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How Carfax Missed a Big Opportunity in Advertising

Over at Automotive Digital Marketing, there's been a long discussion started by Jim Zieglerabout Carfax and its place in the automotive community. I haven't chimed in because, quite frankly, I'm not needed there. The discussion is self-perpetuating and there's no shortage of opinions.

It did, however, catch my attention strictly from an advertising perspective as they have an ad out that misses on more cylinders than I thought was even possible. This physics-bending ad is intended to position Carfax as some sort of secret weapon to be used against car dealers. It isn't, but that's not the main reason why the ad fails so miserably.

First, the video itself:

Did you see the biggest problem with it?


Car salespeople are still stuck in the 80s, according to this video. The CarFax advertising team had a big opportunity to introduce the reality of today's car buying experience, and that reality is that dealers look at Carfax very closely themselves. They do not want to put out a vehicle that won't pass with flying colors. Most use it as a selling tool, a vote of confidence that they stand by their product. To position dealers as the enemy is foolish, mostly because there are plenty of people who feel that if something is considered a potential conflict point, they'll avoid it. Why would you want to make your product appear to be a point of contention during a transaction?

There are many challenges with the way Carfax is marketing, but this is the biggest. Be a conduit between dealers and customers. Don't be adversarial to one side or the other.

Views: 159

Tags: CarFox, TV Commercial, advertising, carfax, vehicle history, video


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Comment by James A. Ziegler on November 29, 2012 at 9:03am

Great Blog observation JD. You and Brian Pasch both commenting here lends a lot of power to the discussion of CarFax perceived arrogance and abuse of their customers (us). Instead of a partnership, they chose to go 'anti-dealer' and perpetuate stereotypes that are untrue that we are a bunch of crooks, idiots and con artists. Thanks for your commentary. I consider you and Brian Pasch to be 'Rock Stars' in the Internet World of automotive. My CarFax Blog is also, as you mentioned, getting a lot of attention.   

Comment by Kelsey M. on November 29, 2012 at 7:18am

My thoughts exactly. When I first saw this commercial, I thought, "Wow, way to bite the hand that feeds you." 

Comment by Brian Pasch on November 28, 2012 at 8:52pm

JD, you are right on point.  This video is a mockery of the very dealers that support this company and reinforces old stereotypes.  The CEO of CarFax might do well to sit down with Scott Painter and get schooled on who butters their bread. 

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