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Car Dealership Online Advertising: Tips & Tricks

With nearly 2/3 of consumers planning to purchase their next vehicle over the next two years, the opportunity for car dealerships to capture future consumer demand is massive. With broadcast TV, streaming, and digital advertising options available with TEGNA, you’ll have plenty of valuable ways to stay top of mind among your customers and prospects, make meaningful connections with those who have purchase intent, and drive direct business results throughout the customer journey.

Meredith Cunningham Published: May 19, 2023
Car Dealership Online Advertising: Tips & Tricks image

It’s important for auto marketers to stay present and continue advertising so that consumers know whom to call when they’re ready to take the driver’s seat. ​Here is our guide for creating advertising campaigns that will have auto-intenders unlocking the car-buying experience.

An Overview of Advertising Platforms for Car Dealerships

There are a wide variety of platforms for dealerships to advertise on. Auto marketers would also be wise to activate with an omnichannel strategy in mind, as studies show that 2 in 3 auto intenders were exposed to three or more media platforms over the past two months.​ And these platforms are highly effective in getting consumers to hit the gas. Predominantly, these platforms are:

Broadcast TV: The most preferred platform to see auto ads, this platform allows auto dealers to reach and communicate with as many new potential customers right now as possible. ​Better yet, exposure to TV ads motivates auto-intenders into action. TVB found that 8 in 10 auto-intenders can recall auto ads, go online to learn more, follow the brand on social media, contact the office, or visit the website.

Streaming: Used to drive awareness and extend the reach of linear TV campaigns by targeting specific audiences, 90% of auto intenders are reached when TV combines with OTT.​

Digital: The final piece to complete the puzzle, online and digital advertising allows auto brands to reinforce messages among consumers actively engaged with auto content online through websites and apps. For auto intenders, local broadcast TV websites and apps are the most visited among all local media sites, and they are preferred over social media for information about local news.​ Because of these factors, it’s the perfect complement to any effective TV advertising campaign.

Understanding the Car Buyer Journey

As marketers, we know that for your dealership to win business, you need to know your audience and their journey to ownership – and you’ll need to understand this journey before you can build out a great digital ad campaign.

  • For a deep dive into the current consumer mindset of auto-intenders, download Unlocking the Car Buyer of Today, a 2022 TEGNA Research Study, to learn more about their beliefs, attitudes, and purchasing habits while in each of these phases.

Awareness: This first stop in the car-buying journey happens when the consumer realizes there’s a problem to solve. Perhaps their car broke down and will be too expensive to fix. Maybe a family will soon welcome a new baby and want a larger car with new safety features. Or, it could be the right time for that eco-conscious consumer to buy the EV of their dreams.

Consideration: In this phase, consumers have identified the problem to be solved and will start online research. Because they are considering which brand to purchase from, it’s extremely important for your dealership to be visible online and offer educational materials to help solve their problems – not force them to buy now.

Decision: The auto-intender is now ready to make a purchase, and they’ll choose the brand that meets their expectations, provides a great customer experience, and has the right price points.

Building a Digital Media Plan for Car Dealerships

Where should you place your ads between Broadcast, Streaming, and digital? Creating a media plan is one of the most critical components of your marketing campaign, and it takes time and effort to build a great one. Here are our tips to rev your engine.

Research Your Target Audience

Knowing your target audience is key, and creating persona profiles is a great way to gather information on them. You can use insights from conversations and interviews with your customers, Google Analytics data, the latest research, and market trends to help define their: 

  • Demographics: Age, gender, occupation, household income, family life (single or married), education level, and geographic location.
  • Media Channels: Types of content consumed (local news, comedy, sports) and on what platform (broadcast, streaming, podcasts, Facebook).
  • Purchasing Behaviors: Purchase intent, online versus in-store, free delivery or pickup.
  • Goals & Challenges: What are they working towards? What problems do they need to be solved?

For a deep dive into the current consumer mindset of auto-intenders, download Unlocking the Car Buyer of Today, a 2022 TEGNA Research Study, to learn more about their beliefs, attitudes, and purchasing habits while in each of these phases.

Setting up Goals/ KPIs

The ultimate goal of any marketing and advertising campaign is to sell more cars. However, because the buying cycle is longer than most other industries, other goals and KPIs can be used to help measure the success of a campaign. Examples include increasing website traffic or getting people to visit the showroom. Ten popular KPIs for cross-platform ad campaigns include:

  • Reach: The number of viewers in a target audience exposed to an ad.
  • Frequency: The number of times a viewer in a target audience has seen an ad.
  • Impressions: The number of times a target audience views an ad or the overall exposure to the ad.
  • Website Visits: The number of visitors to a brand website from viewing an ad.
  • Brand Lift: A measure of the impact on top-of-funnel metrics, such as brand awareness and consideration. Learn more about Brand Lift here.
  • Conversions: When a website visitor performs the desired action of the ad. This includes someone purchasing through your website, filling out a form, or downloading a brochure. 
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): For streaming campaigns, this measures the number of ad viewers who click on an ad and visit the advertiser’s website.
  • Video Completion Rate (VCR): Also measured in streaming campaigns, VCR is the percentage of ads viewed from beginning to end.  
  • Return on Investment (ROI): According to LinkedIn, a good ROI for TV advertising is around 300 to 500%. This can be calculated by ROI = campaign gain / overall campaign spend.
  • Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): This metric breaks down ROI and measures the revenue earned from a specific campaign. To find ROAS, divide the income attributed to the ad campaign by the cost of that campaign.

Measuring Results

When you define your campaign goals, determine what metrics you will use to measure success. If you aim to improve conversion rates, you’ll want to measure conversion rates by channel. The best part of measuring results is knowing which platform delivers the best results, and you can continually optimize your campaign as you go.

