Maryann Keller launches franchised dealer advertising study

STAMFORD, Conn.  - 

Automotive strategy consultancy Maryann Keller & Associates will be researching the effectiveness of franchised dealer advertising in a new study announced Thursday.

The project will examine the possible correlation between lower new-car profit margins and the move towards digital advertising.

The firm’s principal, Maryann Keller, will be among the keynote speakers at the next month in Raleigh, N.C.

In her presentation — titled “Used-Vehicle Residual Values Underpin Multiple Industries” — Keller will take a deep dive into the volatile residual values of electric and hybrid vehicles to explain how used-vehicle price swings are causing ripple effects into other industries.

She will also discuss the growing tide of vehicles being bought and sold via alternative remarketing channels.

Keller’s keynote presentation is at 10:30 am ET on July 25. AIS is being held July 24-26 at the Raleigh Marriott Crabtree Valley.

She joins fellow keynote speakers Scott Painter of Fair, Lonnie Miller of SAS, Mike Wall of IHS Markit, Dennis Ephlin of IBM and Jim Landy of Springboard Auto.

includes many more workshops and presentations geared toward the emerging automotive tech and auto finance spaces.

Traditional advertising overlooked?

Going back to the MK&A project, the firm found in prior research this year, that many dealers have cut certain digital ad partners or brought some spending back to traditional advertising — or both.

“While many industry observers predict that digital market spend will continue to increase, MK&A questions if traditional advertising mediums are being overlooked as a result of digital marketing hype,” the company said in a news release.

Franchised dealers are invited to participate in the study, which includes a 10-minute online survey. Participating dealers receive a $25 gift card and an MK&A analysis on the results of the study. MK&A will invite certain respondents to be part of a follow-up phone interview.

 More information and eligibility requirements .



UnityWorks promotes exec to VP of strategic development


UnityWorks recently promoted one of its own executives.

The provider of nicro-targeted video campaigns for automotive dealers announced the promotion of Jeff Grice to vice president of strategic development.

Grice joined the company in 2013 as director of strategic development with a focus on building scalable and customized, data driven video experiences for the company’s major strategic client partners.

The company highlighted that Grice brought a depth of digital and multi-channel marketing experience to UnityWorks having previously held senior executive roles as president and chief operating officer of several leading marketing services firms.

“Jeff’s new officer title signifies the important contributions he has made to the company and the leadership he has provided on critical strategic client partnerships with some of the leading automotive agencies across the country,” said Tim Copacia, executive vice president of UnityWorks.

“Jeff has earned a reputation as a trusted advisor to his clients and has proven to be a primary contributor to our company’s growth trajectory. This officer role is richly deserved,” Copacia added.

CDK Global Partner Program adds Hearst Autos


For the second time this month, Hearst Autos has made a significant move associated with Car and Driver in an effort to boost dealership sales activities.

On Tuesday, Hearst Autos announced today that it has joined the CDK Global Partner Program, one of the largest, third-party partner programs in the automotive industry. The partnership is designed to enable Hearst Autos’ Car and Driver shopping tools to be seamlessly implemented across the dealer’s website.

As a result of this partnership, officials explained the Car and Driver shopping tools will have improved placements on dealer’s sites. Hearst insisted that dealers can expect increased usage of the tools and faster set up times.

The company added the partnership also can allow dealers to access and consume all of their third-party data in one place.

“This partnership underscores Hearst Autos’ goal of providing CDK dealer customers with best-in-class shopping tools and data-based solutions needed to help them grow their business,” said James Tom, senior vice president sales at Hearst Autos.  

Tuesday’s announcement arrived a little more than a week after Car and Driver added a Trade-In Value tool and a Credit Score tool to make the buying process easier for both dealers and consumers.

The CDK Partner Program now numbers more than 360 partner companies and 475 unique applications auto dealers can use to run their businesses. As part of the CDK ecosystem, the CDK Partner Program provides data and workflow integration to a wide range of third parties, OEMs and dealers.

