LONDON: Automotive digital advertising campaigns are more likely to be successful if they show the original vehicle price without any promotional offers, according to new research.

Rocket Fuel, a provider of artificial intelligence advertising solutions for digital marketers, studied the results of over 7,500 digital automotive advertisements delivered on its programmatic platform between September and November 2013 using ten key criteria, including size, background colour and call to action.

It found that ads including offers tended to achieve a lower click-through rate (CTR) and conversion rate (CVR) for the campaign.

Potential customers were more likely to be attracted by a car's reliability and proven success. Thus, safety (+134% CVR), reliability (+92% CVR) and awards (+90% CVR) emerged as effective messages.

And in an echo of Henry Ford's oft-quoted message to consumers that they could have any colour they wanted as long as it was black, Rocket Fuel found that images of black cars obtained some of the highest conversion rates.

But an option to customise the colour was also important, helping drive users to a manufacturer's website in order to further personalise the design, selecting add-ons and controlling the final price. Such campaigns achieved 116% more conversions than the industry average.

While 'build your own' was the most popular call to action, others, in order of effectiveness, included 'view details', 'find yours', 'compare', 'see/view offers', 'find a dealer', 'learn more', 'click here' and 'shop now'.

The importance of colour extended beyond the car itself to the background of the ad. Those with a white or black background achieved fewer clicks but more conversions, with a rate of between 10% and 20% compared to the industry average.

Rocket Fuel also noted that while it was clearly vital to include an image of the car being sold, adding a human face could help boost conversion rates by up to 72%.

Beyond the mechanics of individual ads, Millward Brown has argued in an ESOMAR paper that car marketers need to take some risk with their marketing investment to ensure that new media channels and consumer touchpoints are tested, using a 70:20:10 allocation model.

Under this 70% goes to low-risk media options, 20% to innovation based on what has previously worked, with the remaining 10% being spent on high-risk media content involving new ideas.

Data sourced from Rocket Fuel; additional content by Warc staff