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Dealers Still Scoring after the Big Game – The Power of “Couch Top” Shopping

Tablets & smartphones create real time connection between national brand advertising and dealer opportunity.

Dealers Still Scoring After Super Bowl In what has become an annual tradition, Cobalt data scientists spent Super Bowl Sunday in the office with one eye on the game and the other on the real time pulse of shopping activity occurring on the industry’s largest automotive shopper network. Channeling our collective Nate Silver envy (man, that guy’s a god), these rocket scientists measured the effectiveness of national automotive brand advertising in stimulating active online shopping behavior.

Wait, you say, the purpose of brand advertising isn’t to drive leads or sales – brand advertising is just to drive awareness and consideration of the brand.

While that function of advertising remains as vital as ever, what Cobalt research shows is that the modern automotive consumer no longer follows our traditional linear “sales funnel”. A rapidly growing share of consumers are using tablet computers and smartphones to surf manufacturer and dealer websites as they watch TV, enabling a frictionless connection between the brand ad and active shopper behavior like inventory and price research at their local dealer.

In addition to monitoring the overall shopping activity triggered by brand advertising, Cobalt evaluates the effectiveness of brand-aligned in-market digital advertising, called Digital Advertising Packages (DAP) in the Cobalt network, in reinforcing and amplifying this activity.

The chart below tells the story, looking at the overall increase in VIN views for “Model X” immediately after the car was featured in one of the more popular advertisements that aired during the game. Why are VIN (vehicle) views the unit we are measuring? Our automotive shopping research has shown again and again that inventory engagement, as measured by Vehicle Details Page (VDP) views and time spent viewing a VDP, are the two consumer behaviors best correlated with future sales. Therefore, it is no stretch to say that a spike in VIN views means that OEM Super Bowl advertising not only has an impact traffic to dealer websites, but actual car sales too.
Automotive Shopping Activity during the Super Bowl Measured in VIN views

The Power of Couch-Top Shopping

The chart shows that national brand advertising can have an immediate impact on the intensity of online car-shopping activity linked to sales. In this example, overall nation-wide shopping activity increased by 40-fold during and immediately after the advertisement relative to the volume observed immediately before the event. As remarkable, dealers who had on-going digital advertising aligned with their manufacturer not only saw a larger immediate spike in traffic but twice the on-going traffic of other dealers later that evening. This makes sense. Regardless of what sites they visited during and after the game, shoppers were more likely to see brand-aligned retargeting ads from these DAP dealers that would connect them directly with their store and inventory.

With this type of real time insight from Cobalt manufacturers are, for the first time, able to evaluate the effectiveness of their multi-million dollar event ad buys in driving in-market shopping activity and not just brand awareness and consideration.

Long Term Strategy, Long Term Results...

The automotive industry has a history of using the Super Bowl to energize its brand marketing campaigns, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that the big game is a one-and-done opportunity. Ads during events like the Super Bowl are “launch pads” for campaigns that will run all year and drive traffic all year (much like the water cooler chatter around the Super Bowl commercials extends the life of those campaigns).

Back to our example, 3 days after the Super Bowl VIN views on the advertised model were 15% higher than prior to the event. And more than that model benefited. Cobalt data shows consumers cross-shopping in real-time, creating a brand “halo effect” where models from that manufacturer not featured in the Super Bowl ads also saw a significant jump in traffic.

All this traffic is great of course, but the dealer who’s really going to win more customers is the one who continues to be present long after the excitement of a big national ad campaign. Are you running retargeting on your site to reach a consumer on their favorite websites long after the dust from The Big Game has settled? The days, and even weeks after are just as important as game day itself. Dealers need to continue to reinforce the national ad message in order to draw consumers to their store. Dealers who continue to fold their brand into that initial, electric Super Bowl experience will be one step ahead of their competition.

But don’t worry if you missed out on the Super Bowl “bump” this year, you don’t need to wait another twelve months to benefit from the lift when national advertisers run commercials... did someone say March Madness?

Views: 249

Tags: Super Bowl advertising, VDP Views, automotive advertising, automotive marketing, automotive remarketing, automotive retargeting, dealer advertising, dealer marketing, dealership advertising, vehicle detail pages


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Comment by Ralph Paglia on February 27, 2013 at 2:20pm

Just wanted to chime in and say thank you to Dave Holland for outlining the efforts on the part of the Cobalt team to share their treasure troves of data. There is no doubt that Cobalt has huge data streams and the ability to share some insight about how people are buying cars.

Comment by CDK Global on February 25, 2013 at 11:49am

Brian--- Thanks for your comment. Sorry you felt that it read like an ad. From our perspective, it's a data-driven study with interesting implications for dealers. Many dealers are using our Digital Ad Package, and we thought they might be heartened to know that it's definitely working. That's all. For others, we hoped that by providing some insight into the online behavior of automotive consumers during and after the game, it can help in their preparations for events in which their manufacturers are heavily invested, like the Super Bowl--- regardless of who they've chosen to partner with in their digital advertising.

We've been heavily involved in the ADM community and other automotive social media communities for several years now, and we've consistently made a point of providing best practices and great data, not advertising our products. We felt this article constituted the former, not the latter. We whole-heartedly agree that advertising in social forums is uncool. Again, thanks for your feedback and feel free to drop me a line personally at if you'd like to discuss in more detail. 

Comment by Alexander Lau on February 25, 2013 at 6:06am

Brian, no kidding. Don't even get me started on how poorly Cobalt (*cough I mean corporate juggernaut ADP) treated me at my last dealership job. Their CMS and SEO service in general is horrible and frankly they dupe dealers into falling for their version of SEO (not best practices, but what they're able to do internally). Take my word for it, from an 5 year end user's position.

The only reason they do well, OEM's force dealerships into using them for websites (etc.), especially if they're GM related. Funny how that relationship all works. I'm surprised they haven't been sued due to market monopolization. 

Hey everyone, look at all the pretty backlinks to Cobalt services. LMAO at this informative "article!"

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