The State of Automotive Marketing in Social Video: New Report Sees Huge Opportunity for Auto Marketers

The State of Automotive Marketing in Social Video: New Report Sees Huge Opportunity for Auto Marketers

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Over the summer, Unruly opened up their social video lab, looking to narrow down viral videos to scientific facts, to the point that the word “viral” has become a dirty word (although we still use it quite a bit, because well, it’s still a buzzword). It didn’t take long for Unruly to publish a major “white paper” on a major subject of video: how auto makers are using the medium. We know they kill it during the Super Bowl, and by rule they kill it online after the game is done, albeit briefly. But what Unruly found is that the automotive industry really isn’t doing all they could do, and are well behind non-auto brands when it comes to online video.

Unruly’s State of Automobile Marketing in Social Video Report

It should be noted that what I’m about to discuss here is an abbreviated view of their findings.  Many of the statistics they provide have sources not mentioned here, and I’m breaking down their data in as simple a manner as possible.

First off, let’s take a look at the broad findings:

1. Video sharing on social media is growing, but at only 1/5 the rate of the overall market. That means they are doing OK, but not what they could be doing.

2. Four automakers account for 73.1% of all the video sharing going on in the industry. That means there is a huge amount of opportunity for other car makers to take advantage of a sorely underused marketing tactic.

3. Many brands are still trying to figure out how to tell a story, which is the chief aspect of keeping viewers interested and emotionally involved in online content.

4. Auto manufacturers are using a “top down” approach to drive sharing, meaning they are basically relying on the Super Bowl to give their ads a push and then just staying quiet the rest of the time. This means that a huge amount of the year is left untapped.

Unruly used “shares” instead of “views” for their primary data because that shows people engaging with the content and are likely enjoying it, meaning better chances at better ROI.

Unruly’s Video Marketing Advice for Auto Makers

Unruly offers advice to auto manufacturers in a marketing strategy that is so ripe for the taking:

  1. Tell better stories that drive sharing (that’s pretty obvious).
  2. Build brand preference, loyalty, and awareness (associate product with great content).
  3. Increase responses to deal and test drive offers, brochure requests, and data capture (basically, increase calls-to-action, especially attractive calls-to-action that makes consumers want to better learn about a brand).
  4. Engage more deeply with existing and future consumers to increase sales.
  5. Start social sharing early, “grass-roots,” and become less reliant on tent-pole events or TV advertising.

Setting the Scene – Need for ROI

Unruly cites data that shows that while auto sales will either stall or decrease across various parts of the world during 2012, there is an expected increase in 2013. ROI will be an extremely huge factor for auto makers during this time.  Most CMOs expect it to be the most important measure of success by 2015. Hence, a new approach will be needed to reach more consumers.

The Impact of Social Video on Automotive Brands

Unruly found that for every automotive video shared, there was an average of 25 peers who could see that content. That’s based on the average amount of followers/friends the typical user has, and figuring in other factors like Facebook EdgeRank, the algorithm that limits the amount of people who see updates.

1. Increased awareness. In addition to social media, there are a number of websites auto makers can embed videos such as Skiddmark and

2. Increased Advocacy. People basically follow the advice of their friends, and word-of-mouth is the primary factor in 20-50% of all purchasing decisions.

3. Earned Media. By making content that people want to watch, it’s easier to get blogs, sites, etc. to want to share it, and therefore your video has a chance to go all over the place.

4. Increased Attention. When consumers enjoy a video, Unruly found that brand association increases by 139%. Making content people want to see and having people associate you with it is a pretty big key, especially entering into a relatively new, untapped source of advertising.

5. Targeted Global Reach. 70% of the purchasing-decision process takes place online. So having great content where people already are, trying to make these decisions, is to the auto maker’s benefit.

6. Increased Action. Here, calls-to-action: test drives, consumer surveys, deals, etc. Unruly makes a case for the launch of Range Rover’s Evoque, which started a social media campaign that saw 2.6 million views, and 90,000 people stuck around to take a survey. And they saw an unheard-of 11.76% CTR.

7. Increased Sales. Studying Chevrolet, they saw purchase intent double for consumers who watched a brand’s video over a control group who didn’t see the video. A third of the viewers said they were likely to purchase the car, and 4% claimed to have visited a Chevy dealership afterwards.

Automotive Video Ads – Who’s Winning

This might not be the last time you see this ad, which is still going strong:

Of course, when they made their “sequels” this year, they not only got views and engagement based on the previous year’s video, but the previous year’s video saw a spike in its views once again.

