What do Car Buyers Want from Automotive Ads? Survey Says…

Despite the challenges that have roiled the world during the past few years, the auto industry has demonstrated impressive resilience. Buyers continue to purchase vehicles, and dealers have adapted their strategies to stay competitive. One of those adaptations is thinking more holistically about their customers. Another is increased focus on the lifetime value of a relationship, rather than on a single purchase. These changes have led automotive brands to rethink their advertising and marketing strategies.

For many years, dealers focused heavily on bottom-of-the-funnel transactional marketing, motivating customers into sales using price and payment options as the key selling points. While this strategy has its place, it puts less focus on customer experience and building a brand that customers trust and return to. It also does little to respond to changes in how vehicle buyers research and make their purchases, which has changed dramatically as options have expanded.

In the current climate, it is more important than ever to think beyond a single transactional relationship and put a bigger emphasis on the buying experience and the lifetime value of a customer. Often your advertising and marketing is a customer’s first interaction with your dealership. Or it might be the only interaction they have in between visits, if they visit at all. Your advertising messages can heavily influence or even determine their perception of your brand, before you ever get a chance to interact with them directly.

Dealers that strike the right balance between transactional and branding messages are going to be in a much better position to win in both the short and long term. However, finding that balance can be tricky. To unlock this potential, you must first understand the effects your creative output has on consumers and how they respond to different types of creative messages.

To help auto marketers gain a clearer picture of how consumers respond to various creative ads, Effectv partnered with a third-party measurement company to survey ~1,500 respondents. Each participant viewed three different TV commercials – one focused on branding, one on a specific call to action, and a hybrid ad – all from the same brand.

Creative ad types:

Branding Ad

Call-to-Action Ad


Hybrid Ad


After viewing the ads, respondents answered a series of questions related to ad perception and engagement. Key takeaways from this research include the following.

Viewers in-market for a vehicle were…

Additionally, those “in-market now” for a vehicle preferred the hybrid ad as well as the ad creative’s messaging around pricing. Meanwhile, the majority of respondents—those identified as “in-market later”—responded to the brand name and logo and preferred the branding ad.


These results make it clear that the strongest viewer connections are forged via a mix of branding messages and calls to action.

To dig deeper into the research and uncover additional insights you can use to influence your marketing and creative strategy, check out a deep dive: Creative Drives Response, below.


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