5 Tips for Using Online Videos to Market Your Department

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Ryan Alford, a former dealership operator, used to wonder why the auto industry was so slow to evolve, especially with regard to advertising. In his current role working with automotive ad agency Dom360, however, the chief marketing officer has recently noticed innovation roar to life.

And shifting from newspaper advertising to quick-hitting video pre-roll ads is like moving from a Model T to a Tesla.

“We counsel our dealership clients to spend their money where consumers are spending their attention,” Alford notes. “And, if consumers are spending their attention for one hour per day on Facebook on average and Google and YouTube numbers are staggering … The audience size is increasing to the point that they’re unignorable.

“Consumers’ eyeballs are on their smartphones. And that’s where your advertisements need to be—where consumers are spending their time.”

These days, Alford and Dom360 spend lots of time creating pre-roll ads for dealerships. pre-roll ads, which typically cost anywhere from $400–$2,500 to produce, are the quick-hitting videos that play before a longer video that online users sought out. While some pre-roll ads can be skipped, they’re virtually guaranteed to capture the attention of a consumer for at least a few moments.

“You get the benefit of the power of video, combined with the targeting of digital marketing,” Alford explains, “and you really have the perfect blend of opportunity for how to move the market and how to sell a product, or a service, or to brand the dealer.”

Alford, whose employer has created video pre-roll since 2012, shares his tricks for making the digital ads truly impactful.


Tip No. 1: Keep Them Quick Hitting.

If you’ve ever encountered a commercial on YouTube, you know that sitting through a 30-second online ad can feel like an eternity. Marketers like Alford have listened to enough such complaints from web users that they currently experiment with commercial spots that run for as little as 6 seconds.

“I think 15 seconds is the sweet spot for the content, especially as it relates to parts or service,” Alford says. “You can get your point across, grab their attention … get that branding mention.”

He shared a trick of the trade, too, noting that businesses aren’t charged for an ad viewing if an online viewer clicks off of the ad before the 4-second mark, meaning dealerships can often get a quick brand mention in for free.


Tip No. 2: Tell a Tale.

Alford’s employer often garners stellar, 30–40 percent view-through rates by making its pre-roll ads memorable or humorous.

“Why pre-roll makes sense for the dealer is the storytelling ability of video,” he notes. “You can tell a story, whether that narrative is your brand … or, for parts and service, explaining your offer through visualization.

“So, the benefit of video, the storytelling nature of the medium, combined with the targeting ability with keywords … is powerful.”


Tip No. 3: Differentiate Your Dealership.

When plotting out a video pre-roll campaign, it’s always helpful to focus on explaining why your dealership is different from competitors, in Alford’s experience. For example, if your service department offers pick-up and delivery of vehicles, it’s worth noting.

“Let’s focus in on a deal or two. And, what are those specials?” Alford says. “If it’s a monthlong special, or a summertime special, we can bring those promotions to life.

“Whatever separates you, we’ll piece that narrative of ‘why service here,’ combined with the promotion of the month. … And for the parts and service–specific type of content, educate. Consumers will watch the video if you give them a reason.”


Tip No. 4: Entrust a Tech-Savvy Expert.

Alford suggests utilizing a marketer or an in-house employee who focuses on the Internet, to spearhead video pre-roll campaigns. Considering how rapidly technology evolves these days, it’s important that you entrust such a campaign to those who are supremely knowledgeable about the platforms you’ll want to utilize for video pre-roll, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Google.

Alford says it’s also helpful if you utilize a marketing expert who knows how to navigate ad-buying services through online outlets.


Tip No. 5. Avoid Old-School Mentalities.

The era of “yell-and-sell” advertising is over for dealers, Alford says. These days, if campaigns like those involving video pre-roll are to be impactful, they need to put personality on display. For example, Dom360 recently created a campaign that resonated with viewers simply by featuring humorous, viral video clips.  

“It wasn’t promotional in nature,” Alford explains of that pre-roll campaign. “It was a brand impact, a brand impression, and, ‘OK, wow, this is a witty dealer, this is a modern dealer.’”

Yes, video pre-roll, in Alford’s opinion, is poised to usher in the next era of effective advertising.

“The growth and the data that’s so undeniable in the last two years—the growth of YouTube, of Facebook, and these video networks—combined with the lower cost of video production, has made it such an opportunity,” he says. “Dealers have to be doing this.”

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