BMW’s M5 Bullet accounted for 45.1% of their entire total video shares:

Automotive ads saw a 122% increase in shares year-over-year, but the rest of the advertising industry shot up 535%.

The top 20 automotive videos account for 95.1% of the total amount of shares in the industry, which shows that brands have a huge amount of space to work with. 20 videos making up nearly the entire amount of sharing is ridiculous. And only 4 auto makers make up a total of 73.1% of the entire automotive representation. I think this is the largest finding in the study, because it shows how much of the market is left untapped.

Driving Emotion

Unruly calls the positive responses consumers have watching videos High Arousal Positives (HAP). There are 4 major categories divided into 4 sub-categories from highest positive response to most negative response (graph courtesy of Ehrenberg-Bass).

Being “hilarious” is a big deal, and those ads do well. But Chevrolet took on two different kinds of HAP with their OK Go ad:

The “big idea” isn’t good enough anymore. Brands need to build ad campaigns that last, aka “The Force” ad, which not only wrapped viewers up but kept them enthralled all year and made them more likely to watch the next series of ads, building brand awareness, increasing sales, and creating brand advocacy.

Video Ad Length

Car ads share some traits with other branded ads in that car ads are shared more when they are longer than the typical 30-second ad. They differ, though, in that once it gets longer than 91 seconds, viewership goes down. The top branded ads outside of the auto industry that are shared have an average length of 4 minutes, 11 seconds, as Greg Jarboe discussed here.

Embracing Meme Culture

If people start making parodies of an ad, that increases viewership of the original ad. We’ve seen this effect with “S*** Say” this year. So, negative or positive, having a ton of people being inspired by an ad to make something of their own increases the value of the original, and brands would be wise to even share those as well, or at least acknowledge them.

Global Audience

Automakers need to target as many people around the world as they can. Cars are a global product.  The number 5 ad in the study was this Nissan ad, “Pôneis Malditos:”

I didn’t understand a word of that video…but it was very entertaining nonetheless.

That means the car industry needs to find something that appeals to most everyone, providing captions in different languages, or specifically tailoring ads to target other demographics.

Don’t Be Afraid to Show the Product or Brand Name

One of the tricky things content creators need to balance is making a story without seeming like a total sales pitch. Some brands are afraid to show their logo because of this reason, but Unruly found that this is a necessary tool. We’ve preached a lot about not making ads that are obviously selling, but the logo needs to go somewhere. You are selling a product here, even if story comes first.

Unruly did a study with the VW and BMW ads, figuring out where people’s eyes were looking during the videos:

Unruly found that BMW had “lost it on the final post” by keeping viewers away from their logo (viewers’ eyes were drawn to the plate of the car), and the brand association wasn’t as strong as it could have been.

Unruly’s Tips for Automakers:

1. Drive up the emotion and make content that drives High Arousal Points.

2. Test content before distributing it to maximize success before investing a large amount of money into it.

3. Break out of ad paradigm and create content that lasts longer than 30 seconds (again, for cars, that’s about 90 seconds).

4. Use emotional triggers that resonate globallyWe talked to Unruly about this before, and they said:

Funny, Sexy, Random and Surprising are some of the well-established reasons that people pass on videos, though Illuminating, Shocking, Spectacular and Hyper-relevant have the power to activate equally high levels of sharing.

5. Ensure brand is center stage (just remember a story has to be there to make that possible).

The Super Bowl

The prevailing theme of the Unruly findings is that automakers use the Super Bowl as a huge tent-pole event and use a “top-down” approach to jump-start a video and rarely start a grass-roots campaign to create their own event, or find some other event, to release an ad.  This is a whole big chunk of calendar that car companies are missing.

Unruly says:

1. When making a Super Bowl ad, use social media to maximize ROI.

2. Try to step out of the comfort zone.  Find or create other events to create ad campaigns and don’t be afraid to try something different.

3. Try a more “bottom-up” approach, rather than “top-down” from the Super Bowl.

In Conclusion

Unruly’s conclusions:

1. Auto makers are riding the wave, rather than leading the charge, into social video and it opens up a golden opportunity for the industry to take advantage.

2. There is a great opportunity for auto makers to break the mold and create deeper creative engagement and word of mouth.

3. This will cause auto CMOs to create a new model of advertising that involves creative storytelling and social media.

4. We will see if auto manufacturers move from top down advertising to grass-roots, bottom-up social media campaigns.

Unruly has definitely found a huge opening for automakers to think about in the upcoming years.  They are clearly missing opportunities to reach a wider audience.  Hopefully for them, creative car makers will see the niche and prepare to astound us with creative content in the future.

Those who want the full scope of the findings can take a look at their white paper itself here.


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