For anyone in the ad world, the word “lemon” is instantly recognisable – it was the genius of what once was, and could still be, the best advertising campaign catch-phrase ever created for a car by Volkswagen. This time capsule to the “mad men” era of advertising was the curveball that the ad world needed – the “different” and honest execution that advertising should be.

Since the introduction of digital media and instant accessibility, however, automotive advertising has changed significantly.

A number of brands have introduced interactive videos, like the BMW M2 360° challenge. Others have partnered with huge gaming platforms, essentially launching a car digitally to the PlayStation  generation before any journalist. The use of technology and various digital platforms with an overall creative idea undeniably raises awareness for new product launches, which evidently increases interest and test-drive numbers at local dealerships.

The big take-out: Since the advent of digital, automotive advertising has changed and consumers are most likely to make decisions based on online reviews posted by peers. In light of this, marketers should be more strategic, focusing on an overall brand experience.

However, I don’t believe anyone looking for a new car is swayed by a fancy video or rich media banners. People are rather influenced by the expansive number of reviews, online content and general information that is available through a few quick taps of their phone, or even with the activating phrases “OK Google” or “Hey Siri”.

The Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), released by Google back in 2012, is the road automotive advertising is now speeding towards. With platforms like Drive Tribe, YouTube and blogs, almost every international motoring journalist is independently releasing written and video content, reviews and updates daily.

 For every advertising campaign launched by a brand about a new product, there are already 15 written reviews, 25 videos and hundreds of Instagram or social media posts, reviews and write-ups about the car, and that is only on the day the campaign is launched.  By sunrise, those numbers will almost immediately double.

I am not implying that manufacturers and advertising agencies should hang up their magic mice and Wacom tablets and call it a day. However, as marketers we need to be more strategic, and focus on the overall experience the brand offers. This extends to touchpoints outside of the realms of advertising and social media pages, all the way from ultra-high-definition online 3D videos and custom landing pages, to the waiting room of each individual dealership that relates to the brand.

We have reached a point where, no matter how well crafted your messaging, images and overall campaign are, they will always fall short in the consumer’s mind when stacked up against 100 online reviews. But research, technology and development are improving daily, and we have almost reached a point where it is truly a challenge to build a terrible new car.

So, how do we differentiate between brands if products of similar prices are about to reach similar levels of engineering, and consumers are listening to trusted reviews over crafted advertising? Personally, I think brands should look at adding a slice of lemon, all the way from their banner ads to their showroom floors.

* Mandusic is account director at Flume 

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