“Hearst Autos adds to our growing number of offerings in the digital marketing category, and we are pleased to connect dealers to its solutions through our website integration solution,” said Howard Gardner, vice president and general manager of CDK Data Services. 

For a full list of partners and applications available through the program, visit .

Rowe returns to AutoWeb as president and CEO

IRVINE, Calif. - 

Jared Rowe is now back in the trenches of automotive marketing and with a company where his career started.

AutoWeb, which previously operated a Autobytel and a provider of digital automotive services connecting in-market car buyers with dealers and OEMs, appointed Rowe as director, president and chief executive officer on Thursday, succeeding Jeffrey Coats in a move effective immediately.

Rowe brings more than two decades of key management experience across the automotive and marketing industries, holding senior positions at FordDirect, Cox Automotive and Cerberus-backed YP Holdings.

As president of YP Holdings, Rowe was instrumental in the improvement of’s business operations and its eventual sale to Dex Media in 2017. While at Cox Automotive, Rowe served as president of the Media Solutions Group, where he was responsible for leading the Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, and Haystack businesses.

“Jared has a strong track record of successfully implementing strategic plans to revitalize automotive businesses competing in the e-commerce industry,” AutoWeb chairman Michael Fuchs said. “His leadership and restructuring at YP Holdings and Cox Automotive led to material operating improvements and enhanced competitive positioning.

“Jared will be an invaluable addition to our company as he shares our vision of delivering the highest quality marketing products to dealers and OEMs,” Fuchs said.

This will be Rowe’s second stint with AutoWeb, as he previously served as manager of strategic business development in 1998.

“It’s been nearly 20 years since I kicked off my digital marketing career at the former Autobytel,” Rowe said. “I am excited to rejoin AutoWeb to lead the continued evolution of this digital marketing platform that specializes in providing OEMs and dealers with high-quality, performance managed campaigns.

“It is important to provide our clients with detailed attribution that enables them to understand the value and ROI our services and products provide,” he continued.

“We have a solid foundation to build from with an established brand, advanced technology, an extremely talented team and clients that value the quality of our products,” Rowe said.

“I look forward to leveraging my experiences to help return AutoWeb to growth by introducing new strategies and initiatives that I believe will unlock the company’s full potential and maximize shareholder value,” he added.

Fuchs shard his appreciation of Coats’ contribution to AutoWeb during a span that lasted more than 20 years.

“I would like to thank Jeff Coats for his many years of service and dedication to AutoWeb. He has been an exceptional CEO for more than a decade and a valued board member since 1996,” Fuchs said.

“We look forward to continuing to work with Jeff as he assists Jared during a transition period as a consultant. We wish him the best in his future endeavors,” Fuchs went on to say.

Dominion Dealer Solutions launches Dynamic Reports Portal to spotlight ‘essential dealer data’

NORFOLK, Va.  - 

Dominion Dealer Solutions announced during the recent 2018 NADA show the release of its new Dynamic Reports Portal for direct marketing.

The portal, which is designed to bring more relevant data to dealers, provides access to what the company described in a news release as the “four cornerstones of dealer management system-based marketing data”: service revenue, sales revenue, emails sent and email collection.

Dominion shared it designed the new portal to give clients a “dashboard view” of their data, as well as the ability to dive deeper when needed.

Each of the aforementioned data segments have their own widgets, along with top-level details for different campaigns. Through the main dashboard, dealers can also access detailed reports, view granular statistics and export data directly to their inbox.

“Our goal was to retain all of our previous reporting benefits, but present them to our dealers in a fast, cross-device format,” said Alan Andreu, vice president of product at Dominion.

The interface is based on extensive dealership testing and back, and it designed to bring the “essential dealership data” to the forefront.

Dealers can use dashboard reports to drill down to the customer and advisor levels, provide engagement, email collection and success reporting.

The Dynamic Reports Portal is accessible across all device types and is securely accessed via a password-protected log-in.




Digital Air Strike Purchases AI Messaging Platform Path Chat


Digital Air Strike announced today it has added artificial intelligence (AI) messaging platform — Path Chat — to its portfolio.

