Global data company, Eyeota, has found that after an initial dip in audience spending in Q1, auto marketers quickly ramped back up their targeting strategies, with May 2020 showing a 39% month-over-month uptick, primarily driven by the Americas region (up 75% month-over-month in May).
In addition, auto advertisers focused on direct response-oriented car ownership segments in April but returned to demographic targeting in May.
Below is a report from Eyeota that reveals trends in the auto marketing space amid COVID-19.
Eyeota Marketplace Auto Audience Expenditure from March to May 2020
● Early/Peak COVID Affected Auto Sales and Buying Behavior
○ As the COVID pandemic began to unfold, auto sales dropped by as much as 50% year-over-year in the U.S. 1 Some of that decline can be explained by auto buying behavior shifting dramatically from in-person dealership visits to online methods, such as virtual car building (via a website or mobile app) and price comparison sites that included both new and pre-owned cars. 2
Source:  Car and Driver (2020);  CNBC (2020)
● Post/Ongoing COVID Renews Driving as a Mode of Long-Distance Transportation
○ As consumers shy away from air travel and, to a lesser extent, train and bus travel, many consumers are relying on cars to travel long distances. Recent U.S.-based research has shown that the majority of consumers (59%) believe driving during this COVID period presents an “extremely low risk.”
Source: University of Illinois (2020)
Eyeota Marketplace Audience Buying Trends
● Auto advertisers buying audiences in Eyeota’s Audience Marketplace saw a dip in Q1 2020 but showed indications of increasing spending in Q2 .
○ Q1 2020 showed a year-over-year decline, and April 2020 showed a slight month-over-month decline.
○ However, May showed a 39% month-over-month uptick, primarily driven by the Americas region (up 75% month-over-month in May).
● In terms of audience targeting objectives, auto advertisers pulled back broad-reaching demographic targeting in April 2020, focusing more on direct response-oriented car ownership segments, but returned to demographic targeting in May.
○ In April, product ownership segments saw a 117% increase in share of auto advertiser spend month-over-month, while demographic segments saw a 12% drop in share of spend
○ In May, demographic share of auto advertiser spend returned, up 34% month-over-month from April
● Auto advertiser audience spending could continue to increase as consumers are still hesitant to travel via air, as well as other mass methods, such as cruises and trains.
○ U.S. TSA data shows that traveler count was down 95% and 90% year-over-year, respectively in April and May, and has only returned to 25% capacity in July so far.1
○ Additionally, international border restrictions will force holiday travel to local destinations.2