The survey was completed in Q1 through online and phone interviews with over 46 marketers working for China’s leading multinational and local auto companies including Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Chery and Geely.
Auto brands in China are facing immense pressure as car sales are going flat and little growth has been seen on the books lately. The survey found that digital is playing a more crucial role in the marketing mix, with many respondents spending more than 20 per cent of their media budget on the medium.
“Auto brands in China are finally seeing the value of digital in driving information, brand image, purchase intent and loyalty,” said Greg Paull, principal of R3. He added that, unlike other FMCG industries, consumers are going to car auto portals first to get product information, particularly for new car buyers.
Auto portals enjoy the largest share in increased investments, with over 21 per cent increase, followed by video (16 per cent) and social networking (16 per cent).
Mainstream platforms such as portals, mobile, video, SNS and micro-blogs are where marketers tend to invest, with significant growth being seen in their budgets. However, search continues to garner the highest satisfaction rate from auto marketers when it comes to marketing outcomes.
The survey shows that there will be a greater shift to micro-blogs (16 per cent) in the future, but the auto industry is still in its infancy compared to the recall of sports and FMCG brands .
More than 30 per cent of auto respondents expressed confidence in search as the digital media that worked best for them, but they were still unwilling to increase investments there. Both online video marketing and portal sites scored 20 per cent in terms of confidence, leading the budget increases. Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo were the most popular choices for marketing campaigns.
However when it comes to social media and video marketing, marketers (60 per cent in social media and 30 per cent in online video) do not know much about cost benchmarks. They rely more on their agencies to monitor and analyse the outcomes of marketing campaigns.
Nevertheless, less than 40 per cent of the respondents were satisfied with the quality of the measurement. Non transparency of data and overstated site traffic are considered the top two challenges in measuring the actual outcome of digital marketing.
The survey also showed that the auto industry expressed a greater demand for accountability. In fact, 90 per cent of China’s auto respondents intend to independently benchmark and measure their digital media, a significant increase on 2011, and against the market average.
“Auto Marketers will only continue to invest more in digital if they can enjoy the same levels of accuracy and insight they are achieving with other media,” saidPaull.
In 2011, R3 and AdMaster formed a new partnership to help tackle these issues by combining Admaster’s “dual cookie technology” for online tracking, with R3’s experience in media cost benchmarking in China.