Dealership Marketing

Car Dealers Embrace Online Video – Automotive Online Video Marketing Trends

Guest Posting by Mark Robertson

Car Dealers Plan to Embrace Online Video

Just the other day, there was a great article on AdAge titled “Car Dealers Learning Art of Viral Video” that highlights the use of online video by US automotive dealerships and specifically highlights several examples and attempts at viral video marketing – including the online viral video campaign done by a car dealership group in Norwood Massachusetts (seen above).

According to a study released by the Kelsey Group in Q1 2008, 33% of car dealers surveyed currently take advantage of online video on their own websites. In the same study, 59% of dealers surveyed indicated that they they plan to use video on their own websites within the next 12 months.

Of the dealers surveyed, 46% of dealers indicated that they would likely decrease spending on traditional media in the next 12 months while only 8% indicated the same for online media.  In general, auto dealers are shifting more of their media mix online, with 62% of dealers planning to increase their online media spend compared with only 17% for traditional media.

According to NADA (National Automobile Dealers Association), there are more than 20,800 new franchise car dealers in the U.S. that spent more than $7.8 billion in advertising for 2007.

“These findings point to a significant disruption in the auto dealer advertising space,” said Neal Polachek, CEO of The Kelsey Group. “There are valuable opportunities for traditional and new media companies that tune into dealers’ adoption of Web 2.0 technologies and align with dealers’ online media-buying intentions.”

In the AdAge article, Howard Polirer, director-industry relations for, estimates that 1/4, or 25% of all U.S. dealers currently use online video marketing.

So, Does Online Video Marketing Drive Sales?

Larry Pryg, the National Marketing Manager for GM’s certified-used auto business states that “Video is exploding,” and that when it comes to used cars, dealer websites that have video are 2X more likely to generate phone calls or emails from prospective shoppers vs. websites without video.

Wayne Ussery, the Director of Internet Marketing for Jim Ellis Automotive Group said that while he cant quite equate online video views with used-car sales, he does say that visitors to the Ellis Chevrolet brand website are staying a full minute longer as a result of the addition of online video.   Video, he said, “makes your site more sticky.”

What Type of Videos Do Car Dealers Run?

For the most part, auto dealers are primarily only running video on their own sites. Some use video on lead-generation inventory websites like Autotrader and and some are even experimenting with YouTube and other viral video sharing websites.

There are a ton of uses for online video when it comes to auto dealers.  Many have used online video to show

  • Re-purposed TV commercials
  • Customer testimonials
  • OEM-style video footage
  • Educational clips
  • Walk-around videos
  • Personalized messages
  • Service shop footage

The Future of Online Video For Car Dealers

While it is clear that adding online video to your website can increase site stickiness and can even help to lure in prospective used car buyers, viral video marketing on places like Youtube may not be the best strategy for selling cars.  Why?  It is important for car dealers to target consumers in their regional markets.  Perhaps the addition of Youtube Geo-Targeting for local video will assist with that in the future.

Car dealers are smart in that even though they will try almost any new marketing trend, when it comes down to it, they will aggressively test and monitor any marketing that they do to make certain that it generates leads and translates to actual vehicle sales.  This is one reason why automotive dealers have embraced PPC search engine marketing over the past several years, namely, we know it generates a high ROI and can be measured.

Several things will be important for online video marketing to succeed for car dealers:

1. Dealers should take advantage of online video marketing in all that they do online to attract and retain new and current customers.

  • Website Video – Dealers should integrate online video into their website wherever it makes sense.  It may make sense to showcase a video of the service department so that consumers can see how “clean & tidy” the dealers service center is, as an example.
  • Email Marketing – Dealers should integrate online video messages into email marketing campaigns.
  • Local Search Marketing – Dealers should add video to local search platforms including Google Maps.
  • Display Banner Advertising – Dealers should opt to run online video banner ads instead of traditional banner ads when running campaigns with local websites, like the local newspaper.
  • Video SEO – Dealers should optimize and distribute online video using Video SEO and video search marketing techniques so that videos appear for relevant locally based organic search queries. As an example, you will see that by searching “Pre-owned cars, colorado springs,” in Google, a video that I created with Mixpo shows prominently in the 5 & 6th position for Mike Shaw GMC Pontiac in Colorado Springs.