Path Chat’s AI messaging solution, Response Path, will now be integrated into Digital Air Strike’s digital and social media response platform.

Path Chat launched back at the start of 2016, and was originally designed to be used in the healthcare market. Today, it has expanded its customer base to include multiple verticals.

“Digital Air Strike has long been the leader in consumer engagement and the addition of artificial intelligence messaging technology enhances our business clients’ abilities to communicate with their customers on numerous digital platforms in multiple ways and formats – including websites, Facebook Messenger and text message,” said Alexi Venneri, Digital Air Strike’s co-founder and chief executive officer. “We are excited by the extremely innovative way Path Chat developed its messaging technology and how our clients will now benefit greatly as we integrate AI chat and managed messaging into our full suite of consumer engagement solutions.”

The integration of Response Path into Digital Air Strike solutions will combine artificial intelligence across multiple platforms including social networks with the integration of dynamic multi-vehicle quotes, according to Digital Air Strike.

Path Chat will work to close “the full consumer communication loop,” the company explained by:

  • Ingesting all forms of lead data through Response Logix
  • Nurturing prospects in the sales funnel through Smart Quote, Response Path and Social Logix
  • Ensuring greater consumer satisfaction through social recruiting, reputation management, post-sale engagement and survey technology

The solution will also integrate into dealers’ customer relationship management (CRM) and dealer management systems (DMS).

 “As a dynamic and fast-growing start-up, we are excited to join the trailblazing team at Digital Air Strike,” said Jeff Cole, Path Chat co-founder and CEO. “Combining our messaging technology with Digital Air Strike’s award-winning social media and consumer engagement solutions creates a very complete digital engagement experience that businesses must have to effectively interact with today’s consumers.”

Digital Air Strike plans to maintain Path Chat’s presence and team in Santa Barbara, Calif.

PERQ study highlights how much research buyers are doing on dealer websites


Perhaps not every potential buyer who arrives at your dealership — or, more specifically, your store website — knows exactly what vehicle they want along with all of its attributes from the amount of horsepower to placement of cup holders and power outlets.

New data from thousands of consumer profiles studied by PERQ — experts in online consumer engagement and behavior — uncovered further evidence that the majority of visitors to dealership websites are hot new prospects who need to be guided into conversion.

The research also offered key insights into the features consumers value as they make their vehicle purchase decisions.

PERQ highlighted that its new study, Car Buyer Insights Report 2018, defies the conventional wisdom that most dealership website visitors are existing customers. The reality? They are not as 74 percent are brand new and 68 percent are still looking for information to educate them about the purchase, representing prime opportunities for conversion.

But according to the data, while 77 percent are at the beginning or middle of their purchasing process, they want to transact sooner rather than later, so an efficient, engaging website experience that guides them down the purchase funnel is critical.

“We are constantly monitoring consumer website behavior and the data continues to confirm how important it is that dealerships approach their website as fertile ground for new sales, rather than as a static receptacle for returning customers,” said Andy Medley, chief executive officer and co-founder of PERQ.

“The data shows that most website visitors are new to the dealership, not ready-to-buy, and expect to be in control of their shopping experience as they narrow down their choices,” Medley continued.

Here is another example of trends highlighted in the study:

Besides safety, what else is important to you when buying a vehicle?

— Interior space: 36 percent
— Performance: 31 percent
— Fuel economy: 28 percent
— Technology: 6 percent

PERQ’s takeaway: “Your website should be responsive to how a visitor engages with interactive experiences on your website. If they’re looking for more interior space and the assessment gives them a result of mini-vans, they should have the option to immediately go to the mini-van VDP or retake the assessment even if they’re not happy with the results.”

PERQ went on to mention its research also offers key insights on consumer preferences that can help dealership websites better interact with these visitors, such as data on the number of vehicle they want to test drive (nearly a third want to test drive more than one), and what they are looking for in a drivetrain — an astonishing 59 percent said four-wheel or all-wheel drive is a priority.

