5 Do’s and Don’ts for Car Dealership Commercials

With the Super Bowl coming up February 4th, we’re all primed to see the true MVPs of the game: lavish, over-the-top car commercials. If you own a car dealership, you may not have millions of dollars to spend on your own campaign—but you can still use them as guides to what you should and shouldn’t do in your own commercials.

We took an informal, office-wide poll to find out what people respond to—and what bugs them—about car commercials. Sure, we’re all marketing and advertising professionals here at St. Gregory Group, but we’re also potential customers. Here are our do’s and don’ts for car commercials.

1. Do focus on one strong benefit.

If you overload your spot with details, it will turn into a blur of forgettable information. Instead, says Creative Director Barrett Condy, focus on one major benefit about your brand—it could be about the cars (e.g., fun to drive, gas efficient or award winning) or about your dealership (family-friendly service, trusted for generations or known for low prices). Check out this Audi commercial, in which every moment of storytelling supports the tag line, “For those who live to drive.”

2. Don’t insult customers’ intelligence.

First of all, everybody knows those focus group commercials are full of actors. Real people just don’t lose their ever-loving minds over daytime running lights. If you want to credibly show a customer’s perspective, why not solicit testimonials from real customers? In addition, says Designer Sarah Fisher, many car commercials are cluttered with information customers know how to find and are unlikely to remember—such as a dealership’s phone number. Make sure your dealership’s name is prominent, and let Google handle the rest.

3. Do keep the focus on your own good qualities.

Office Manager Julie Hawkins strongly prefers spots that avoid bashing other brands, like this one by Honda. Vice President Steve Bleh agrees. “Show what’s better about your brand without putting someone else down.”

4. Don’t be annoying.

Sirens in radio spots give Copywriter Meg Cannon tiny heart attacks when she’s driving, which may or may not be a sign of a guilty conscience. Sure, it’s important to cut through the clutter and get potential customers’ attention. But that doesn’t mean you should use jarring sounds and images to do it. Other irritants to avoid, according to Senior Designer Antoine Percy: yelling, “buy now” starbursts on screen and obnoxious music.

5. Do follow your own instincts.

Some opinions in our informal poll were the subject of passionate debates: Senior Copywriter Stephanie Meinberg staked out a pro-animal but anti-amateur-child-actor stance, but Steve is not a fan of animals driving cars. Antoine despises “those big blow-up wiggly things,” but Meg fondly associates them with her toddler daughter’s inexplicable delight. Barrett worries about the financial transparency of couples who gift each other new cars at Christmastime, but Sarah says telling a compelling story in a commercial can be more important than being literal.

As a wise Roman said many centuries ago, “De gustibus non est disputandum”; there’s no arguing about taste. What one person finds annoying, someone else may find delightful. Experiment and discover what works for your dealership and your customers. And if you need any help avoiding common advertising pitfalls, give us a call!