Automotive Advertising Trends 2022: Predictions for an Uncertain Market

01.13.2022 Sara Brasfield3 min

Since the start of the pandemic, the automotive industry has been responding to constant changes and disruptions affecting everything from advertising strategies to the physical inventory offered on dealership lots.

Nearly two years into this industry-wide upheaval, new challenges and points of friction continue to plague automotive businesses. Supply chain issues are a particular pain point: ongoing computer chip shortages are preventing auto makers from building the computers and high-tech features intended for their new vehicles, resulting in fewer vehicles being produced—and, in some cases, producing vehicles that lack these coveted modern capabilities.

In the face of these disruptions, auto advertisers and marketers are still tasked with engaging potential buyers and driving conversions. In fact, the hardships affecting supply chains and production make it all the more important that auto ad campaigns are creating revenue opportunities as brands focus on weathering this storm.

To meet these goals and deliver desired outcomes for the brands they serve, auto advertisers should be paying attention to the trends and opportunities emerging in 2022. While the past couple of years have taught us that the future in advertising is unpredictable, here are some of the biggest trends likely to shape auto advertising strategies in the year ahead.

Customer Journeys Will Get Shorter—and Longer

For consumers who can’t afford to wait to buy a vehicle, the market is hyper-competitive and scarce on options. These buyers are very susceptible to urgency in auto advertising, since that urgency taps into their (justified) fears that inventory and auto-buying opportunities are limited, and must be seized upon before the vehicles they’re seeking to buy are taken off the lot.

On the other hand, customers who are interested in upgrading—but aren’t facing time pressure to buy—may take an even longer approach to researching and biding their time. This may be even more likely as used car inventories remain at all-time high prices, and as limited new inventory options makes it difficult to find the ideal fit for their next vehicle. For this group of buyers, retargeting and consistent engagement over time will be key to staying top-of-mind and keeping prospects warm.

Price and Promotions May Offer Limited Impact

The cost of buying a vehicle—new or used—is at or near record highs, in large part due to manufacturing, supply chain and other factors that advertisers and dealerships can’t control. For this reason, pricing and other promotions may pose only a limited opportunity as an aspect of your ad messaging.

While it’s useful to highlight pricing and promotions to some degree—especially when mixing it in among other messaging—ad campaigns may benefit from leaning harder into other value propositions, such as test-driving options, trade-in value deals and notice of new inventory availability.

As Likely Buyer Audiences Shift, So Will Advertising Budgets

Driven in part by pandemic changes and in part by shifting consumer preferences, automotive experts are expecting buyers to seek out specific types of vehicles—and those trends may be a departure from the past.

Research suggests that buyers are less interested in sports cars and sedans, and instead are putting their money into SUVs and trucks. In the case of sedans, this shift was taking place even before the pandemic, with SUVs and trucks gaining greater market share with each passing year.

As for sports cars? Unfortunately, premium vehicles tend to fall out of favor as prices increase and consumer purchasing power declines. Until auto prices stabilize and return to normal, expect sports car sales to continue to lag.

Trade-In Values May Offer an Inside Lane to Motivating Sales

With supply chains limiting the availability of computer chips for onboard technology in new vehicles, used vehicles—particularly used vehicles produced within the last few years—are experiencing heightened value because they offer features that are tougher to find in new vehicles.

With used vehicles depreciating more slowly, trade-in values are higher than they would be in a normal market. For buyers looking to upgrade, they ability to trade in and get more credit toward a new vehicle could entice some vehicle owners to spring for an upgrade.

Overall Auto Sales Will Increase—Eventually

Although the current auto industry is dealing with slower production and uncertain sales momentum, there’s widespread optimism that sales will rebound by the end of 2022. Vehicle sales are projected to grow by an estimated 3.4 percent, according to NADA, although these sales may be more weighted in the second half of 2022.

For advertisers, this means there’s value in staying patient, sticking to your ad strategy, and keeping your brand top-of-mind as consumers consider their options and weigh the right time to buy.

As you plan out your advertising strategy in the year ahead, make sure you’re taking advantage of existing opportunities while staying flexible to future changes affecting the advertising landscape.

A digital advertising partner can help you accomplish this balancing act and maximize revenue opportunities while adapting and optimizing your strategy over time. Contact Cox Media today to find out how our experts can help your business reach its advertising goals.

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About the Author

Sara Brasfield

Sara is the Content Marketing Manager for Cox Media’s corporate team in Atlanta, with a passion for writing and delivering relevant insights for advertisers. With more than seven years of experience in B2B marketing, Sara aims to help Cox Media’s current and future clients connect with their customers find new and unique ways to grow their business. Outside of the (now virtual!) office, Sara loves spending time running, reading and supporting her favorite teams (Go Braves & Gamecocks!).

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