Your Daily Operations Magazine
Search Close Menu

Dealer Ops

10 Common Mistakes In Advertising - Part 1

Car dealers all over the country spend tons of money advertising in lots of different media, but it often seems they don’t have much to show for it.  I’ve been there too, several times, and for many ads that I ran, my "ROI" was frustration and the privilege of writing the check to the ad source…not much fun.  What I can tell you plainly and simply from an expensive education in trial and error is what not to do in advertising.  This issue, I will cover the first five of 10 common mistakes in advertising made by dealers.  Next month I will cover the mistakes six through 10.

Mistake #1 The Need for Instant Gratification: The ad that creates enough urgency to cause people to respond immediately is the ad most likely to be forgotten immediately once the offer expires.  It is of little use in establishing the dealer’s identity in the mind of the consumer and does nothing to build the brand or highlight the key points of differentiation that answer the ultimate question “Why should I buy a vehicle from you?”

Dealers become so focused on an instant return for their investment that they forget about the message to the consumer.  As a result, price becomes the focus and ad wars with the lowest price in town begin.  Look at the Sunday paper and you will see what I mean.  Focus on the message, advertise consistently, and be patient.  The delayed gratification is much more satisfying.

Mistake #2 Trying to Reach Everyone:  For a media mix to be effective, each element in the mix must have enough repetition to be remembered by prospective customers.  They have to retain the information in your message.  Too often, however, the result of a media mix is too much reach and not enough frequency. Will you reach 100 percent of the people and persuade only 10 percent of them, Or will you reach 10 percent of the people and persuade them 100 percent. The cost is the same.  No company has enough budget to reach everyone, and even if you did, it would be a waste of money.

Be careful and never forget that ad media companies are “For Profit” organizations.  They will often sell you what’s best for them, which isn't necessarily what's best for you.  Frequency is much more important than reach in advertising so stay away from the “run of schedule (ROS)” left over’s just to be on TV or radio.  Remember, not all media is affordable.  If you stay within your budget, focus on the best media bang for the buck and build in a high frequency of your message, your ads will be much more effective.

Mistake #3 Assuming the Dealer Knows Best:  Business owners are uniquely unqualified to see his or her company objectively. Too much product knowledge leads them to answer questions no one is asking. The business owner is on the inside looking out, trying to describe him or herself to a person on the outside looking in. Use the sales and office staff to develop ads.  Test ads on friends and neighbors who will give you a critical view.  Forget the pride because it’s all about market appeal and driving traffic.

Mistake #4: Unsubstantiated Claims:  Dealers often claim to have exactly what the customer wants, such as "highest quality at the lowest price," but fail to offer any evidence. An unsubstantiated claim is nothing more than a cliche the prospect is tired of hearing. You must prove what you say in every ad!  Do your ads give the prospect new information? Do they provide a new perspective? If not, prepare to be disappointed with the results.  You have to be different in order to stand out in the confusing sea of automobile ads.

Mistake #5 Improper Use of Media:  Nonintrusive media, such as print ads, newspapers, yellow pages, and the internet tend to reach only buyers who are looking for a vehicle now. They are poor at reaching prospects before their need arises, so they're not much use for creating a brand toward your company. The patient, consistent use of intrusive media, such as radio and TV, will win the hearts of potential customers long before they're in the market for a vehicle.

Better to learn from the mistakes of others than to uncover them all yourself.  An education of that type is never fun or cheap.

Vol 5, Issue 2


Dealer Job Finder

See more


KAR Names Kelly President

KAR Names Kelly President

Peter Kelly has been promoted to the newly created role of president at KAR Auction Services, the company he joined through the 2011 acquisition of OPENLANE.


VAS Partners With Alpha Warranty

Vehicle Administrative Services will offer roadside and ancillary solutions to Alpha Warranty Services under the terms of a new strategic partnership.