Ohio Car Dealer Takes Digital Video Ads For A Test Drive

ricart-autoHokey, funny car dealer ads dominate local TV broadcasts for a reason: They work. But auto dealers like Rick Ricart are starting to expand into places like YouTube and Facebook.

“TV is the new background noise, like radio,” said Ricart Automotive VP of Sales and Marketing Rick Ricart, referencing marketing knowledge from Vayner Media CEO and Founder Gary Vaynerchuk. “When you watch someone with the iPhone four inches from their face, just try to interrupt them.”

TV commands 40% of Ricart Auto’s marketing spend, with the other 60% going to digital, video, search and social media. Historically, those ads built the Ricart Auto brand, while the digital ads helped close the deal. But digital media is where Ricart hopes to add branding in addition to mid-to-bottom-funnel marketing tactics.

“Social media is going to increase from 5% of the budget to 15% [or] 20% this year because of the video capabilities and how hard [Facebook] is pushing it and how cheap it is,” said Ricart, whose group of dealerships sold 8,300 used cars last.

Ricart is also looking to improve attribution of his TV spend. “By the time you get a true post-buy analysis from a traditional TV station, it’s 45 days past when the ad ran. You have to make quicker decisions today.” Ricart plans to measure online engagement of new ad creative, so he can swiftly gauge results.

While Ricart Auto’s agency buys TV and radio, it does its digital buying either in-house or with PureCars, which manages car dealers’ online ad spend. TV broadcaster Raycom bought PureCars last October for $125 million, with the goal of helping these local car dealers manage their online and TV spends more cohesively.

In an early test of how TV and digital could work together, Raycom ran a national ad in December during the Camellia Bowl, featuring longtime Ricart Auto spokesperson Arnold Schwarzenegger. The ad reached 1.4 million people, and 2,500 of them immediately jumped onto Ricart Auto’s website. Additional analysis of how the TV ad boosted Ricart Auto’s business is forthcoming.

“We see TV as the best way to stimulate a large group of people, and based on what the large search queries are [from these groups], that behavior allows us to fine-tune the ad we are firing mid-funnel and low-funnel,” said PureCars CEO Jeremy Anspach. “ We think an ad that is intriguing and of interest to the right person will drive online learning.”

When car buyers are familiar enough with Ricart Auto to go directly to the site, the dealership gets strong results, validating its branding efforts. “When we get a direct URL hit on mobile or desktop, there is a 10 times greater chance they convert to a sale,” Ricart said.

Ricart Auto is also preparing for ecommerce auto sales. Ricart sold his first two cars online last week through a startup called AutoFi that offers financing for vehicles online. Today’s auto buyers already come more prepared and ready to make a sale, Ricart noted. The online information-gathering process has also compressed the range of prices that drivers pay for their vehicles.

Ricart feels he’s been able to create the most innovative marketing with used vehicles. Many new car dealers simply rely on tier 1 and tier 2 auto marketing, handled by the manufacturer, and don’t do anything on their own. But sometimes national campaigns don’t translate to results in a specific market, which may have different tastes. That’s why Ricart likes being able to make marketing decisions, including shifting spend from TV to digital, himself. “In the world of used cars, I can control everything,” Ricart said.

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