The average dealer is using more advertising channels than 10 years ago, but many auto retailers think much of their ad spending is not working.

Sounds like a recipe for advertising disaster. It’s time for an advertising intervention.

First off, much advertising isn’t working because the actual ad experience is not relevant to a Tier 3 “this-week” car buyer.

Today, dealer advertising must be a “real-time” experience for potential customers. This means the ad has to affect a buying decision either at the point of shopping online or elsewhere, or it has to influence a yes-or-no buying decision involving a competitor.

Have you ever seen a delicious-looking pizza ad on TV when you were hungry? It seemed like perfect timing right? You reacted. That’s how dealer ads should be designed and run.

We call this phenomenon AdverTiming because the ads people react to today are in real time. The word “advertising” alone does not seem to fully capture the essence of what is happening in car-buying land.

For example, people often begin their online search on,, and similar websites because national TV ads enticed them to do so. The shopper then begins looking at local dealer websites and calling or emailing the dealership or its business-development center. Then the customer arrives at the store with a potential trade-in, and finally either buys or walks.

Imagine if your marketing plan was designed in perfect sequence with this buyer, on the correct days and the correct “screens” that he or she uses to hunt down that perfect vehicle. Those customers would see your ads at every turn, on every screen, at exactly the right time. Talk about impact. AdverTiming means knowing when consumers are in the market and advertising to them then.

What happens if you don’t adjust your marketing plan to this style? You will end up advertising for the competition. Buyers will use your pricing and offers to cross-shop other dealers.

Your ads hit on the wrong days and times and in the wrong places. You attract low-yield shoppers, not quite ready to buy. Other dealers use your ad impact to drive their own website and floor traffic.

How do you get started?

Review your marketing of per-vehicle-retailed units. In smaller markets, we see $200 to $300 per car as realistic. In larger markets, $400 to $600. If your PVR is well off of these numbers, you could have a miss in your ad plan. As an advertising plan efficiency rate declines, the PVR marketing costs climb, and climb quickly.

Some media spending eats ad budgets fast, others are very efficient. The buying power of some media is better than others. Do you know the real “per-person” pricing of media today? Many do not.

Next, think about where consumers spend their screen-viewing time. Nielsen Research says Americans spend about:

  • 319 minutes a day watching TV.
  • 157 minutes on their laptop or computer tablet.
  • 19 minutes on their smartphone.

Put this all together and it’s almost nine hours a day spent looking at these screens. A triangulated three-screen media plan can track a buyer in real time through the car-buying process. It allows a dealer to advertise at the right times and places along a car shopper’s journey to the purchase.

Adam Armbruster is a partner in the retail and broadcasting consulting firm
Eckstein, Summers, Armbruster and Co. He can be reached at or 941-928-7192