2. Dealers need to utilize platforms that allow them to track conversions and response from online video marketing efforts.

  • Online Video Players – Dealers should choose to utilize video players that have integrated links to website, email forms, maps, etc…  It is important to create an online video experience that allows users to directly “request additional information” without leaving the video itself.
  • Call Tracking – Dealers should sse a call tracking number in each video.  Just as dealers use call tracking numbers (IE toll-free or local telephone numbers that are forwarded to the dealer’s preferred extension, tracked, and recorded) for print ads, the same should be used in online marketing efforts.
  • Trackable Overlays – Dealers should take advantage of additional ways to allow consumers to interact with their online video message.  One technique that comes to mind is the use of overlays that contain deep links to website content.   For example, in a video that showcases several cars, dealers can include messages that links viewers to their dealership’s website vehicle search results page.

These are just some of the factors and techniques that I think will be important in taking online video for the automotive industry to the next step. If anyone would like to learn more about my efforts and thoughts on automotive dealers and online video, let me know in the comments below and I’ll follow up with an answer.

About the Author: Mark Robertson is the Founder and Publisher of

Mark, thanks for guest posting and for your detailed article. Lot's of great information and observations. It will no doubt be interesting to see what the future holds for Video and how car dealers leverage this engaging media.

I'd like to think I have had a grasp on video for a few years now and have been leveraging video and VSEO for many of my dealers in the past and now.

You said "It may make sense to showcase a video of the service department so that consumers can see how “clean & tidy” the dealers service center is, as an example"

I agree with this. It helps build transparency and gain customer confidence. I do know from past comments here on DR that not everyone would agree unless you can make the video really engaging and interesting.

"Howard Polirer, director-industry relations for, estimates that 1/4, or 25% of all U.S. dealers currently use online video marketing."

Not sure how accurate that percentage is. Seems on the high side from what I've seen. I'd bet it would be closer to the single to low teen percentage. Would anyone else agree on that?

Thanks again Mark.
The best evidence for the importance of video, and the exponential growth of vSEO, is supported by Google and their focus on weighting it for their search engine vs. text postings based on preferences exhibited by their online consumers. I value and use most the diverse messages, variety of placements and applications for videos referenced in this very comprehensive post for my affiliated automotive advertising agencies and auto dealer clients on but I find that the best use of video is to either viraly propogate a "branding" message through video channels like You Tube and other social networking sites or to embed meta tags and search words to place vehicle inventory videos pushed through You Tube to the search engines for conventional "local market" searches drilled down to a particular vehicle.

The use of automated video production applications, like SiSTeR Technologies Video CarLot, provide efficiencies that allow mass production and distribution of quality "feature/benefit" videos that can then be pushed through a dedicated API with You Tube through their "Push Tube" feature" in such a way as to "link" them to all of the "similar" videos produced by the posting dealer virtually road blocking the search for a vehicle in their video player across multiple brands and vehicles in the dealer's inventory. In addition they embedd links to CarFax and the posting dealer and integrate many of the techniques listed in this post.

The key value of VCL is their ability to mass produce the videos and post them for an entire dealer's inventory automatically by pulling existing pictures and text from the dealer's website without any need for redundant data input or added labor on the dealer's part. The videos are posted on the dealer's website, any slected RSS feeds to third party sites and You Tube instantly. Now that's how you dominate a search using video to sell more cars and enhance vSEO!
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    Tony Weaver
  • November 17, 2008
We have just over an 8% conversion rate from people viewing our videos on our actual dealer site.

