Home Online Advertising Mazda Marketing VP Upped Digital Spend From 10% to 40% In Four Years

Mazda Marketing VP Upped Digital Spend From 10% to 40% In Four Years


russell-wager-mazdaWhen Russell Wager joined Mazda North America four years ago as its vice president of marketing, one thing was immediately clear: Digital spend was way too low.

The car marketing vet, who previously worked on the agency side, upped spend from 10% to 25%, then 30%. Digital now commands 40% of overall marketing spend.

To test how far it could increase digital spending, Mazda ran pilots where it went 100% digital in some markets.

“You need a mix of other elements to support digital,” Wager said. “You need to peel things back. There is a such thing as too much digital.”

Moving media dollars to digital fits into the changing car-buying landscape, where 65% of traffic on Mazda’s website is mobile. And buyers visit just 1.2 dealerships before buying a car, down from an average of four just a few years ago.

Digital media also allows Wager to gain efficiencies in Mazda’s marketing spend, since Mazdas don’t appeal to everyone.

Instead, Mazda focuses on the 16% of the US customers who say they love to drive, care about how their car looks and prefer sporty cars. Wager wants those people to not only become Mazda customers, but to be loyal customers of the brand.

That focus is starting to bear fruits. Brand loyalty, while still below the industry average of 54%, rose from 29% in 2011 to 38% in 2016. North America now accounts for 42% of all Mazda customers, up from 33% in 2011.

After his presentation at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting, Wager talked with AdExchanger about Mazda’s increasingly digital and data-centric focus.

AdExchanger: What do you make of P&G Chief Brand Officer Mark Pritchard’s call for the industry to embrace a common viewability metric, third-party measurement and clamp down on fraud – especially because you’re with a GroupM agency?

RUSSELL WAGER: We use Integral Ad Science to help monitor us. And GroupM has their own standards, and some of them are more stringent than MRC standards. That might not sit well with our partners, but you can never have enough confirmation that your message is reaching the right people and not just shooting in the wind. I think we are already there.


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Did you also look at your agency contract in light of the ANA investigation?

We haven’t done that. We have trust with our agency, but at the same time we verify that trust. We have third-party media auditors for every media buy we do in digital and broadcast. Because I already have someone verifying what they are saying they are delivering and what they are actually delivering, we didn’t feel the need to look at that.

Mazda uses Oracle Data Cloud. How is that going?

We’ve only been putting this in place for about 18 months, and our DMP is only been in use since about July. We did a campaign with the CX-9 last summer and saw a 5% to 10% increase in response from campaigns run out of the DMP. Some of our partners don’t like giving the data. They like owning it themselves, but we’ve started to have those conversations – that we are not trying to use you, we are trying to use that data for mutual benefit, and we can give our partner back a bigger deployment.

Tracking campaigns using Oracle Data Cloud seems like it would conflict with Google’s recent announcement that it won’t allow third-party pixels on YouTube – where you’ve seen a 324% increase in subscriptions to Mazda’s channel year over year. How are you thinking about that?

We have a really good relationship with our partners at Google, and they are fully aware of what we are trying to do. They pride themselves on protecting their beautiful data. They are working with us on some things. Whether or not they give us the data, they can help us. We only started deploying this in July, so we’re learning.

Within your digital spend, what are you doing programmatically?

Quite honestly, we are late to the party. But GroupM and WPP’s Garage Team Mazda [compilation of all of Mazda’s agencies] is working on that. All I know is that we are not going backward from our ROIs. It’s not hurting us, and I’m starting to see efficiencies from a cost standpoint.

A lot of auto advertisers are experimenting with addressable advertising. What have you done there?

We’ve done a couple tests in the past and, quite honestly, they didn’t do well. I don’t know that we had our attribution models up enough to see the results from that. It’s something we are trying again and will be part of our mix going forward.

Why didn’t your attribution model work in that scenario?

We could only see the last channel communicated. Since the beginning of December, we’ve put in a new attribution model. We are moving away from last-touch.

If 65% of your traffic is mobile, does that mean 65% of your digital spend should be mobile?

The short answer is no. What it does let me know is that over the last three years, mobile traffic went from less than 50% to more than 50% of traffic. So the trend is there.

Plus, on top of that, it led me to redesign the entire site to make it more mobile friendly. Since we put our new site up in July, we have seen a 700% increase in people going from our national mobile site to our dealer sites. The handoff is going much more smoothly.

Amazon just moved into the car space, where they have listing pages and even are selling cars. Do you think Amazon could be an effective partner for you? Is there a risk of them disintermediating your dealers?

We’ve been having conversations with Amazon about other marketing efforts prior to this announcement. At the end of the day, the only place you can buy a car is from a Mazda dealer. Some will choose to participate, some won’t. At the end of the day, we encourage our dealers that if it’s good for the customer, do it. If it’s not good for the customer, don’t do it.

Where are your test budgets going this year?

We do a lot of behavioral targeting, both for in-market and out-market. We talked about addressable TV. And we think our videos are content people want to watch. We have some of the highest engagement [with our videos], and part of that is that our videos have sound.

Our challenge is finding places where customers are willing to have sound on immediately. At the end of the day, I want to get my message to my customer. I don’t want to interrupt them if they don’t want that interruption.

This interview has been condensed and edited.




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