“It’s critical for dealerships to expect their website to act as one of their best sales team members,” Medley said. “If they don’t, they are missing a massive opportunity, and letting all those dollars spent driving traffic turn into vapor.”

The PERQ research results .

CarGurus launches 2nd wave of national TV ads

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.  - 

Online auto marketplace CarGurus rolled out three new TV advertising spots Wednesday to launch its second mass-media brand campaign.

The three 30-second TV spots to kick off the “Everything You Need to Know”  campaign are airing on broadcast and cable networks, and coincide with national YouTube, Facebook and digital marketing efforts, CarGurus said in a news release. 

“Our first TV campaign achieved its goal of growing brand awareness and interest in CarGurus significantly and helped cement our position as the most visited car shopping site in the US,” said Sarah Welch, senior vice president of consumer marketing at CarGurus, in a news release.

“We still have significant opportunity to grow awareness for CarGurus but are shifting our focus to helping consumers begin to understand some of the many unique benefits of shopping on CarGurus.”

The tagline “you don’t need to know much about cars to know everything about a car” is featured in all three ads. Those spots — “Hood,” “Emma,” and “Lit” — emphasize how CarGurus can help shoppers make informed car-buying decisions, the company said. CarGurus launched its first series of TV ads last April. 

In other news from CarGurus, the company  released its fourth-quarter and full-year 2017 earnings results last week. 

CarGurus generated $316.9 million in revenue last year, up from $198.1 million in 2016.

It pulled in GAAP net income of $13.2 million for the year, up from $6.5 million a year earlier. 

As for 2018, CarGurus is expecting $396 million to $400 million in total revenue, with non-GAAP operating income likely to hit between $21 million and $25 million. 

“The fourth quarter marked a strong end to the year,” CarGurus founder and chief executive officer Langley Steinert said in a news release. 

“Our ability to deliver solid results across our key operating metrics was driven by our disruptive value proposition as consumers continue to recognize our platform as one of the world’s most trusted and transparent automotive marketplaces. We remain well-positioned to extend our leadership position given our commitment to innovation and greater brand awareness.” 

Slow start, but 2018 bodes well for used-car prices & sales


On paper, it might not seem like the most auspicious of starts to 2018 for the used-car market.

January was the third straight month that wholesale prices declined sequentially, putting the Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index at its lowest reading since July.

What’s more, the Cox Automotive report accompanying that index said retail used-car sales were off 2 percent from January 2017.

But there’s more than meets the eye.

Wholesale prices were actually up from a year ago, and values are transforming to the more normalized level that existed before the hurricanes in September. And retail sales should increase yet again. 

“Depreciation accelerated for most vehicles to catch up with the abnormal pricing performance in September; but now that prices are more in line with the general trend prior to the hurricanes, expect the rate to slow down to normal,” Cox Automotive analysts wrote in the report.

The Manheim index reading of 131.0 was up 4.9 percent year-over-year as five of the six major vehicle segments showed year-over-year price gains.

Vans (up 9.2 percent) and pickups (7.6 percent) showed the most growth, while the lone segment to decrease in price was the midsize car (down 2.0 percent).

Cox Automotive doesn’t anticipate the usual March tax-refund boost in used-car pricing, but said the following month should show a return to strength.

“As we look ahead in 2018, we will likely miss the normal ‘bounce’ in used-vehicle prices in March as tax refunds will again be delayed as part of the IRS effort to combat identity fraud,” analysts said. “Prices should be on firmer footing by April as retail demand kicks into gear.”

Speaking of retail demand, it appeared a bit slower in January. There was a 2-percent year-over-year dip in retail used-car sales for the month, Cox Automotive said, and a 39.2 million seasonally adjusted annualized rate.

Still, Cox Automotive is forecasting a 39.5 million used-car retail sales this year, which would beat year-ago figures by more than 400,000 units.



Numbers generated by Super Bowl LII auto ad efforts

CARY, N.C. - 

The chicken wings and guacamole from Super Bowl parties are long gone, but what about dealerships seeing a meaningful lift in shopper activity stemming from the television advertising bought by automakers during the game?

