Digital Performance of the Automotive Industry

Digital Performance of the Automotive Industry

The South African automotive industry is among those most frequently impacted by the smallest conditional shifts within the country. When things are going well, consumers have more money to buy locally manufactured vehicles and when Eskom lets the lights go out manufacturing can grind to a halt. The commercialisation of electric vehicle technology in South Africa is also going to have a long-term impact on the performance of several local plants.

While local sales have slumped in recent years due to the economic crunch felt by consumers, good news has recently given new hope to the export half of the market with reporting “a potential R60bn could be invested by SA’s vehicle manufacturers and component makers in the next five years” and reporting that “South Africa on track for record vehicle exports”. But will this be enough to make up for the shortfall in local sales which shows few signs of improvement?

The motor industry as a whole is suffering from a poor global economy and tariffs dispute between America and China with potential extension of that market unrest between America, the EU and Mexico (where several major manufacturers operate out of to cut labour costs). Manufacturers operating out of South Africa specifically have concerns regarding the country’s stability and the poor economic spending power of consumers as well as power grid stability. 

To counteract slumping in-store sales car manufacturers and their dealers are turning increasingly to a more cost effective form of marketing to try and get the message across that in a tight economy, their brand has the best solution. Some in the industry have relied on attractive websites and existing brand strength, such as Volkswagen and Honda, limiting their search and display advertising to smaller budgets and simple banners. 

This Spartan approach to their online marketing would likely only work for them. As two of the most popular local brands (along with Toyota and Nissan) they can rely on most car buying South Africans to search for their brands by name if they don’t see an ad to click on. Due to the sheer volume of their vehicles in the country entering the used car market, exposure is also a key element and it’s not one that their competitors can counter with passivity. 

It can be said of most South African divisions of large manufacturers however that many have been caught like a bunny in the headlights when it comes to digital marketing. Traffic and engagement remain unfalteringly low for all but the already established brands. 


Let’s Look at Some Examples

Below we have some comparative traffic numbers for Honda, the now discontinued Chrysler, Fiat, VW and Volvo over the period of a year. Honda, despite some highs and lows retains a relatively stable average over the course of a year. VW appears as a somewhat distant but relatively stable second while Fiat and Volvo perform little to no better than the abandoned Chrysler website.



Mixing it up a little below it’s apparent that those with the lower brand recognition who don’t pursue a strong online marketing presence also perform on par with Chrysler. Renault stands out but Subaru, Kia and Peugeot are nowhere to be found. Renault’s slight bump here is likely due in some part to their display advertising. Renault, in general, appears to focus more on paid marketing tactics such as search and display than their ‘on tier’ competitors and it’s working for them. 



On the other hand their marketing budget doesn’t appear to be that high which means that were a competitor to dedicate a real effort to their own online campaign Renault could quickly find itself losing this narrow margin. Below we get a further indication of paid media spend and effectiveness, with Peugeot, Fiat and Subaru with little to show for whatever efforts they may be putting into a digital strategy. It’s worth noting once more though that even though Kia and Renault are performing better, the degree to which they’re doing so is tenuous.



Zooming in on the ‘all traffic’ window again over Jun 2018 – May 2019 we get a clearer picture of Renault’s complete performance against same tier competitors. 



So what are Subaru, Peugeot and Fiat doing wrong? 


For one thing, although Fiat does some display advertising, Subaru and Peugeot do little to none and their search campaigns are limited to the degree where it becomes difficult to ascertain their actual scope. Subaru, Peugeot and Fiat have nice looking websites with varying degrees of emphasis on user experience. Fiat’s is very user-friend but has little to no content onsite in which to place critical keywords or run search ads to. 

Peugeot’s site is not particularly pretty and gives an impression of being a financial or money lending site at first glance. While it’s easy enough to find the car model you might be looking for more information on there’s little more than technical specs once you get to the car’s page. The site doesn’t do anything to tell the browser what that particular model excels at, what it’s known for or why they should care. 

Subaru has a nice looking website that’s quite user-friendly and even has a news section for posting content. Part of their trouble is that they don’t. Publications are infrequent and far from optomised for online searches. They dropped a lot of content in June and a single article in September with nothing else to show for the year on their News page. 


The link to real sales


While there are many causes for poor sales numbers to consider there’s a clear pattern here as well. 


According to the sales figures from NUMSA the same manufacturers not engaging in digital promotion are seeing lagging sales figures while those who already enjoy powerful brand recognition such as Toyota, VW and Nissan take the lions share of the market. For the lesser known brands to make it in South Africa they need to create an image, claim a niche in the public’s eye and this isn’t something that happens on it’s own. 


Brand Protection and the misuse of display marketing

Brand Protection and the misuse of display marketing

How the SA market has misused display marketing and programmatic

The topic of the incorrect use of programmatic buying in the SA market crops up from time to time and I have learnt that clients and, more frighteningly, agencies do not know exactly how programmatic nor how real time bidding works (it is very complex.) In fact, in many cases a lot of client money has been wasted on so called ‘private networks’ and in the worse case the networks or agencies have benefitted at the expense of the client.

