June 3, 2024

Stop Buying In-Market Audiences

A Wake-Up Call for Auto Marketers

Stop Buying In-Market Audiences

In-market audiences have long been a staple for automotive marketers. As more marketing dollars shift to CTV and Programmatic Advertising, the quality of these in-market audiences becomes paramount. But are those in-market audiences you’ve been utilizing truly representative of in-market car shoppers? Based on our research and experience, the short answer is no.

If you’re buying these “in-market” audiences, don’t worry, you are not alone. Most dealerships and their agencies are using these modeled “in-market” audiences for their advertising campaigns and are often completely unaware of what these audiences represent. But why?

I believe there has been a serious lack of education and transparency from data companies selling modeled in-market audiences. Data companies use words like “In-market,” “Auto Intender,” “Purchase Intender,” “Buyer Behavior,” “Online Shoppers,” and “Car Buyer” in the hopes that marketers will assume these audiences are representative of consumers actively shopping for a car. For the record, all of the above audience labels were associated with modeled audiences.

The problem with modeled audiences is that they are essentially an approximation created by analyzing large sets of data to predict consumer behavior. While this method may have some merits, it falls short in delivering the precision needed for automotive marketers. Modeled data includes a wide range of consumers, the majority of whom are not actively shopping for a vehicle. The last time I checked my cookie profile, I was in the market for 34 cars, some not even made in the US. I owned 22 cars, and it said I spoke six languages. For the record, I own 3 cars, I am not looking to buy a new car anytime soon, and I only speak English.

Another problem with modeled audiences is that they lead to excessive ad spend. Data companies create large audiences because that’s how they make more money – sell more impressions. This spray-and-pray method leads to wasted ad spend when you’re advertising to consumers who aren’t genuinely interested in purchasing a vehicle. The end results are lower engagement and campaigns that are less effective. As a matter of fact, today, marketers can buy an “in-market” audience segment for consumers that are “In-market Toyota Highlander shoppers” who have over 50 million in-market consumers for just a Toyota Highlander.

Here are three questions to ask your agency or in-house team to ensure you’re utilizing the best data for your campaigns:

1. What is the source of the in-market audience?
Confirm the data is derived from a credible source and not modeled data. If they can’t name the source, it’s likely a modeled audience. If they say the audience is “proprietary,” you should “trust but verify” by measuring the ROI beyond vanity metrics like clicks, impressions, and reach.

2. How often is the audience data updated?
Quality audience data should be frequently refreshed to reflect the latest consumer behaviors and interests.

3. How do you measure the success of our ad campaigns?
Go beyond impressions and clicks. Look for metrics like website visits, lead generation, and sales!

In my next blog post, I will share what we believe are the true in-market audiences you should start with first.