Advertising Technology

Raj Gill on the Importance of Digital Media in Automotive Industry

Raj Raj Gill is currently the Vice President of Automotive at Adconion Direct, a worldwide leader in the cross channel digital advertsing space. Gill will handle sales and product marketing functions at Adconion. He has previous experience at Team Detroit, a global agency group that services Ford Motor Company. The Makegood recently spoke to Gill regarding the necessity of Digital media and advertising in his industry.

The Makegood: Congratulations on being named VP of Automotive for Adconion Direct. What factors brought on your decision to join an adtech company like Adconion Direct?

Being from and working in Detroit, I recognized that the auto industry is in an exciting time of growth particularly as it relates to digital advertising. The entire automotive marketing community is buzzing about being “digital first” and I saw a huge opportunity for automakers and their agencies to find a partner that will collaborate with them to improve the way media is bought with the goal of reaching consumers across all channels and devices.

I wanted to be a part of a company that was game-changing and felt that Adconion Direct’s position as the leader in cross channel digital advertising across display, video, mobile, email and social was the right fit. The demand for cross channel solutions is there, especially in the automotive industry. The fact that more than $1 billion dollars in media has been spent across Adconion Direct’s platform, gave me the confidence that I would be joining a company that is leveraging technology-backed insights to match advertisers to their right audiences at the scale the auto industry requires.

Digital media is a challenging environment, it requires constant innovation, and technology and people are critical to success. Adconion Direct has assembled a winning team of technology experts who are hyper-focused on keeping ahead of our dynamic media ecosystem. In addition to technology proficiency, Adconion Direct has best-in-breed strategic talent from many of the leading digital media companies and brands, such as Target and Yahoo, across relevant industry verticals, such as automotive.

The Makegood: What skills have you learned in your time at Team Detroit that will help you be successful at Adconion Direct?

After launching over 20 vehicles throughout my career, I have seen first-hand the shift to digital and have learned that it is key to keep up with connected consumers. Data is a critical component of successful advertising for its ability to improve ad efficiency and relevancy, ultimately giving the consumer a better experience.

I’ve also learned that maximizing time and efficiency is critical in a highly competitive industry. Being able to go to an automaker or their agency and show them the benefits of cross channel advertising and being their single point of contact for a buy across multiple channels, creates exponential efficiency in terms of time and resources for the advertiser. More importantly, the insights each channel provides about a user, aggregated together, creates more complete profiles about an automotive brand’s user, increasing the automaker’s likelihood of generating more return on ad spend.

To drive engagement and action in today’s fragmented media environment, auto marketers need to think about cross channel in their campaign planning as consumers toggle from site to site and often switch devices. What I learned while at Team Detroit is that you need to be able to optimize your plan in real-time and be able to tell a consistent, compelling story across all channels because consumers are interacting in a variety of ways across the digital ecosystem every day. If implemented successfully, I know that more automakers can influence their audience before they are even in-market for a new vehicle, and that is powerful.

The Makegood: The auto industry is struggling to master the digital advertising sphere, some. Why do you think that is?

I wouldn’t say the auto industry is struggling with digital advertising; the auto industry, like many other industries, is in a phase of catching up to the consumers’ rapid adoption of smart devices, which has affected their media consumption habits. According to eMarketer, in 2013 the auto industry only spent 12.1 percent of their total media dollars on digital, yet digital is where consumers spend over 40 percent of their time. Moving more dollars to digital media is a necessity.

Adconion Direct’s recent expansion in the automotive vertical and the opening of a Detroit office will support our commitment to helping the auto industry meet consumers’ digital expectations while providing great customer service and continued growth within the Detroit market.

Additionally, the rise of digital first consumers has impacted how we as an industry approach media buying in general. I don’t think media is best purchased in silos anymore because it’s increasingly challenging to connect the dots afterwards in terms of campaign performance and analysis. For instance, did this channel affect the performance of another and which channel was the most effective overall in the campaign? These are questions that cannot be answered via single channel purchases. Truly understanding which combination of media channels consumers are most likely to engage with depending where they are in a purchase cycle is much easier when working from a unified cross channel digital media platform like Adconion Direct.

The entire company is on a mission to help advertisers know consumers better, make smarter media buys across every digital media channel and drive performance.

The Makegood: What are some examples of automotive companies that have gone against this negative trend?

According to eMarketer, Auto shoppers are 71 percent more influenced by digital ads than other forms of media. Because of this, we’re seeing an increase in automotive manufacturers utilizing the power of social media with other media channels, such as display and video, to engage in conversations with consumers, as opposed to pushing brand and vehicle messages out there and hoping that someone in-market finds it interesting enough to engage and check out a vehicle.

There are two landmark automotive campaigns that showcase the concept of an automotive manufacturer embracing social media with other media channels to provide a high-impact experience. The first is The Ford Fiesta Movement – particularly the 2010 campaign. Ford empowered 100 consumers to become brand “agents” by providing them each with a Ford Fiesta vehicle to go on missions across the nation for six months. The social content that was produced by the “agents” was really sticky and helped the Ford Fiesta brand highlight the vehicle in a non-traditional way on media channels where the target audience was very active. Chevrolet’s daringly successful campaign for the Chevy Sonic in summer of 2011 entered unchartered digital and interactive territory with an integrated multiple platform approach for launch which involved tossing a car out of a plane (viral video), and getting consumers to share outrageous “firsts” on social media.

The Makegood: With $5.8 billion predicted to be spent by auto marketers in digital advertising next year, where do you see the industry going?

The auto industry will continue to thrive in 2014 because of the innovation coming out of the manufacturers, their agency partners and ad tech providers like Adconion Direct. There is great opportunity for synergy across all three entities. I see there being transference towards consolidation in the digital media industry. Advertisers are going to find tremendous power in being able to leverage deeper insights across multiple channels through a single provider. Because of this, cross channel campaigns will be a necessity moving forward for automotive manufacturers to be able to influence consumers before they’ve narrowed in on which brands they want to research vehicle models. The areas of growth for digital spending in 2014 are mobile, video, social and local and advancements in cross channel audience targeting will help automotive marketers improve ad effectiveness and buying efficiency.

Social media is a vital part of a cross channel mix, and that will continue to grow this year. Based on my 10 years of experience in automotive, I see social media evolving and becoming a critical component in auto brands’ ability to actively reach consumers where they can truly engage in conversation. Now that I’m at Adconion Direct, I’m excited to be able to use data from display, video, mobile, social and email to give automotive clients an even more powerful way to connect with consumers on every device a consumer may engage with, from awareness to consideration to the final purchase phase.

The Makegood: Thank you, Raj.