American Marketer


Luxury auto brands should avoid online calls to action: study

September 23, 2010



Luxury automakers could be wasting valuable time and ad spend if they target consumers with online calls to action, according to Dynamic Logic.

The research firm found no significant impact from call to action ads, compared to those ads without action-based messaging, on metrics such as brand favorability and purchase intent. Marketers should instead focus on achieving the highest quality ads possible without diverting too much effort to integrating calls to action.

“When looking at online advertising for luxury automotive brands, Dynamic Logic doesn’t see large differences between the effectiveness of ads with calls to action and those without,” said Sara Beaty, spokeswoman at Dynamic Logic, New York. “However, on average, ads without a call to action have stronger impact on brand favorability and purchase consideration.

A bad call?
Effective online advertising requires good creative with prominent and consistent branding, plus concise messaging, per Dynamic Logic.

Marketers often decide to include calls to action in their online ads to create engagement with consumers and drive a particular response.

However, according to the study, there is not much difference between ads with calls to action compared to those without in terms of brand performance.

The luxury automotive sector held consistent with this trend.

However, certain types of calls to action could appeal to consumers.

For example, “Create Your Own” messages, such as offers from automakers for a consumer to customize a virtual vehicle, over-index against the MarketNorms online average for increases in brand awareness, online ad awareness and brand favorability, though not for purchase intent.

The research firm claims that these increases could be attributable to the time and brand engagement inherent in Create Your Own activities.

Here is a screen grab measuring the effectiveness of various types of online calls to action:


Dynamic Logic did not have any hard answers to explain why calls to action were not appreciably more effective than other ads, but did propose some hypotheses.

“The quick explanation for this could be that luxury auto ads do better when they focus on the core equity of the brand rather than trying to elicit a direct response,” Ms. Beaty said.

This suggestion is backed by other findings regarding luxury brand value.

Interbrand released its annual ranking of the 100 most valuable global brands, and the automakers that did well such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz built value brand value by focusing on delivering premium value (see story).

Just as important for luxury companies, however, was emphasizing their brands’ heritage and status, so emphasizing those attributes rather than pushing a call to action could facilitate important consumer engagement.

The luxury purchase funnel
However, another explanation could be that ads with and without calls to action are reaching consumers at different points in the sales funnel, and as such drawing different responses.

“If we were to take a more in-depth analysis into the data, it is possible we would see that there may be differences in how these campaigns have been targeted and this may also play a role,” Ms. Beaty said.

“For instance, branding-focused ads may have been part of more general ad buys, while those with strong calls to action were put on auto sites to target lower funnel customers,” she said.

Auto brands are more likely to place calls to action on automotive sites because visitors to those areas of the Web are closer to purchase decisions.

However, the trade off is that consumers likely already have a certain set of models and brands in mind.

As a result, there’s a greater likelihood of reaching consumers who have already eliminated a brand from consideration.

By contrast, automakers making more general ad buys are more likely to reach consumers with less strong opinions.

“Those viewers exposed to advertising without a call to action on more generalized sites could be more ‘malleable’ because they’re not actually in market, which is something that Dynamic Logic has seen occur for higher-consideration products in the past,” Ms. Beaty said.

Final Take
Peter Finocchiaro, editorial assistant at Luxury Daily, New York