Car Buying Experience. Lost DirectServe Opportunity Where SmartBanners Could Hammer Home Offers to a Shopper Anywhere Online

So I have gone from being a promoter of online advertising technology to a target over the last week.  For the first time that I can recall in a long time, I succumbed to most of the applications in use meant to drive me towards specific destinations and specific actions and it all came up short.  But what I did find were great opportunities for improvement!


I have been shopping for a new car.  Dreadful experience that it is, I am one of those people who labors over it.  The problem is that I started off not knowing what kind of car to get.  My wife wants a Prius, only she’s not the one who has the drive it and after the last month of back-to-back blizzards in Denver I need something that can actually get me to work.  I am not an ignoramous, I am not looking for a gas-guzzling, high emissions-producing smog machine, but an AWD that can get through the crud and have some power to get up the mountains would be nice.  EPA in the 20s/30s.  So the crossover class seems to be my style.  Anyway, I went on the usual sites looking at cars – MSN, Edmunds,, etc.  I was having trouble finding something I liked when I saw an ad for a cool looking car and clicked on it.  I went to the manufacturer’s site and read about the offer that had lured me in and even filled out a form to have a dealer or two contact me. 


So there it is, right there!  I joined a CRM system.  The dealer contacted me and yet had no idea how I had become a lead.  What had been the process. Didn’t know what site I had come from or what offer I had seen.  Or perhaps they did know but didn’t want to lead off with a good deal.


Anyway many of us know the statistics.  People start looking at cars and all of a sudden their surfing habits go hog-wild online as they research the heck out of a vehicle and then they show up in a show room to buy.  Needless-to-say that was not the last time that I went online to look at cars.  In fact I am two weeks into the process and I am still online looking at cars and am still kind of looking at other cars to make sure this is the one I want.  Each time I type in that crossover on one of those sites, an ad for the lease or finance offer shows up on the page, sometime something else shows up but they usually railroad it.


What am I getting at here?  I have been contacted by more than one dealership.  I have tested driven the car at two locations.  I am in a database (presumably) at both locations and I am in a database at the manufacturer.  I surf online and research that car along with others and occasionally see ads for that car or other cars from that dealer.  Where is the behavioral targeting?!?!  Where is the customer re-targeting??  They should know who I am and know things about me!  I’ve been back to the manufacturers site several times, the dealer’s site even more often looking at the inventory.  Nobody knows it’s me!!


Here is the perfect opportunity for a dealership to recognize that the reality is I am not done shopping online.  They should be keen to the likelihood that I am also probably going to be talking to other car manufacturers (I have told them as much).  Since the manufacturer who first secured me as a lead in the first place through advertising still has my information they should have, and could, have cookied me.  They could be targeting me in the future each time they encounter me and be ‘warming’ me up for the dealer.  The dealer could be enhancing my record with the manufacturer so that my customer profile is getting expanded for targeting.


Back to DirectServe – first party ad serving.  The manufacturer could be recognizing me on MSN when they advertise and could be showing me ads for the car I am tagged on whenever it’s their turn to show an ad.  I don’t mean when I research the crossover, I mean at any point that they may advertise.  How about when I look at a different car?  I can be recognized, distinguished and messaged to accordingly.  They can hit me with that crossover on Edmunds even though I had been researching it on  Once they have me tagged, they can focus on that car wherever they encounter me. 


If I see relevant ads while I continue to do my research it hammers home my interest in the crossover I am looking at even if I am playing around with other types of cars.  The messaging capability is powerful.


Here is another technology to know about.  TruEffect also has TruBanners.  These Smart Banners enable an advertiser to dynamically change the content of their advertisements on the fly without having to rotate ads or change out creative.  So an advertiser can run one creative and have it change the offer or dealership name depending on some targeting criteria such as geographic location or cookie value.  Think about that!  If the user carries a cookie that is associated with a specific dealer and a specific type of car and that cookie is also associated with a profile that is anonymously known as a segment associated with having had visited a dealership and test-driven a vehicle, than a very specific financing offer can be displayed in the ad that someone who does not fall into that category would not see. 


Wait, that was a really long sentence.  Try that again.  The banner can have dynamic content.  The banner can target an offer based on the cookie value of the browser.  If I am cookied as the guy interested in the Crossover in Denver who has test-driven with a dealer, I can see ads with lease offers for that dealer.  Now that is behavioral targeting, customer re-targeting and smart advertising all rolled-up into the next generation of online advertising.


Shame on the manufacturer who has paid for the online advertising, charged back the advertising to both dealerships; and shame on the dealerships who have paid for the leads.  In the end I will buy the car from the lowest bidder and may even buy it from a dealer from outside the region as I don’t care where it comes from now that I have seen it, driven it and priced it.  I never developed a relationship with anyone because nobody ever gave me a reason to do so.  None of my information ever got leveraged from my preferred way of shopping. 


The dealerships are not demanding better lead management capabilities from the manufacturers and the manufacturers are clearly not demanding better lead management from the dealerships.  They don’t communicate and are not working together to close the deals and move the inventory effectively.  In the end, I am a loosely moving buyer that is not being guided through a process that they control.  And the could have a great deal of control over that process.


Reactionary with Insight.

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