Driving success in automotive advertising can be a tough ask. Saddington Baynes’ Chris Christodoulou explores how experience can inform auto advertising.

Cars are perhaps the biggest investment made by the average consumer, and are maintained for six-eight years before being replaced. Needless to say, marketing assets are scrutinised to the nth degree by eager buyers, searching for what they perceive to be a reliable, superior ‘dream car’.

This is especially true in the digital age, where purchase journeys begin online for nine out of ten (88%) car buyers. Automotive brands like Honda and Toyota are having to evolve and expand their creative output in order to attract the interest of a modern, media-savvy generation.

Leveraging technologies to strengthen and grow the creative side of automotive campaigns.

Early adoption of entertainment technology is underway within the automotive industry harnessing recent advancements in real-time rendering. Car launches can no longer be restricted to a television set or billboard. Instead, audiences can now enjoy a wider range of materials in easily accessible online or VR environments.

Digitising the in-showroom experience is a particularly high priority for brands, ensuring that dealerships and test drives match up to an ideal brand image as well as encourage greater engagement.

Earlier this year, we delivered Honda’s biggest-ever European content programme ‘Real World Test Drive’, taking prospective customers on an in-depth virtual tour of the brand’s range of cars. As part of the design process, eight different versions of showroom architecture were tested for the optimal audience response for perception of the brand and emotional positivity..

Interactive elements are likewise being harnessed throughout these digital experiences, largely to engage with hard-to-reach millennials; that elusive next generation of car buyers.

At Saddington Baynes, we've begun the process of integrating game engine technology into our production solution. We think real-time engines will make it easier for potential buyers to configure a car to their personal preferences, delivering a more rich and engaging customer experience. It's a great tool to keep all your content in one place, keep users on site for longer, and pave the way for VR in advertising. For example, Audi have introduced VR headsets in their dealerships, which allow customers to discover technical specs and accessories not available in stock.

The importance of consumer experience

Automotive advertising is notoriously ‘sexy’. From custom bodywork to a gleaming paint job, a great many visual factors can contribute to a car’s desirability. The emotive power of great automotive imagery – the sight, sound and motion of it – has been leveraged by brands since the advent of TV commercials, and this continues today.

In a perfect world, high definition video created specifically for digital is the best way to engage consumers, working with specialists who understand your vision and can implement it with expertise. Digital video and the power of multiscreen mobility has presented a huge, newfound advantage for the automotive industry as we move though 4k, 8k, 10k and beyond.

Agencies and creative production studios alike are being commissioned to produce fully integrated campaigns – from concept to final edit – in order to meet demand across an entire spectrum of live action content, CGI recreations and interactive buyer journeys.

Experiential marketing for Honda Civic

Subtle adjustments to colour palette, cameras, lighting and textures all have consequences on brand perception, and creatives are constantly experimenting to reach an ideal combination.

Ideally, automotive advertisers want to track those users who watch video content in full. Buying a car is a research-heavy process. Consumers might not click through a video initially, but are fairly likely to visit the website at a later date to ‘complete’ their customer journey. A deeper, more immersive, emotional experience goes a long way in this industry. That’s why we designed the Honda Civic virtual showroom using Engagement Insights – a neuroscience consultancy service, providing deep insights into the consumer nonconscious.

After implementing Engagement Insights, average engagement of Honda users went way up on multiple platforms:

  • Viewers spend 6 times or 13 ½ minutes longer on the Honda website
  • Viewers are twice as likely to enter the Honda Car Configurator process
  • Viewers are twice as likely to book a Honda test drive
  • 80-95 percent of viewers watched all of the Showroom films all the way through

Honda’s resulting image content was optimised to engage viewers on a deeply emotional level, as well as educate on a rational level. Considering that 95 percent of consumer purchase decisions take place in the non-conscious mind, this was a perfect use of implicit neuroscience techniques to design the most engaging environment for a large campaign launch across multiple markets.

Balancing a global budget

Faced with escalating campaign costs, tight deadlines and short consumer attention spans, we’re coming up against the main marketing hurdle of the 21st century. How to meet the demand for highly customisable digital content, without compromising quality.

The days of blasting out catchall images on social media are gone. We’re living in a personalised age, where audiences engage most with messages that speak directly to them. Indeed, most brands make use of audience profiling to drastically improve campaign performance and ROI.

It's time to look beyond the limits of traditional production when delivering automotive images and video. You can't just point a camera and shoot a commercial. CGI has been steadily replacing automotive photography in the marketing sphere over the last few years, and is now powering mass image creation to deliver thousands of assets at once; enabling the production of customised content that can meet needs across an ever more globalised market.