Total automotive ad spending this year decreased 7.3% to $34.4 billion, according to a new report from Borrell Associates. The good news is the media research firm is forecasting a 3.4% bounce-back for 2019. Looking further down the road, the five-year outlook is for low growth, averaging 1.7% per year, with nearly all of that going to digital advertising.
In its new 42-page “Automotive Advertising Takes A Sharp Turn” outlook, Borrell traces many of its findings to fundamental changes brought on by the Great Recession a decade ago. “That economic trigger forced manufacturers and dealers to rethink marketing expenditures and align them with what potential car buyers were doing and where they could be found,” the report states. “As a result, 67% of all automotive advertising now goes to highly targeted digital media, stealing from traditional print and broadcast channels that are considered less efficient.”
The move to more efficient media investments has dealers spending 41% less to advertise a new car than they were five years ago, from $888 in 2012 to $518 this year. But mass media like radio still play an important role in driving consumers to the web to research new models, options and discounts, and into dealer showrooms.
Recasting its numbers to provide a picture of what automotive advertising might look like in 2023, Borrell’s forecasts points to “striking changes in future spending.” According to its new model, five years from now, print and broadcast TV advertising will be significantly lower than 2018 levels, radio advertising will be lower, cable advertising will be higher and digital advertising will be significantly higher. What emerges in the five-year forecast is “a very different marketing landscape for the automotive industry.” While the advertising piece of overall marketing expenditures is forecast to remain in the $35-37 billion range, marketing services are likely to get far more attention as manufacturers and dealers spend more time and money on their “owned media” channels.
Separate from its new five year outlook, Borrell in April-July conducted its annual survey of local advertisers, with 66 of the 3,854 respondents identifying themselves as car dealers. This survey found that social media and search have been adopted by the vast majority of auto marketers, and that radio and direct mail are the top two traditional channels. This same annual survey calculated the average ad spending per participating dealer. It found that television, radio, and search advertising topped the list of annual expenditures.