketers figure out how to adapt their own strategies –- may well be an ever greater risk, particularly as Canoe Ventures aims to launch a simplified version of the technology across national cable networks later this year.
A version of this article originally appeared as The promise of personalized video ads and was published in ClickZ on May 18, 2009.