Video CarLot is awesome! We used to take all our videos and post them manually mass distribute them through Now, everything is automated with Video CarLot.

We also put a call tracking number on our videos. Personally, I do not see many calls coming from videos that are posted on Google and other sites... We have not seen an increase in phone calls from our website since we put video on every car either.

This problem is not Video CarLot's fault as we had the same problem before they took over with videos which we posted to the web ourselves. We have created some pretty neat stuff in the past, & no calls. We averaged 46,000 local views a month from Google, Meta Café, Facebook, MySpace, and no calls. But people did view our videos and we were able to brand our dealership to a lot of shoppers. And if 46,000 people in the market saw our videos, that means something, I suppose…

Video is great for many things, and we are still trying to work out the kinks. I don’t think we will ever try to make a video go viral though...
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  • November 17, 2008
Do you really think Video CarLot is awesome? Have you compared them with UnityWorks Media? They do everything SiSTeR does, but do it much better.
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    Tony Weaver
  • November 17, 2008
Thanks for the heads up. There is always someone out there that does it better...

I am not here to promote Video CarLot, but they do the job, and have great customer service!

I never take advice from people who do not leave their name or the organization they work for, as it looks like you are just placing plug for that company to me. If you have a plug for someone, then I would back it up with samples and success stories with your name and contact information. Just some advice...

The 25% figure cited by Howard is fairly broad and covers a spectrum of video use from the simplest to most complex. It includes ads created for TV imported directly to digital formats, vehicle walk-arounds supplied by manufacturers and more sophisticated custom content made just for the web. We expect the percentage of dealers creating and posting custom video content to continue to grow as more dealers see the benefits and the technology tools (e.g., video cameras, editing software) become more widespread and easier to use.
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  • November 18, 2008
Considering the cost associated with taking video for each vehicle, I do not see dealer will spend money to capture video for each vehicle. There are few technologies like

1) Text to speech will allow dealer to generate “speech” or “computer generated voice” on their web site based on the info (like selling points saved in the database)
2) Flash mimic method, like Alex’s web site, flash will show the photo from different spot of the photo, and make it looks like a video.
3) Microsoft’ PhotoSynth tech, see more details at this will allow 3D view be created from a bunch of 2d photo. Dealer can shot 2D photo easily.
I have to admit, I want someone to implement synth to my website, or inventory manager. Awesome!
Photosynth looks amazing! It might be a little too much for a customer to stomach in its current form, but I can see this being a great way to display a product in the future.

I think I am going to have to start shooting some scenes with Photosynth in mind - this is too cool!
I was going to stay out of this discussion because it seems everyone is helping to push their own agendas; but I have to put in my two cents worth. As Jeff and Alex know, I am presently in the streaming video arena and I am very close in the next week or two of launching a new website dedicated to auto dealers to promote their new and used car videos with many of the features that dealers are looking for.
Video is the future of marketing automobiles, homes and other consumer products. If it wasn’t, internet leaders like Google and others wouldn’t be pouring millions of dollars into developing their programs.
David you state that taking a video is more expensive that taking photos. You couldn’t be more wrong. Taking a walk around video of a vehicle with voice commentary is as easy as taking photos (Tony Weaver can attest to this) and is much more consumer friendly than those computer generated voices associated with 360 degree photos. That is why many consumers hang up on automated answering machines at dealerships and businesses. They want a human voice.
As far as “25% of all U.S. dealers currently use online video marketing.” I have to agree with Jeff and having a little knowledge of this after surveying dealers across the country for the last year (non-scientific survey), that 25% figure is way high and find it would be closer to 5% of dealers use some sort of video, such as embedding their TV commercials’ or some inventory on their own sites by using YouTube. The good news is that dealers are looking for a mechanism to promote videos of their inventories.
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  • November 19, 2008
Most of out clients are small dealerships. To save the money, they normally do not use third party for photo taking. Some of my dealers, even prefer to take the photo themselves so they can have quality control under control. That’s why in my last post, I am concern the cost issue. Imagine that small dealer needs to pay a fee for a video that could be a hard sell (maybe big dealer do not care). What I am trying to say in my last post is that there are ways to make this “video” idea affordable for all dealers. Trust me, I am not take side or promote / demote any products. I wish all dealer can have video in their web site, but how to get there from current market condition, the only thing technology can help is to push the envelop, and come up with acceptable and affordable solution for dealers.

