Television Drives Auto Online Traffic

Watching TV on Phone


The Video Advertising Bureau (VAB) has been focusing on the automotive sector quite a bit lately. After all, automotive is the most important advertising source for television—at both the national and local level. The newest VAB study, Shifting Gears, looks specifically at whether there is an identifiable correlation between ad spending by an automotive brand and traffic to its website.

Not only did the VAB find that there is a correlation, but a pretty significant one in most cases. The study looked at ad spending by 20 auto/truck nameplates over the past two years (August 2014 to July 2015 and August 2015 to July 2016) and found an identifiable correlation with unique web visitors for 15 of them, or 75%. Only five brands (25%) didn’t show an identifiable correlation.

Of the 15 brands with a correlation evident, 11 had increased average monthly TV ad spending and experienced an increase in monthly unique visitors online. Four had decreased spending on TV advertising and experienced a drop in monthly unique visitors online. The 11 who were up on average spent 16% more on TV advertising and recorded an average 37% rise in unique monthly web visitors. For the other four, TV spend was down an average 10% and unique visitors online declined 12%.

Based on data from Nielsen Ad Intel, VAB found that Hyundai increased its TV ad spending by 55% and saw unique visitors online rise by 30%. Cadillac boosted ad spending 21% and got a 34% boost online. The biggest gain in unique monthly web visitors was for Toyota, a gain of 81% although the brand only had to increase TV advertising spending by 9% to get there. GMC, by the way, increased TV ad spending by 24% and also got a 24% increase in web visitors. Also gaining visitors with increased TV advertising were GM, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Ram, Lincoln and Jeep.

What about the four who cut TV spending? Mazda reduced TV advertising by 18% and saw web visitors drop 25%. Dodge TV spend fell 30% and online visits declined 14%. Honda reduced advertising 2% and online unique visitors fell 5%. Also in the group is Volkswagen—and we would note that the two years of data used in VAB’s analysis ended shortly before the “dieselgate” scandal became public. VW had reduced TV spending by 2% and unique monthly web visits fell 19%.

VAB notes that total TV ad spending from the automotive sector (broadcast/cable, national/local) has been increasing in recent years, growing from $10.1 billion in 2011 to $12.8 billion in 2015.

About the author

John Paul Strong: For someone who spends an average of 135 days outside of the office meeting with clients, John Paul Strong remains the driving force behind his Birmingham-based advertising agency, Strong Automotive Merchandising. Strong began his career as a fresh-faced account executive at Martin Advertising. Learning much, but never satisfied, he convinced his father to partner with him in reopening their own advertising agency in 2004, catering exclusively to the automotive industry. The company started strong but humble. The original roster of 10 employees and eight clients has exploded today, growing to 100 full-time employees and more than 220 automotive dealers. And it hasn’t gone without notice. Along the way, Strong Automotive Merchandising has been recognized as a perennial winner in Birmingham’s Best Places to Work contest and as a Top 20 Agency among Google’s National Ad Partners. Yet, Strong still finds time to share what he’s learned along the way. As an avid writer, he has published two books in the Next Day Traffic series, along with more than 1,000 automotive-focused blog posts. He is also a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, and his success has been recognized in the Birmingham Business Journal’s 2013 “Top 40 Under 40” feature and the 2017 CEO Awards. The foundation for Strong’s career began at the University of Montevallo where he earned a bachelor’s degree in communication studies and advanced public speaking. Always staying ahead of the competition, Strong later went on to study in Harvard Business School’s Executive Education Program. Amid all of his endeavors, Strong always makes time for what matters most – his family. He is a proud husband to Amy, and father to Lilly Grace, Anne Charlotte, Hudson, and Ford.


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