How Automation Can Help Automotive Ad Agencies Overcome 3 Big Challenges

Few industries have been affected in such an enduring manner by the pandemic as the automotive industry. More than two years after COVID first disturbed the automotive supply chain, car inventory is still low. Dealers are wondering whether they should continue marketing at normal levels, and marketers who serve dealers are having to get creative to maximize the value of ad spend.

On top of that, advertising challenges that transcend any one vertical are squeezing marketers’ budgets and time, making it hard for them to do the creative thinking required to best help their clients. Scaling ads is tough at a time when inventory is fluctuating, rote tasks are time-consuming, and Google and Facebook are constantly rolling out new campaign formats.

Enter automation. Software can help marketers serving auto agencies scale their expertise and reduce time spent on repetitive tasks so that they can more effectively serve their clients and devise creative solutions to tough challenges. Let’s review three big challenges for automotive ad agencies — low inventory, scaling ads efficiently, and adapting to platform changes — and consider how automation can help.

Low and volatile inventory

Supply chain issues have improved over the past two years in many verticals, but the automotive industry continues to experience sharp shortages. Even with plunging sales, new vehicles on dealer lots had fallen to 1.13 million in May, down a startling 70% from May 2019. Those challenges extend across price segments and are particularly troublesome in luxury categories where dealers only have a few vehicles at a time.

Smart dealerships will not stop spending, as customer dollars remain to be won, and those who pull back risk fading into irrelevance. But agencies need to be able to get creative on behalf of their clients. They need to test new campaign types such as Google’s Performance Max campaigns to make each dollar go further. And they need to come up with creative solutions such as focusing on form fills, which usually do not entice auto shoppers but can come in handy in this moment when the cars customers want are frequently unavailable.

The catch is that taking advantage of these opportunities requires the time to test, learn, and think critically about each client’s needs. And that’s where automation comes in — giving back marketers time so that they can focus on driving new value, not executing repetitive tasks.

Scaling ads efficiently

Scaling ads efficiently is tough for any agency. Typically, only a small percentage of senior agency staff has the expertise required to onboard a client and spearhead campaign management across key platforms. Either the senior person ends up running around and taking a hands-on approach to too many campaigns to devote adequate time to strategy or junior employees are thrown to the wolves, attempting to figure out new work without adequate guidance.

Vehicle inventory issues exacerbate the challenge. With certain vehicles going in and out of stock and overall inventory fluctuating, the amount of advertising the agency should be coordinating on behalf of a client, whom the client needs to reach, and what they need to say shifts frequently. Without an effective and lean campaign creation and management process, clients contending with inventory volatility get left in the lurch.

Here, too, automation can be of major help by empowering senior management to scale their expertise. Senior employees can create templates that are not cookie-cutter solutions but rather provide a strong foundation of repeatable best practices to be deployed across clients. This eliminates unnecessary time spent and fuels the ability to scale. Then, junior and mid-level agency staff working side by side with clients in the trenches can use their client knowledge to tailor campaigns to their needs and overcome spontaneous challenges. Automation makes that level of agility possible.

Adaptation to automotive and advertising changes

The ability to adapt quickly is a key feature of successful auto agencies, and that’s not just because the auto industry and supply chain frequently change. It’s also because the ad platforms agencies need to navigate on behalf of their clients often roll out new rules, products, and ad formats. Becoming an expert in a vertical is tough enough. Agencies also need experts in Google, Facebook, and the many ad products they develop.

Automation can help with this challenge as well. For example, Google’s Performance Max campaigns use smart bidding and machine learning to place ads in the right place at the right time to boost conversions. Getting them right requires developing enough creative to communicate across ad formats and properties as well as aggregating audience data across systems to drive effective targeting. Automation can streamline creative management and audience building at scale, allowing agencies to help their dealers make the most of Google’s automation.

The past few years have dealt auto dealers a particularly tough hand, but they have also come with breakthroughs in advertising automation that should render ad dollars more effective. The problem is that not every dealer and agency will be able to take advantage of those opportunities. Automation can make the difference, turning a period of turmoil into a competitive advantage for the agencies and dealers nimble enough to navigate the turbulence at hand.

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