Carsales verifies ‘power of context’ in driving advertising success

Data, research, measurement and insights matter when it comes to effective spend of a marketer’s budget

Australian car sales website, Carsales.com.au, is recognising the power of context to utilise data, insights and context and drive advertising success.

With data and research analysis a top priority, Carsales director of product and insights, Sam Granleese, told CMO the company recently commissioned Nielsen to dissect 16 advertising campaigns by eight of the top automotive brands in Australia in order to look at the ‘power of context’ in advertising.

The study of 1400 respondents found consumers are 50 per cent more likely to engage with an advertisement if it is placed in a context relevant to the brand, a finding he said goes against the current trend of marketers shifting towards programmatic advertising.

Sam Granleese
Sam Granleese


For Granleese, the findings conclusively show that data, research, measurement and insights matter when it comes to effective marketing spend. For example, automotive campaigns on the Carsales network saw a 50 per cent uplift for ‘Active Recommendation’, which is a consumer’s willingness to spontaneously recommend a brand and demonstrates that they are loyal and enthusiastic, he noted.

“Nielsen’s research provides strong empirical evidence to confirm what many people in the marketing industry have always assumed – that people are more likely to engage with an advertisement for a car if they’re already thinking about cars, ” Granleese said.

“However, over the past few years, marketers have been shifting away from advertising in relevant environments in favour of programmatic advertising due to ease and cost-effectiveness. Our new research confirms that relevant context still has a major impact on the effectiveness of advertising.”

According to Granleese, marketers are rushing to programmatic potentially to their detriment.

“The shift to programmatic has been very swift and without a great degree of research behind it,” he continued. “It has been predominantly cost-focused, about cheaper access to media and very much direct response focused: What is the price of a click or what is the price of a conversion as oppose to how it actually drives brand metrics? Does it drive consideration or drive brand recommendation, for example? That’s what we looked at in the study.”

While programmatic is part of the advertising mix for carsales, Granleese said it is just one part of the overall equation.

“Programmatic with the right, genuine data is very powerful, but ‘in context’ is still more effective from a branding point of view,” he said. “The research has shored up our gut feel from a branding point of view, but also given us the confidence to invest more heavily in programmatic when we can be targeted and when we have the right data to do that.”

Granleese hoped other industries will take some of these findings to their logical conclusions in their sectors, such as travel, food or real estate.

“A fundamental part of our business is investing in our own assets and audience, and we definitely want to keep getting advertisers on our own sites, but we know there is a strong part to play outside our site, whether it’s from retargeting or whether it is using data to anticipate people’s needs when they are not in an active research mode, so more of a discovery or awareness interruption type of promotion.”

Granleese said the release of the latest findings comes in the wake of an already well-established data journey for Carsales.

“Carsales has always been very forward thinking from a data point of view, both in terms of how we use data to derive insights and understand our customers, and how partners can work better to influence them,” he said. “But the majority of our products from a data point of view, for a long time, have been very direct response focused: Driving leads and sales to car dealers.

“That has been a successful business model, from both the classifieds and the medium automotive display side of things, so that was pretty well established.”

But the company has broadened and expanded its focus, rolling out products over the last two years that combine advertising on its own websites to varying degrees of sophistication, and using similar data and profiling to target and engage customers outside of the Carsales site, such as when they are on social media, or other non-automotive websites.

Next steps

Granleese’s next move includes integrating Carsales’ customer membership data - a large group of authenticated users - into its advertising product.

“That will give us an even greater degree of targeting and identification and anticipation of needs, such as anticipating what our customer’s current driving preferences are: What they currently own, what they drive, and what they are might be looking at next,” he said.

“It is taking the data integration into our products so we can go to our clients who use our products and say this is the effect you had, and not just focus on the ROI, but focus on the final brand metrics.”

The company is using its internal CRM systems and putting it into the ad delivery platform so the company can give clients a single view of the customer. “We are trying to share a bit more of that data into our wider clients ecosystem now,” Granleese added.

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