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What to say in auto advertising and how to say it

I’m a certified research nut. And my friends at the Center for Media Research ( keep my in-box filled with great stuff from resources all over the world. Case in point are three studies on some basic advertising need-to-knows…’what to say’ and ‘how to say it’.

The first study is a white paper from Harris Interactive ( on the subject of ‘consumer response to male and female voices in advertisements.’ This subject has been debated for eons by every marketing guru on earth. The new Harris poll reveals some interesting findings. Most of it in-sync with common-sense. For instance, a male voice is considered more forceful by about half of all respondents, a female voice more soothing. Male/female equally split on persuasiveness but the male voice gets the edge on ‘most likely to sell me a car or a computer’. But in most cases, about half or more of all respondents say it makes no difference.

Now, when you break it down by gender, you find subtle differences, but nothing to sway strongly to either gender. For most of history male voices have dominated automobile ad voiceovers, but females have been trending up, especially in TV ads for the past 10 years. In my personal experience I don’t think it makes much difference between gender, as much as it does in the qualities of timbre, tone, inflection, clarity, enthusiasm, sincerity and believability. I have seen several psychographic studies showing certain voices (both male and female) have higher ‘listen-ability’ ratings, indicating greater engagement, retention and less tune-out. My suggestion: More research. Looking for a new voice in your ads? Why not have the same piece of copy recorded by several different voices and play them for key members of your team. Or engage a research company to do a focus group study with customers. Here is one ‘effectiveness secret’ I’ll share with you. LESS is MORE. In study after study, voice advertisements with fewer words get more traction and listener engagement. Try cutting a line or two from your next ad to give more time for greater inflection and emphasis. You’ll be amazed at the results. If you’d like a copy of the Harris Interactive Poll on ‘Customer Responsiveness to Male/Female voices’ email me and I’ll forward.

As important as ‘how you say it’ is ‘who you say it to’ and of course you want to be directing messages to those folks who are going to be flashing the most taillights in the coming months. Another research whitepaper from Price Waterhouse Coopers titled: The New Consumer Behavior Paradigm: Permanent or Fleeting? suggests GenX and Millennials will drive recovery. (for a PDF of the complete report, email me.) According to this study, for the first time in the last three recessions, it will not be ‘baby boomers’ at the heart of the economic recovery as the recession has taken a bit out of their savings and retirement accounts (not to mention the GenXs and Millennials who have moved back home, sleeping on the couch.) Maybe that’s how the GenXs and Millennials have saved enough money to buy a new car in the ‘recovery’. The bottom line is, the boomers have lost the most in the past few years with minimized earning power in the future. The Gen X and Ys are bringing down bigger salaries and have more disposable income, but they are spending differently from their parents (and grandparents.)

The Price Waterhouse study redefines ROI as ‘Return on Involvement’, meaning that more conservative shopping experiences in the past few years has indoctrinated buyers to do more research and comparative shopping. Especially via search engines. We know that 85% of all automotive shoppers are doing at least some kind of research on the Internet prior to purchase. That percentage is even higher in the Gen X and Ys.

Another interesting point in the PWC paper suggests shopping behaviors are more purposeful and less panicked. Does that mean it will extend the shopping process by weeks for a new car? Probably not, but it does mean the high-impact ’48 hour’ promotions may be less effective and the RECENCY factor will be more important in advertising planning. (Read more on Reach and Frequency vs RECENCY in a previous Dealer Magazine article in May of 2004. Recency or Frequency. Want a copy? email me.

The PWC study concludes with three points:

  1. Recognize that even in recovery some shoppers will be in recession mode.

  2. Make sure customer targets are aligned with the marketplace.

  3. Leverage all marketing components to ‘need to haves’, creating more ‘must haves’.

  4. Again, if you’d like a free copy of this PriceWaterhouseCoopers report, email me and mention this article ‘what to say, how to say it’. Or you can visit

The third study I’d like reference in this article is one from The Pew Research Group ( that does an excellent job of defining just who the so-called ‘millenials’ are, the age, demographic composition, media habits, political leaning and general identity of this group. If you’re going to read just one research whitepaper in the next few months, make it this one. Aside from the economics aspect discussed earlier, the millenials are an attractive group to market to for many other reasons including their general attitude about the future. For instance, a higher percentage of Millenials are satisfied with the way things are going in this Country today (41% vs 26% of those over 30). Millenials are extremely comfortable with the existing and emerging technologies and view those technologies as valuable assets to their life, especially in social and shopping contexts. If you’d like a PDF copy of the complete Pew report, email me.

If you’d like a copy of all three reports and the article referenced in this article, I’ll be happy to send along. Just reference all reports from ‘What to say, how to say it’ article in your subject or body copy.

At the recent N.A.D.A. meeting in Orlando, I spent some quality time with Dealer Magazine publisher and friend Mike Roscoe reminiscing about the early years of this publication and the tremendous impact this magazine, along with it’s sister publications both in print and online have had on the automobile industry nationwide. In fact, I have been writing for Dealer Magazine since it’s inception (when today’s boomers were still the millenials). It’s been a lot of fun. I truly enjoy the great friendships I’ve made so many people through this magazine’s pages. I invite you to suggest ideas for future advertising and marketing articles that will help you be the best you can be.

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