If past trends are any indication, the store phones should have been busier than drink and food stations at those Big Game shindigs. Based off of its own internal call data from 2015, 2016 and 2017, CallRail found that on average inbound calls to dealerships increase 513 percent the day after the Super Bowl.

No doubt, dealerships hope those calls are to inquire about their current inventory, not about the future of Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. A wide array of industry observers crunched data as the Philadelphia Eagles went on to their first Super Bowl championship in order to determine which OEMs tasted a victory with their advertising efforts.

“As is the case with previous Super Bowls, the automotive industry was well-represented before, during, and after the game Sunday evening,” said Libby Murad-Patel, vice president marketing and strategic insights for Jumpstart Automotive Media.

“This year’s ad spots had a mix of brand alignments, emotion, nostalgia, and entertainment, but the brands that saw the most success were those that really showcased the vehicle’s performance,” Murad-Patel continued. “They did a fantastic job driving increased shopper interest among both in-market shoppers and car enthusiasts alike.”

Edmunds analysts tracked traffic to brand and model pages on both its desktop and mobile sites during the game to see which automotive ads were most successful in driving immediate shopper interest. Percentage lifts are compared to average Sunday traffic levels on Edmunds.

The ad for the Lexus LS proved most successful on the model side, with traffic up 1,080 percent to its pages on Edmunds during the game. Traffic to the Kia Stinger rose 1,052 percent during the game, and traffic to the Jeep Wrangler was up 93 percent.

Interest in these models drove these three automakers to victory on the brand side: Kia piqued the most curiosity, with traffic up 94 percent during the course of the game; Lexus was second at 43 percent; and Jeep was third with a 21-percent traffic lift.

“Blockbuster movie and celebrity tie-ins were a recipe for success in standing out from the competition and generating interest among car shoppers during the big game,” said Jessica Caldwell, executive director of industry analysis at Edmunds. “When the audience is tuning in for the biggest sporting spectacle of the year, it makes sense that the most action-packed and over-the-top advertisements would generate the most immediate results.”

Edmunds noticed results were a bit more muted for the Ram brand, which aired two spots promoting the new 1500. While cumulative shopper interest during the entire game for both the Ram brand and the 1500 were nominal, both ads did generate significant spikes in interest immediately after the ads ran. In particular, the Ram ad that featured a speech from Martin Luther King Jr. generated a 91-percent lift in shopper interest in Ram and a 148-percent lift in model traffic for the 1500 during the second quarter of the game. 

“Regardless of where consumers stand on the Ram commercial controversy, the automaker did succeed in grabbing the attention of car shoppers — albeit for a brief period of time,” Caldwell said.

The analyst team at noticed how Kia’s campaign worked nicely to drive activity on that site, too.

Within eight minutes of airing the Red Stinger featured in the Kia spot, visits to the advertised model’s page on saw a 4,053-percent increase in comparison to the same time period prior to the airing of the spot.

The Lexus LS pages saw an overall spike in traffic, too — generating a 921 percent lift of visits. Other top performing brands and car models included: Jeep Wrangler with a 542-percent increase, Jeep Cherokee with a 175-percent increase, Toyota Tundra with a 142-percent increase, and RAM 1500 with a 69-percent increase.

As people tuned in all across the country, some of the top vehicles that caught consumers’ eyes in major cities based on visits included:

— New York: Jeep Wrangler
— Los Angeles: Jeep Wrangler
— Chicago: Jeep Wrangler
— Philadelphia: Jeep Wrangler
— Dallas: Ford F-150
— San Francisco: Jeep Wrangler
— Washington, D.C.: Jeep Wrangler
— Houston: Ford F-150
— Boston: Jeep Wrangler
— Atlanta: Jeep Wrangler

“This year’s game saw the fewest number of car manufacturers advertising since before 2010. Despite this, still saw a significant spike in site engagement during the game,” said David Greene, data strategy manager.

“The themes of diversity and humanity were pervasive in all of the ads that aired, with only two ads overall featuring famous figures. Humor and animals were most notably missing from ads this year,” Greene continued.