I am not against human generated video.  I would like to see we can hit that 25% for “video usage”.
Just an FYI on SiSTer Technologies Video Carlot as far as price and product to supplement the questions/comments so far. For $495 per month they AUTOMATICALLY custom produce videos for every vehicle on a dealer's website using the information already posted - such as the pictures and equipment - then they wrap it in an opening and closing branding logo and jingle and push them all individually through RSS fees to all of your current 3rd party sites, post them on your site and throughYou Tube to the serach engines. The real savings is in the time and effort from production to posting that they offer so your staff is free to sell cars - not take and place videos of them!
I was just speaking with someone about video and photos and said to myself..wonder how long it will be before someone come up with a product that would take photos and somehow merge them together to give you a 3D look? And here it is...sorta. David, thanks for linking us to I'm going to keep my eyes on this!

On another note..LETS PLEASE not turn this thread into a sales pitch (like it has already has). Mark Robertson was nice enough to take the time to write this post and allow me to publish here on DealerRefresh. This post was to get everyone thinking, provide some feedback on the stats and information provided.

What Type of Videos Do Car Dealers Run?
The Future of Online Video For Car Dealers?
Does Online Video Marketing Drive Sales?

As much as I appreciate some peoples enthusiasm to pitch products for other vendors, that was not the intention for this post. come'on.

If this was a post for "What video service do you use and why do you prefer them?" then it would make sense and I would be alright plugs.

Sorry, If I come off a little pissy but It goes to show you how quickly a valuable post can get over shadowed by one comment.

Lets please get back on track here with what matters.

What Type of Videos Do Car Dealers Run?

The Future of Online Video For Car Dealers?

Does Online Video Marketing Drive Sales?
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    Stew Pedasso
  • November 19, 2008
Jeff, I don't know you, love your website, been reading it fer years. There's alot of great dialogue here, and I just started wanting to post. I also have some advice for you if you care.

You need to quit ur job and go into government! We need this kind of anti-BS style governance for the people! Getting to the facts and nitty-gritty, godspeed truthseeker!

Seriously tho, I'll take on these video questions if anyone cares to read my babble.

What Type of Videos Do Car Dealers Run?

Anything they can with what they have to work with, or what is PERCEIVED to be effective by them to gain more website traffic.

I've seen it ALL here; tv commercials, walkarounds, customer and dealership personnel testimonials, viral video attempts (omg), test drives (yawn), mission statements, service dept walkthrus, owner (ego driven) interviews.

From DIY dealer videos to the automated car videos, it's all about that particular dealers choice of what will work. All because it's just too new to know. It's like the wild west with dealership video right now!

The Future of Online Video For Car Dealers?

Whatever Youtube and Google force feeds down our throats...?!
But let's think about what a video can bring to a car shopper, and work it backwards. As a shopper, I'll first want to see the actual vehicle I'm interested in buying, and I want to be told/sold about the options. At this point in the process I don't care about your dealership, or how great it is yet, just show me the car! If I like it, then I might check out your other cool ego videos to give me a perspective of what kind of dealer I might be buying from.

As for the future for dealers, maybe we'll have video collectors instead of data collectors? The online video hype across all product sectors is truly in it's infancy now, kind of reminds me of the early 90's and the big push for websites and photos.

Does Online Video Marketing Drive Sales?

General dealership videos and related... NO.
Vehicle videos... absolutely! About as much as a single photo, description, and a price of that same vehicle does online - if the right shopper finds it and contacts the dealer.

