Five Ways to Improve Your Tier 2 Automotive Marketing Campaign

Any experienced marketer who has worked on automotive advertising is probably familiar with the different messages associated with each of the tiers listed below:

  • Tier 1 (manufacturer): “You should buy a BMW.”
  • Tier 2 (dealer group): “You should buy a BMW now.”
  • Tier 3 (dealership): “You should buy a BMW from us.”

We have all been exposed to the highly polished advertising released by automotive manufacturers via their AOR to run in national magazines, television, radio and out-of-home placements. On the digital side, they run homepage takeovers and other engaging rich media ad units across highly trafficked digital publications (including social media sites) as well. While this works very well for the purposes of Tier 1 advertising goals, it doesn’t always translate as well to Tier 2 messaging. While Tier 1 ads do a great job of promoting an automotive brand’s innovation and “sex appeal,” they often do very little to address many of the concerns that car buyers have when shopping for their next vehicle.

It is imperative to ensure that Tier 2 dollars are working harder to get in front of potential buyers while they are completing their research (most of which is done digitally). Here are five ways to accomplish this:

1. Build a Sense of Immediacy

It all goes back to the goal of Tier 2 messaging. You are trying to create a sense of immediacy while addressing competitive pricing concerns to potential car buyers who are most likely a bit further down the “funnel” in terms of selecting a new car. At this point, they probably know the type of car they are looking to buy (SUV, sedan, etc.). They may even have a built-in affinity for a particular make or model. They may be in-market, but why should they take action and buy a new, used or pre-owned vehicle right now? In fact, many luxury car manufacturers are losing market share to car buyers who are purchasing fully loaded mainstream models without even including entry-level luxury vehicles in their consideration set.

2. Adjust Your Media Mix

To make matters worse, many Tier 2 dealer groups are required to comply with outdated manufacturer co-op programs that force their hand with regards to the landing page they drive web traffic to, media mix percentage they can spend on certain tactics (75% traditional versus 25% digital, etc.), and most importantly – the creative they use. Failure to meet these requirements often results in the dealer groups foregoing their budget match from the manufacturer. While losing this additional money to get your ads in market seems like a bad thing, it is worth it in order to regain control of your Tier 2 advertising program. It all becomes a question of quality of your media versus quantity.

3. Leverage the Power of Digital Media

Tier 2 was a concept invented largely as a means for local dealerships to pool funds that help pay for more expensive forms of advertising (like broadcast). However, the ever-changing digital media landscape changed the game and some manufacturers are falling behind. Digital has opened up new ways to “conquest” competing makes/models through car research websites like,, etc. Why not hit people searching on for a Subaru Forester with ads promoting competitive prices for a new Rav 4? Using these endemic car sites in combination with programmatic media buys can help achieve scale while driving highly qualified traffic to your dealer group page.

4.  Develop Retail-Oriented Tier 2 Website

Speaking of your dealer group website, what are you asking visitors to do when they get there? The impressions you get from your traditional and digital media campaigns are great for increasing awareness, but you need a strong CTA to engage visitors to perform a desired action. Many Tier 2 websites have convoluted inventory pages and try to replicate the functionality found on most Tier 1 or Tier 3 websites. RP3 advises a more simplified design and UI that showcase key models, a competitive checklist and simple design that encourage users to visit the individual dealership pages to view inventory pages, call in to schedule a test drive, or just visit the dealership. Keep it simple.

5. Regain Control of Your Creative

Most ad agencies specializing in Tier 2 automotive accounts do little more than tag existing manufacturer creative with a title card featuring participating dealers, locations, etc. While they may sell themselves on their understanding of co-op programs (submitting paperwork to the manufacturer, invoice reconciliation, etc.), is that really what matters? An ad agency should be evaluated on their ability to provide creative that speaks to your target audience while breaking the “clutter” of a media landscape already over-saturated with competing automotive messages. You need a forward-thinking partner that understands how auto intenders are actually consuming media and how to convert them.

There is a lot to consider when marketing a Tier 2 auto group to consumers. Does your Tier 2 group currently employ an ad agency that develops retail-focused creative driving traffic to a landing page that allows visitors to comparison shop? Are you constantly testing digital media vendors and optimizing your campaigns against conversion events tracked via your website? Are you creating a sense of urgency in your messaging that helps you sell cars? If not, you may want to reconsider the expensive monthly fees you are paying your agency to manage tagging TV spots and banner ads for media buys that include the same media vendors and ad placements month after month.

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Chris Finnegan With 15 years of agency side and ad sales experience, Chris knows a thing or two about developing media plans that get results while demonstrating accountability and transparency.

Jeb Emami is a Marketing Strategist at RP3 Agency with an affinity for building commercial relationships that help organizations realize and capitalize on their product and service differentiators.

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