Advertising Your Automotive Business During Times of Uncertainty

04.02.2020 Cox Media

Economic recessions, public health scares and geopolitical uncertainty are just some of the forces that can disrupt everyday life—including the day-to-day operations for most businesses.

Even when major events don’t directly affect your business, they can still affect your customers in terms of their purchasing power, and even their willingness – or ability – to leave the house and get their vehicle serviced. Those changes can’t go ignored by your business. When normal routine goes out the window, automotive businesses should be prepared to respond.

Dealerships, service centers, tire shops and other automotive businesses typically maintain a strong presence in their local communities, depending on the brand recognition, trust, and loyalty they’ve built up over time from their local customer base. Given that visible role, those businesses should be at the front-lines of lending a voice within the community and helping lead efforts that provide leadership when the going gets tough.

Here’s a look at some strategies to achieve this.


Automotive businesses have long been a resource in communities when it comes to sponsoring community events, making donations to local organizations and helping rally community remembers around a common challenge or goal. More recently, we’ve even seen national automotive brands making changes to support growing efforts to address the latest public health crisis.

Ford has already taken steps to alleviate financial stress on its customers by offering payment relief for Ford Credit customers. GM, meanwhile, is introducing zero-percent financing on purchases for the first seven years, as well as four months of deferred payments, as incentives for consumers who are looking to buy a car but may face uncertainty or concerns or making a purchase in the current economic climate.

Those changes could offer significant financial relief for customers at a very important time, essentially giving those vehicle owners more time and flexibility in paying back their debt.


Few businesses can ignore public emergencies and continue to advertise their business as normal. When customers’ daily lives are turned upside down, they want those businesses to acknowledge the uncertainty and hardship they face, and to communicate how they’re responding.

Ford, for example, pulled its planned ad campaigns after news of the public health crisis broke, and it replaced those ads with new campaign messages that emphasized its relief efforts for consumers. Those ad spots, dubbed “Built to Lend a Hand” and “Built for Right Now,” play off of the “Built Ford Proud” slogan and showcase the company’s efforts to help out its customers, instead of trying to sell more products.

Locally, automotive businesses can take a similar approach. Use ads to communicate what you’re doing in light of the recent crisis. One possible example is offering pick-up and delivery services for vehicles owned by consumers who don’t want to make unnecessary trips out of their home. You could also highlight the fundraising or local relief efforts you’re making to help distressed members of your community. Review your current ad strategy and consider the tone and likely reception of those ads given the rapidly changing social climate—and explore alternative ads that might offer more value to consumers during these times.

Related: Changing Your Creative Messaging to Support Your Customers


If your impulse is to pull your ads and wait until business returns to normal, stop and consider this: What happens to your customers if you disappear entirely? Not only will your absence in advertising weaken consumer loyalty to your brand, but it could become a glaring hole when you make your return, as customers wonder why your brand disappeared in the middle of a public crisis.

There’s value in maintaining a consistent presence through your advertising. By continuing to run ad campaigns, you can reinforce those strong customer relationships and even build greater loyalty and trust by showcasing your contributions to the community.

Think of advertising as an investment into your future: By staying visible during uncertain times, putting your customers first and acting with empathy, your business will be on better footing once these current troubles are in the rear-view window.


There is a lot to consider during times of uncertainty, and as uncertainty increases, there is more and more to consider.  The good news, is you don’t have to walk this road alone.  Cox Media has history and experience in helping business navigate through uncertain times and is here to help should you needs additional information or insights. Click here to get started.

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