A vehicle video is just another way to attract a buyer online. Google and other search engines are pushing tagged videos higher (all product segments) in their search rankings which fuels the video marketing efforts and craze, but it's just too new provide a solid confirmation of driving sales. We need a few years of solid data to confirm the true perceived domination of vehicle videos online.

I don't want to be a buzz-kill here on video, and let me clarify, video marketing is going to be the future online medium of choice for all products. Right now, with the current economy, and the shift from traditional into online advertising from all businesses, we're still several years away from video generating substantial sales online.

The main reason being there are still too many ways for a shopper to find products online which provide the basic details needed to purchase.

We'll see another major broad-shift into online video product marketing in maybe 5 years I'm guessing.
Stew, I can't possibly thank you enough or your comments! I "hope" I'm not smart enough for a high position within the government. Ha!!

Truly appreciate your comments and a huge thanks for getting this post back onto track!!

Jeff Kershner for President???

Another great article!! Kudos for getting the "right" word out in this industry!

Thanks for always shedding light - Video, done correctly, within a set strategy model can create exponential lift, done incorrectly, just a waste of time and resources -

Keep up the great work you are doing here, and have a great holiday!

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    Scott Rainville
  • November 21, 2008
I agree with Stew on a number of points. Inventory video is the most popular and the most easily tracked. Also, the challenges facing online video are not unlike the early adopters of websites and it is way too early to name a winner.

There are very few dealers who do anything other than post TV commercials and used car inventory so I would not say at this early stage you should write off dealership, testimonial or staff interview videos. There is a concentrated push by some dealerships to push as much of the sales process onto the web and video will play a large part in making people comfortable with the process.

With that said, we are as much as a couple of years away from widespread use of video for anything other than used car inventory. I don't have any big statistics to through around but I will end with this...Long before we had video for inventory Acton Toyota was posting videos about their dealership and their online sales process and they were very successful.
It's not about the product, it's about the dealership. People can get cars anywhere, what can they get from your dealership? It’s not about capturing video of each vehicle. That’s trying to sell on your website. Excuse the heresy, but you're not going to sell a car on your website.

The video on your website should be used to engage consumers and get them interested in your dealership, not in your cars. Everyone has cars. What do you have that’s different?

Here's the cheap and easy way to get video on your website: buy a Flip camera. Walk around your dealership and take videos of employees and customers. Put together stories. Then use a free video hosting service like YouTube or Viddler and embed the videos on your site. Set up a YouTube channel for your dealership because your local customers watch YouTube also. The video results can show up in an organic Google search with the write keywords.
Scott and Jay, let's look at the question first: Does Online Video Marketing Drive Sales?

Driving sales to me means bringing a shopper in the dealership that's ready to buy.

Could a dealership promo video do this alone?
Absolutely not.

Could a vehicle video do this alone?
Yes... about as much as an online single photo, price, and description could of that same vehicle.

So I'm agreeing with you both, maybe you didn't pick up on the sarcastic nature of my original post:)

I'm not against videos promoting the dealership. That's a VERY important component to a shoppers overall decision. I just don't believe it can drive sales by itself tho, you still need the right inventory and the right interest from the shopper.

We could argue this point for NEW cars, because vehicle inventories are the same among franchises, but USED inventories are a much different scenario.
The shopper will first need to be interested in a used vehicle online and a vehicle video could help, but won't drive sales.
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    Pete Latsoudis
  • November 26, 2008
Stew. I agree. There are benefits and think it is a matter of not letting expectations exceed the limitations of what online video can do.

It looks as all here are experienced enough to know but for any new people who now are in a managerial position to make spending decisions, I posted the "snake oil" excerpt below.

Stew-It's like hearing myself, "the wild west with dealership video right now!

I don't mean this in a bad way about online video and all the vendors who offer the service. Just the one's that over promise what it can do.

It just reminds me of that covered wagon that rolls through that dusty town while heading west back when.

