The Online Auto Industry

    March 14, 2007

The automotive industry is the largest US advertising category and automakers and dealers have recently focused less on advertising in traditional media and have begun to put their ad dollars into digital media.

 "Automakers and dealers pulled dollars out of television, newspaper and magazine media buys and redirected them to digital media in 2006," says Lisa Phillips, eMarketer senior analyst and the author of the new Automotive Online: The Race Is On report, "including rich media ads and microsites, search engine optimization and mobile marketing, and short films and video-on-demand."

 This year the automotive category will account for $2.69 billion, or close to 14 percent of the $19.5 billion projected to be spent on Internet advertising and $1.06 billion will be spent on search marketing according to eMarketer.

 "Consumers are heavy users of search when it comes to online auto shopping," says Ms. Phillips, "especially to find vehicles, price information and local dealerships."

 According to a Yahoo search marketing report, search brought more shoppers to all types of auto sites than any other channel. Sponsored ads led 37 percent of visitors to manufacturers sites and 49 percent of visitors went to branded sites such as or Kelly Blue Book. An additional 77 percent of visitors went to unbranded sites such as and

 The most popular search terms for September 2006 that drove traffic to auto Web sites were, "eBay", "Kelley Blue Book", "used cars" and "Autotrader" according to Hitwise.

 When it come to searching for automotive brand names seven to the top 10 search terms in July 2006 were for foreign automakers. Six were from Japan and one from Europe. Toyota, Honda and Nissan were the terms most often searched while Ford and Dodge were the next most searched terms.

 "As consumers go online in ever-larger numbers to research new and used vehicle purchases, the stakes get higher," says Ms. Phillips.