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Maximize Your Auto Classified Images for Branding & Promotion

After you upload all your vehicle images to classified sites do you have room left over for more images? Don't waste them, they are a perfect opportunity to build your brand and promote your services.

Location, location, location! Where have you heard that before? When it comes to the location of your message, whether it's in the form of text, visual graphics or video, digital location is equally as important as a dealership's physical location.


Digital advertising in the form of banner ads has become a booming business for auto industry websites; specifically independent lead-generating sites. For example, Cars.com sells its "power positions" based on placement and traffic. In fact, you can buy your own market or conquest another territory or even another brand's digital "real estate." Banners across the top are called "leaderboards" and are 728x90 pixels and its vertical twin is referred to as a "skyscraper"; both of which are available to dealers with costs dependent on the amount of traffic the brand search delivers and the market traffic.


Cars.com is used in this example, but there are strong similarities with AutoTrader and other classified listing sites. However, other than your rep's rate sheet, how can you determine the value of these banners? The most common measure of banner ad effectiveness is the click thru rate. Contrary to this common measure, however, many reps attest that these banners are primarily for branding purposes. With a strategy based on driving traffic and informing customers while also branding the dealership and communicating offers, there is a need much greater than a leaderboard on one third party website can provide. The dealership digital footprint needs to be strong on several websites, especially since both Cars.com and AutoTrader admit that shoppers on their sites are demographically different. However, many dealers cannot afford to buy banners on both major third party sites as their program costs continue to rise.


As a cost effective alternative to flipping leaderboards and skyscrapers for branding, use the remaining available photo slots that are currently not being used to showcase the dealership vehicles. Showcase your digital message on this property. Many dealers post 12 to 25 photos of a pre-owned vehicle. That leaves 7 or more digital real estate properties available for a dealer to move in to and furnish with visual messages.


The industry standard for vehicle photos is 640x480, which provides a vast countryside in comparison to the mere leaderboard or skyscraper space. Therefore, incorporate your advertising company, the skills of your Internet manager or a company such as Nexteppe to assist you in developing a series of jpeg images to communicate your message via the photo feed.
 (See the samples that one of my clients currently uses on these sites.)

When it comes to location, this strategy is like a real estate development! The dealership has already paid for the space, it is not being used and there is a system already in place to send the graphic message to every website on which your inventory is currently parked!


As with all advertising, determine a strategy as to
 what you want to communicate and the
 location (i.e. which photo space) you want to communicate it.


With consumer online chat use rising, communicating graphically that the dealership is available to chat increases the online shopper's awareness that the dealer is available using a tool such as Contact at Once. The small 'dealer is online' button or text link on some third party sites do not generate the attention that a 640x480 message delivers at the right moment; when the customer is actively shopping and looking at vehicle photos and has questions. Letting customers know you are there for them in that ZMOT moment is vital to having an opportunity to interact with them! As they scroll thru the photos, the 640x480 message that the dealer is available to chat is absorbed and may be acted upon quickly.


For low traffic brands such as Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Lincoln or FIAT as well as others, consider putting new car information in the used car photo feed as the last image. Statisticians indicate that cross shopping between new and used is almost equal, so give your low-search new car brand an opportunity to be seen more by communicating where your customers are looking: in the used car inventory.


Other opportunities include: branding your dealership, illustrating customer testimonials, manufacturer-specific programs and incentives, pre-owned certification benefits, CarFax or AutoCheck status, dealer personnel photos, dealer-unique services such as tires for life or one year scheduled maintenance included in a purchase, dealership awards and recognitions. With the creative masterminds in the digital arena, the messages are endless!

Criss Castle is a former General Sales Manager and currently provides Digital Marketing and Training services to auto retailers. She is currently assisting 
Long Island City Auto Group with its digital footprint. Castle can be reached via email at
criss@crisscastle.com, or online at
 http://www.crisscastle.com or by mobile/text at 913.235.8422.


Views: 346

Tags: Auto, AutoTrader, AutoUSA, Automotive, Battle, Cars.com, Castle, Chat, City, Contact, More…Criss, Digest, Group, Internet, Island, Jim, Long, Nexteppe, Once, Online, Plan, Ziegler, at

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Comment by Criss Castle on May 25, 2012 at 3:14pm

Thank you! We are putting it to use in NY.

Comment by Jim Canto on May 21, 2012 at 6:31am

Criss, your post is powerful advice and smart strategy. Nicely done.

Comment by Diane Anderson on May 21, 2012 at 5:39am

I will have to "ditto" Tom's thoughts! Great article that has my brain ticking...

Comment by Tom Gorham on May 20, 2012 at 12:17pm

Great advice - it gave me some real food for thought.  I'm thinking now how to maximize that 650x480 marketing slot!

Comment by Ralph Paglia on May 20, 2012 at 11:40am

Criss - Thank you for such a well written and illustrated article on making the most out of the inventory listings that dealers pay for every day... This is such a critically important topic for every car dealer in America.  After all, what could possibly be more important than the way we merchandize our inventory?

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