Reader question from Doug Lane: What’s up with these car ads?

Sent by Jonathan Stark on September 6th, 2019

Reader Doug Lane wrote in with a question that might be of use to you if/when you’re thinking about what kind of content to use in your marketing:

Why is it that auto manufacturers have TV ads that mention the price but are heavy on imagery and the feeling of having a car, while local dealers advertising on radio and TV talk almost exclusively about price and financing? If Toyota wants you to feel good about the driving experience, why wouldn’t a Toyota dealer focus on the ownership experience instead of the bills?

Broadly speaking, the “driving experience” ads that the manufacturer runs are brand advertising and the “0% APR this weekend only!” ads that the dealers run are direct response advertising.

Brand Advertising—The intent of brand advertising is to raise awareness of the brand and to create a particular kind of positive feeling in the viewer that the viewer will come to associate with the brand over time. Brand advertising is a long game and it’s relatively difficult to tie any given ad or campaign directly back to sales.

Direct Response —The intent of direct response advertising is to raise awareness of a particular offer and drive an immediate customer response. Direct response advertising is a short-term game and it’s relatively easy to tie a given ad or campaign directly back to increased sales (or some other key metric).

As demonstrated by the Toyota example, these two types of advertising can work together and can be run in parallel or separately.

Here’s the thing…

When you’re spending your limited time and resources on creating ads - or more likely, writing copy for your website - you want to be crystal clear with yourself about what mode you’re in.

Are you slowly trying to create a particular positive feeling in your audience that they will come to associate with your brand, OR are you looking to have your audience take a particular action right now with clear calls to action like:

The trap I see lots of people falling into is that they don’t want to feel pushy on an opt-in form or sales page so they use squishy branding language when they should actually be using confident direct response language.

You can brand yourself all day long, but if you never challenge the buyer to take action, they probably won’t escape the gravitational pull of the status quo.

Yours,

—J