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Michaela Jefferson 

The future of automotive advertising

The future of automotive advertising

It wasn't that long ago that self-driving Audis with AI interfaces were a sci-fi pipe dream mashed together with godlike super computers, robot armies and blatant product placement.

But the last few years have seen the automotive industry make enormous technological leaps towards fully autonomous, connected vehicles. Some drivers can leave their cars to park themselves; others have cars that can communicate with traffic lights to plan efficient routes.

By 2020, we could have cars with virtual personal assistants. By 2030, our roads could be filled with self-driving cars operating as connected fleets rather than solo vehicles, making each other smarter by sharing data and insights.

The future has crept up on us, and with the car now a very different mechanical beast than it was only a few years ago, automotive brands need to be sure that their advertising strategies keep up with the pace of change.

Scott Curtis, global head of digital and innovation at media agency Spark Foundry, says car brands now need to show consumers that they are trustworthy and can offer a seamless customer experience "more than ever before".

"We are arguably at the most interesting period for automation as we move from agreed norms, like someone sitting behind the wheel, and driving into the unknown," Curtis tells Mediatel.

"With the automotive industry accounting for more than £82 billion turnover for the UK economy, this is not an opportunity to be missed."

According to Curtis, brands can demonstrate that they are both trustworthy and seamless by efficiently linking the online car marketing experience to the offline experience, utilising advertising such as addressable TV, and tapping into emerging tech such as AR.

"With the latest revolution being digitalisation, it only makes sense for car brands to utilise the likes of AR and addressable TV to communicate their cars to their increasingly connected consumer," he added, and with technology accelerating and the imminent introduction of 5G, AR tools may become a basic consumer expectation.

Many car brands have already experimented with these technologies in their advertising. Suzuki signed up as launch partner for Channel 4's new dynamic ad targeting technology earlier this year, Jaguar Land Rover has used AR to allow consumers to virtually test drive its car, and TrustFord created an AR showroom via a native app.

However, on the whole the automotive industry has been slow to adopt internet advertising (including advertising with digital publishers and services delivering television-like content over the internet) compared to the rest of the market.

Auto brands spent 20.9% of their ad budget online in 2018 according to Zenith's Automotive Expenditure Report, compared to the global average of 40.6%.

That clearly fails to reflect the increasingly AI-assisted, connected systems cars are evolving into, nor their increasingly tech-savvy consumers. It is also a missed opportunity for those brands to differentiate themselves in a crowded and competitive market.

So whilst fully autonomous cars are still a fair way off, Zenith predicts that embracing connected technology and using new digital channels to reach active buyers online will be "key" for auto brands looking to unlock faster brand growth over the next few years.

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