Best Practices

Perception and Reality: Taking Control of the Video Experience


After using a laptop screen exclusively for more than a decade, I decided to breakdown and buy an external monitor. Since a decent next to the top of line monitor costs a much as a used car, I wanted to do a little research. So, off to YouTube I go to try to gather some details and see some comparisons. Then it struck me. All of the content that I was seeing was generated by someone working form their apartment, garage, dorm room, or basement. Who is controlling the experience?

When I first used the world wide web in 1994, I never conceived that I’d watch an unboxing video. Just typing it makes me cringe, as I know my punk rock CDs are melting somewhere in my basement. Despite the cringeworthy sound, they’re a thing that people watch. In my case, it’s just a couple of seconds before I fast forwarded to the technical parts. But, for a certain audience (mostly kids), it’s a thing. An 8 year old Ryan Kaji earned an estimated $26MM off of YouTube in 2019, building his 24 million strong audience on toy unboxing videos. Who owns the experience? Is it Ryan or Hasbro?

Like many netizens, I use the #2 search engine in the world for help and how-tos. I’ve used YouTube to fix everything from coffee machines and vacuums, to electrical wiring, and even vehicle engine repairs. What is abundantly clear is that this video content is driven by individuals, not manufacturers, retailers, or dealerships. And, with those individuals comes bias (good or bad), dishevelment, and, worst of all, their individual sponsorships. Who controls the narrative? The maker, the influencer, or the sponsor?

As these how-to and comparison trips to YouTube become a more frequent part of my life, I have become keenly aware of the production quality, and how it makes me feel about the product. With awesome lighting, a neutral background, and a pleasing voice, nearly anything looks worth digging into. On the flip side, even the most premium products lose their luster with dogs barking and piles of dirty clothes in the background. Listen, if someone wants to review a $12,000 Mac Pro in a silk kimono, with a litter box and a water bong in plain sight, more power to them. But, I can imagine how awful that room smells, and now I’m associating it with the most decadent of computing devices. The same could be said for any Mercedes, BMW, or Lexus review accompanied by ashcans, sunglasses, and sweat stains.

New and used car dealerships should be owning the YouTube vehicle space. I mean OWNING it. According to Google, watch time of “test drive” videos on YouTube has grown by more than 65% in the past two years. Over 60% of auto shoppers reported visiting a dealership or dealer website after watching a video of a vehicle they were considering. It’s a fairly easy argument that dealerships possess the highest concentration of vehicle knowledge than any other cohort or community. Today’s dealerships are palatial celebrations of their respective manufacturers. The sum-total of service tech acuity, combined with direct manufacturer connections and nearly unlimited access to vehicles should make dealerships the most dominant force on YouTube. Yet, John and Jane Public seem to dominate the space.

Let’s take it back.

Instead of giving vehicle videos away to the amateurs (just like we have already given inventory, marketing, and data), let’s keep it in house. When a new model gets dropped at franchise dealership, it’s time to get out the camera. Don’t know where to start? Great! Neither did the civilians on YouTube. Find videos you enjoy, then use them as a template. For maximum impact, shoot the videos in bite-sized segments (e.g., walk-arounds, test drives, and how-tos for the complicated stuff). Not only will these videos add some much needed professionalism to the space, but the content is valuable for as long as it takes for a model refresh. In particular, these videos can be used to replace the lengthy delivery process, helping customers save more time. There’s no shame in hiring a videographer, but make sure to keep it authentically yours. Just take the sunglasses off your head.

To extend the brand experience further outside fo the dealership, don’t ignore the service side. (you know, the place you actually make all the money). You certainly want to highlight the department as a whole, but that’s where most stores stop. As crazy as it may sound, shoot basic maintenance and DIY videos. Once most viewers see how complicated the fixes are, they’ll be ecstatic to take it to the dealership. Any loss in potential visitors would be far outweighed by evergreen exposure. Celebrate those veteran techs and highlight that shiny shop. This helps plant the seeds of longterm total customer value.

The effect that YouTube has had on our modern culture is almost immeasurable. While so many brands are comfortable gambling their brand’s experience on influencers, auto dealers should not. Leverage the vast resources that you have as a dealership to balance the content, opinions, and professionalism that this industry deserves. Customer service doesn’t end with a transaction. Let your own voice be heard, or be content with someone else doing the talking for you.

Bill Playford is Vice President and Partner at DealerKnows Consulting. He brings a unique automotive perspective, with a background in training, consu...

Jim K

Skate Alert
May 5, 2019
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@BillPlayford re: "basic maintenance and DIY videos " is a great idea. I had a client in my agency days with little budget for video, so I recommended he simply curate a YouTube playlist of others doing repairs of products he was selling. When he added the playlist on his website the phone rang off the hook. A variation of this might work for dealers.
Apr 13, 2012
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Great post @BillPlayford and very timely, as I have a few customers who are working to up their game. There are great examples out there, test drives, reviews, how-tos, but my questions are more at the strategic campaign level. For the Refresher experts out there, what is the mission of the page/channel, what are the broad messaging categories, what is the right mix of those campaigns? Thx!