German Rental Car Giant Sixt Steers Into US Markets Via Facebook Video

MiriamWhen brands think about video advertising, sequential retargeting isn’t always top of mind.

But multinational rental-car company Sixt, in its bid to capture more share in the US market (it has 50 stations across the US, after opening its first in Florida in 2011), is test-driving Facebook video coupled with expanded Custom Audiences to improve segmentation.

The goal is to sequence retargeted video ads effectively and reach new rental-car prospects.

Sixt, which has been a European transportation operator since 1912, has won awards for its irreverent (and, at times, provocative) billboard and print advertisements in its home country of Germany.

“We do a lot of advertisements in Germany where we run real-time ads poking fun at politicians or celebrities or teasing taxes on limousine services, then offering a rental car from us,” said Miriam Fohrmann, director of online marketing for Sixt.

In the US, Sixt has to add an extra layer of caution because, in Fohrmann’s words, “it can be extremely expensive” poking fun at a politician.

So instead, Sixt played up its own retargeting tactics comedically using Facebook video.

Rather than simply retargeting users across the web, Sixt wanted to directly address Facebook users who’d done something on Sixt’s site.

For instance, if someone browsed but didn’t book a rental, that person might see a comical video featuring a woman beckoning someone to roll down a car window – an allusion to Facebook’s muted autoplay. 

Sixt positioned other creative as well to determine what users found most engaging (and, conversely, what users found annoying).

It hypothesized that adding visuals like text overlays, 3-D effects and attention-grabbing tactics (like hand waving) would stop a user mid-scroll and would drive higher click-throughs and conversions.

The theory bore out as Sixt saw 10 times higher CTRs than in similar campaigns and a 15% higher rate of conversion into sales.

fbAnd its use of sequential retargeting saw seven times the amount of comments and 2.5 times the number of likes.

Sixt is a challenger to US incumbents like Hertz, Avis and Enterprise promising premium cars at economy prices, so it’s taking a test-and-learn approach with the platform.

It views Facebook as an efficient and more affordable alternative to the large, splashy placements it tends to leverage in traditional channels in Europe, Fohrmann said.

Sixt is also taking advantage of some recently expanded features in Facebook Custom Audiences. The product initially allowed advertisers to target only based on URL, which left out information about what the user had seen, how many times they’d visited or what cars they’d previously browsed, Fohrmann said.

Today, Custom Audiences lets advertisers measure how long someone stayed on site pages and enables targeting based on the total amount of time someone has spent with a brand or on their devices.

“We customized this further because we can now see what station they were closest to during what date, and say, ‘Come back and rent with us soon the next time you’re in Miami,’ to personalize it,” she added.

Although Sixt uses several agencies for its traditional media campaigns, its online marketing team spans 50 people globally who create “little spots” for Facebook or other social channels.

This strategy makes more sense for Sixt than whittling down one of its TV commercials for Facebook. Sixt’s plan over the coming months is to continue testing different creative for different campaign targets, like potential franchise owners.

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