For example, did a banner ad generate no new leads? Try targeting that ad to a different audience and see if it moves the needle. There are thousands of options, and you’ll probably try hundreds of different combinations throughout a campaign. Backed by data, you’ll know what is working and what isn’t.

8 Tips for Internet Advertising for Car Dealerships

Unlocking the Car Buyer of Today is a TEGNA study designed to help dealerships and automotive marketers better understand today’s car owners and buyers and better equip them with new insights to capture the hearts and minds of this audience. From this research, we were able to draw some key takeaways for auto dealerships when it comes to marketing and advertising strategy. Here’s what we found could work best for your auto brand.   

  1. Combine Digital with TV and Streaming: Digital ads complement a TV and Streaming ad campaign perfectly and can be anything from video ads and sponsorships to native advertising, banner ads, and more. Not only will digital ads extend your reach, but they can also improve brand recall by capturing their attention on “the second screen.” That’s because a 2022 eMarketer study found that 74.2% of US adults use a computer or mobile device to browse online while watching streaming or TV content. This number is only expected to grow – 75.2% – in 2023. When TV and streaming are paired with digital, it’s a triple threat that has repeatedly delivered proven results on ROI.
  2. Focus on Local Properties: Studies have shown that consumers are more likely to trust – and buy from – brands that advertise alongside sources of information they trust, such as local TV news stations. Known as the news-trust halo, we’ve seen several advertising partners – Chevrolet Buick, Honda of Seattle, and Audi Wilsonville – see an incredible brand lift when aligning with their local news station’s broadcasts, websites, and apps.
  3. Don’t Forget Online & Hybrid Buyers: Although showroom visits are highly influential, online and hybrid buying is rising. In fact, it’s predicted that one in three vehicles will be sold online by 2035. Make sure to target this demographic via digital campaigns. Also, consider a strategy that marries offline and online behavior so that the online experience enhances versus replaces the in-person experience.
  4. Use Contextual Targeting: With the depreciation of third-party cookies, it can be challenging for dealerships to target the right people. You can, however, leverage contextual advertising to make meaningful connections with those who have purchase intent using audience-based solutions such as TEGNA AudienceOne. For example, you can drive foot traffic into your dealership by tapping into segments such as “new movers” or potential new buyer segments based on make/model (to influence upgrades or buy-backs).
  5. Leverage Retargeting: For users who have engaged with your brand, retargeting can be a great tool to use. Consumers spend hours on the internet, and retargeting offers the chance to expose them to your ads again, bringing you back to top-of-mind.
  6. Promote In-Person Showrooms & Visits: While consumers research online before buying, nothing beats a visit to the dealership.​ We found in-person visits to be the top and most influential resources used before purchasing. Auto marketers would do well to promote incentives to visit showrooms and remind consumers that it’s still wise to try before you buy. ​
  7. Address Client Concerns: Today’s auto-intenders have lingering concerns that must be addressed. We found that price gouging, budget, and inventory are critical issues that impact the buying process and consumers’ satisfaction with the dealership. ​Dealers would benefit from acknowledging these concerns head-on in their messaging to provide some needed reassurance. ​
  8. Focus on Brand Safety: It can be difficult for brands to discern bot traffic from real potential buyers in digital campaigns. However, reputable publishers and partners can help companies improve their online campaigns. By focusing on brand safety, companies can reduce ad fraud and improve revenue from digital campaigns.

Examples of Car Dealerships Ads

Now that we know what goes into making a great ad campaign, what examples can you use to draw inspiration?

Southwest Kia Aligns with Local News

Why it Works: By aligning with a trusted source for local news – TEGNA’s KVUE – Southwest Kia takes full advantage of the news-trust halo, showing consumers are likelier to buy from brands that advertise alongside sources of information they trust.


Honda of Seattle Confronts Pain Points

Why it Works: Looking at the research, Honda of Seattle knows what auto-intenders are frustrated with and clearly and concisely lets audiences know that pain points are relieved when you do business with them.

Advertise Your Car Dealership Business with Team TEGNA

Our ultimate goal is to equip dealerships with insights to capture auto-intenders’ hearts and minds and ultimately help them sell more cars. At the end of the day, Team TEGNA knows the power of cross-platform ad campaigns that combine TV, streaming, and digital assets, and we’re ready to jump-start your campaign today. With 64 broadcast stations in 51 markets nationwide, TEGNA has a unique ability to reach drivers across Broadcast, OTT Streaming, and digital solutions. Contact us today to see how we can accelerate your advertising.

  • Want to know more about the automotive market? Unlocking the Car Buyer of Today is a new, original research study from TEGNA that dealerships and OEMs can use to gain valuable insight into the mindset of car buyers today and learn how to correctly execute advertising and messaging that can enable them to win customers and own their PMA. Click here to download it now!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you advertise a car dealership?

Choosing the right advertising channel for your car dealership will depend on different factors. However, 46% of all car buyers are receptive to dealerships’ ads via television commercials, making it the most preferred ad medium.​ Auto marketers would be wise to activate with an omnichannel strategy in mind to extend the reach and increase brand awareness to be top-of-mind.

Why does digital advertising matter for dealerships today?

While broadcast TV is the most preferred platform to view auto advertising, online and digital advertising allow auto brands to reinforce messages among consumers engaging with auto content online through websites and apps. Simply put, it complements any effective TV advertising campaign perfectly.

How can digital marketing and traditional marketing complement each other?

Just as we see it perfectly complements broadcast and streaming TV advertising, when combined with traditional marketing, digital marketing can help extend reach to a wider and broader audience, increase brand awareness, bridge the gap between offline and online, and increase conversions or sales.

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