Wikipedia-"The snake oil peddler became a stock character in Western movies: a traveling "doctor" with dubious credentials, selling some medicine (such as snake oil) with boisterous marketing hype, often supported by pseudo-scientific evidence, typically bogus. To enhance sales, an accomplice in the crowd (a "shill") would often "attest" the value of the product in an effort to provoke buying enthusiasm. The "doctor" would prudently leave town before his customers realized that they had been cheated. This practice is also called "grifting" and its practitioners "grifters"."

Hope this relays as intended, having a bit a humor in it when read.
The whole Internet is in its "Wild West" phase. 20 to 50 years from now we'll look back missing it or laughing at it.
Nice snake oil relation there Pete!
I don't have the problem of video vendors callin and promising the moon, I gotta hunt them down to hear their babble! Best I've heard so far is free video for the website.

Alex, as far as video goes in the wild west phase... 20 to 50 years is too long bro, I'll be dead. Let's shoot for 5-10:)
We can start laughing now if you want :)
Advertising, video or otherwise, still requires someone to see it for it to have any impact. Of course, where they see it, how often and what the relevancy of the message is to the audience is also part of advertising 101 but all of the above apply to video so it should be evaluated the same way as other conventionaland online marketing messages.

All content can be relevant dependending on where you want to approach your customers in the "buying funnel" or cycle. Viral marketing of a video can create a "buzz" and brand awareness that will survive and develop top of the mind awareness for when a customer needs a vehicle. Videos posted for "informational" or branding purposes on a website add valuable content and improve the transparency of the site for people further down the buying funnel since they have already found or searched for your site and the added "personality" that a video can give to a message is a gteat differentiator from sites with similar information that might be less "entertaining" and personal.

All of these applications of video are important, but the "ad guy" in me still likes to know that the video will be seen as far down the buying funnel as possible and it should include a "call to action" with a trackable and accountable R.O.I. since today's limited advertising budgets have unfortunatley forced auto dealers to focus on today deals so they can survive to worry about tomorrow's.

For this reason, I prefer videos that are placed with embedded long tail and short tail search words and meta tags pushed to the search engines with regionally targeted exposure and integrated schema layers with actionable messages that allow a viewer to "drill down" to linked micro sites, lead forms or other conversion tools that create a call to action that can be attributed to the video so the dealer will invest in another one. The applicable phrases are vSEO and conversion and they trump the other valued applications of video, in my opinion, only because in today's tough economy we must sell something today if we expect to survive to sell one tomorrow and the more exposure we can develop to supplement the SEO of our main site the better.
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    Dan Schneider
  • January 17, 2009
This was a fantastic article followed up with posts delivered by some very inciteful, intelligent people. (I'm not used to reading intelligent conversations on blog post online!)

Online video is of course the way of the future. What is it, really, but TV online? Did TV get very big and have any impact on the world?

Here's my question, though, and it encompasses the internet marketing requirements that dealers have no choice but to participate in in 2009: Can't there be a better way to drive potential in-the-market car buyers to a specific site, versus relying on the Autotrader.coms and Cars.coms of the world basically ensaring every person who's on the internet?

It seems to me that using television to drive people to specific websites--and I don't mean national branding ads for or eBay Motors--would produce a far more pure unique lead. Local TV programming or advertising on TV designed to drive car buyers to a single I way off on this?
Great thread,According to a study released by the Kelsey Group in Q1 2008, 33% of car dealers surveyed currently take advantage of online video on their own websites. In the same study, 59% of dealers surveyed indicated that they they plan to use video on their own websites within the next 12 months.I appriciate it.Thanks
Automotive Advertising
Great thread,According to a study released by the Kelsey Group in Q1 2008, 33% of car dealers surveyed currently take advantage of online video on their own websites. In the same study, 59% of dealers surveyed indicated that they they plan to use video on their own websites within the next 12 months.I appriciate it.Thanks