- October 9, 2018

To What Do I Owe This Success? – Optimizing TV Ad Campaigns to Drive Automotive Sales

Mike Swader
Mike Swader
Director, Marketing Solutions

The auto industry is a big TV ad spender – in 2017, in the U.S., TV advertising accounted for 83 percent of the auto industry’s total ad spend (up 3.5 percent from 2016).^  In fact, the top 10 auto manufacturers spent more than $6 billion on TV advertising in 2017^ – nine percent of all TV ad spend in the U.S. for the year. ^^

National TV Ad Spend

Yet, auto advertisers still struggle to connect the dots between these ad efforts and actual observed shopping behavior.

To better understand how advertising – and specifically, TV advertising – drives consumer behavior, Comscore compared gross ratings point (GRP) volumes* to automotive shopper** volumes for two major auto brands and analyzed the relationship between TV viewership and shopping behaviors.

We discovered that there is a positive correlation between TV ad exposure and in-market shopper volume (total demand as measured by the number of unique shoppers) as well as several key takeaways for auto advertisers looking to optimize their campaigns to achieve higher ROI.  Additionally, our research cements TV as a crucial advertising medium for automakers looking to influence and attract customers today and in the future.  

Let’s take a closer look at the data…

TV Ad Exposures Drive In-Market Shopper Volume

For the first brand that we analyzed, a steady reduction in GRPs throughout the year closely mimicked the downward trend for resulting shopper volume, indicating a clear correlation between the two metrics.

Gross Rating Points vs Shopper Volumes for Example Auto Brand


Conversely, for another major auto brand, a short-term (two month) spike in GRPs resulted in a similar spike for shopper volume.  However, as soon as GRPs declined in May, shopper volumes began to steadily decline.

Gross Rating Points vs Shopper Volumes for Example Auto Brand


In addition to shopper volume, we also examined “reverse cross-shopping,” which is the share of rival brand shoppers that also shopped your brand. We found that increasing GRPs coincided with increased reverse cross-shopping. In the example above, the auto brand that had the short-term increase in GRPs, also had an increase in reverse cross-shopping of its models from rival brands’ consumers for the same period. 

By understanding the correlation between GRPs and shopper volume, auto advertisers can now dive deeper into campaign elements to understand the impact on shopper volumes. Some key areas to evaluate when planning TV ad campaigns, include:

  • Assessing results at the model level (including whether ads for one model aided another in the same brand family)
  • Refining by the type of ad (such as brand-building versus a model launch versus deals or sales events)
  • Accounting for the seasonality in TV viewing and vehicle shopping
  • Benchmarking against competitors using “Share of Voice”
  • Segmenting analysis by network and genre

As the data shows, there is a clear correlation between TV ads and shopping behavior, but understanding how to optimize these advertising efforts is key to driving lift in shopper volumes (and ultimately sales). To help solve auto brands’ attribution challenge, it is instrumental for them to analyze how ad exposure directly impacts consumer shopping behaviors.  But they should not be analyzed in a vacuum, as it is critical to also understand the impact that other market variables such as ad type, incentives, and inventory play into the conversion process.

To learn more about how Comscore can help marketers, brands and their agencies drive advertising effectiveness, please contact us.

^Source: TVB Automotive Playbook, 2018 Edition
^^Source: Zenith via Ad Age Marketing Fact Pack 2018
* For this analysis we used GRP+7, which is Gross Rating Points at the time of broadcast through the following seven days of DVR playback (to account for recorded/delayed viewing), and we included all spend (brand + model) across categories.
** Shoppers are the net across 40+ third-party automotive websites, deduplicated across sites, days, and sessions, and drawing from lower-funnel activities on those sites to best represent “in-market” auto shoppers.