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Best Research / Insight Project 2018

Congratulations to Auto Trader who are winners of Best Research / Insight Project

Best Research / Insight Project 2018

Your ’Elevator Pitch’

With 40 years heritage and 93% prompted brand awareness, Auto Trader is a household name. However, many consumers still think of us as a magazine, despite us being purely a digital business for 5 years and the largest automotive website in the UK. This outdated perception held us back from growing audience and attracting new advertising revenue.

We met this challenge with a comprehensive research study that has since delivered a substantial ROI in advertising revenues: identified key strategic opportunities for our marketing and product teams whilst also positioning AutoTrader as a thought leader to attract new audiences.


Set The Scene

Auto Trader is the major advertising destination for 85% of car dealerships in this country.

Our challenge was to unlock consumer audience growth opportunities and future advertising revenue from both car manufacturers (OEMs) and the nation’s dealerships, through positioning Auto Trader as the number one new car destination in the UK.

With c. £500 million pounds spent on new car digital advertising each year by OEMs alone, the opportunity was significant. Equally, with car buying research being commissioned regularly by other media owners (e.g. Google) we needed to find a unique angle that resonated with and influenced the wider industry.


Tell Us The Story

Traditionally, research into car buying is usually done post the event itself. We felt this approach didn’t reveal what was really going on ‘there and then’ - what do they see, who do they talk to, what do they interact with, with what devices are they using. We opted for a comprehensive, innovative methodology, spending six months using mobile ethnography, online communities, in-depth interviews and online surveys to understand the end-to-end car buying journey.

The mobile ethnography alone enabled us to identify ‘micro moments’ we couldn’t have captured any other way – 401 instances over a 4-week period, from Facebook posts to TV adverts, from online browsing to cars observed in the streets and visits to dealerships.

In addition, the fact that the journey was far from linear wasn’t a surprise – however, what was, was that for such a big-ticket item as a car, where advertisers spend millions on pushing messages of excitement, fun and enjoyment, our respondents all reported about the stress and hassle of buying a car.

There were repeated calls of frustration and this struggle led to 60% of people just ‘pushing on through the process’ to end up with a car that was ‘just good enough’. Also, despite investing months of research and planning, people were willing to completely change their mind during the final stages of the buying process and opt for something completely new. A damning indictment for an extensive research process and many thousands of pounds’ worth of outlay on a new car.


The Results

The automotive industry isn’t renowned for embracing change, but the impact has been:

• changed customer perceptions: through using these insights, many senior marketing teams have started to perceive us as a viable channel to advertise new cars and led to a substantial ROI

• changed industry norms: OEM’s plan their marketing campaigns based on a linear car buying journey but this research challenged this, highlighting how consumers can be hijacked throughout their journey.

• shaped product development: shaping both consumer roadmaps as well as a new programmatic targeting product, allowing advertisers to target consumers across the car buying journey.

• energised media relations: supported extensive PR & trade marketing activity, securing blanket coverage in key automotive media.

• influenced creative direction: our ATL activity now reflect the learnings which will make it more relevant, emotionally engaging and effective.

• driven industry best practice: through bespoke analysis for the largest franchised groups in the UK


Best Research / Insight Project sponsored by Deloitte

In Partnership with


In Partnership with

AOP - Association of Publishers