It comes up in the news as well occasionally sometimes highlighting a variety of large, and medium corporations that have found their online display advertising appearing on sites that are not right for the brand. This includes ‘fake news’ sites, but also includes sites with content that brands don’t want to be associated with such as politics, violence and adult content.

Essentially, one of the questions asked should be, “how did my advertising partner allow my adverts to appear on these sites? What brand protection was in place for advertising? And, what measures and filters should or have been added to avoid this in future?” 

Looking at the issue in context as an example 

Let’s also look at where the fault may lie by looking at another example to put it in perspective. After shopping around for a while I go to the dealership with what I think is the best offer, and buy myself a nice new car. The dealership gives me all the assurances that the car is safe, performs as intended and it’s going to get me to point B. I glide out of the showroom, and all the electronics fail at the first red light. Was it me? Am I responsible? 

I don’t think I deserve the blame for breaking the car. I’m just a consumer, the end-user. Now, a lot of people would suggest that the dealership is directly to blame for not testing the vehicle, or for not having the means to test it. But, if this sort of failure happens with that particular car all the time, then perhaps the manufacturer bears more responsibility. You’ve probably guessed that in this example, I’m the brand, the dealership is the marketing agency and the manufacturer is the wider online ad network (of which Google is a large player).

For the sake of simplicity, the dealership should have test driven the car themselves (programmatic management) to ensure that the customer was positioned to reach their destination in it (better quality brand safe sites).

Basic Steps for display Brand Safety

I will highlight a few simple brand safety measure that should be followed, and one of them is NOT just relying on the ad networks inbuilt filters to block inappropriate content, as these may not be adequate especially if the ad network used is a ‘private agency network’,  a smaller network or even a white label of a poorer quality network! 

Again the use of a mature known engine like Double Click ensure that the filters they employ (while still fallible) are constantly being evolved, improved regularly due to the size and learnings that network has. Here are just a few quick wins when it comes to brand protection.

1) Actively use the brand safety filters and customise them!

In my business we start off by ensuring the brand safety features are active and we get into them manually. Using pre-set features within DoubleClick (which has by far the most robust and advancing  filters) is a start, not the end of it. Google includes validation steps. In this way if your client is selling cars, you build protections against themes like “crash” and “accident”. Simply negative targeting a word is insufficient, you have to build out themes around that content as site may refer to automobile accidents or traffic fatalities…. 

2) Add another layer of protection

We also look at verification software, programs like Moat, comScore and DoubleVerify which doesn’t only enhance brand safety but increases ad effectiveness and allows clients to also see where inventory is being served, whether it is being seen by a human, a bot, or even served behind site content!

3) Actual impressions payed for

Billable impressions are the number of impressions that reached the intended or guaranteed audience. In a campaign with an audience guarantee, impressions that don’t reach the agreed upon audience (as defined by Nielsen, comScore, vCE, or other 3rd party) will not be charged for. This paves the way for Exchanges and Networks to ensure the correct labelling of audiences and delivery thereof of the correct ads.

The agency should be managing all of this, not simply buying up inventory wherever it’s available but what often happens is that, despite having access to one of the most accurate tools in digital display, there ends up being a spray-and-pray approach. Programmatic buy and referred deals are also a good strategy to mix into your campaign to ensure that your placements are on quality sites. And while manually blacklisting sites is a good idea, it’s also great to whitelist sites you would prefer to work through. 


Programmatic done right should be relevant and add value

Programmatic has many emerging benefits such as omnichannel targeting and measurement, increased relevance and efficiency as well as reducing media costs (wastage). However it is not perfect, and does require skilled knowledgeable management in order to limit ad fraud and the risk of ads appearing alongside undesirable site content.

Despite a few lingering technical and philosophical challenges, a lot more is going right than wrong. The digital marketing space is tightening and enhancing customer targeting everyday to make ads more relevant, more useful to the consumer, and therefore less costly to the client. Today we can serve ads to any specific demographic, area, at any specific time. We can instantly adjust live campaigns to take into account special events new messaging without missing a beat, or remind you the day after you abandoned your shopping cart that you meant to buy that new pair of adidas, and there’s still a set left in your size. 

However, all of this takes active and skilled management by the agencies and clients running the campaigns. To get this sort of granular marketing right takes a lot of work, system understanding and training. By no means should programmatic display have a “get it live and let it just run” mentality.

Simply put programmatic display is NOT only the placing of display banners on selected websites, this is display marketing circa 2004! Programmatic display marketing requires audience management, real time bidding, relevant content and expert management to succeed effectively


TMI MD Lauren Foster Joins Bookmarks Awards 2020 Panel

TMI MD Lauren Foster Joins Bookmarks Awards 2020 Panel

The judges have been assembled for the 2020 IAB SA Bookmark Awards, and we’re excited to announce that TMI’s Managing Director, Lauren Foster, has been selected to serve on the prestigious voting panel for the category “Innovative Engineers.”

The Bookmarks Awards recognise companies who have demonstrated digital excellence, while also seeking to empower all members of the digital media and marketing industry to thrive in the digital economy. As in previous years, the event will honour the exceptional teams behind the most creative and innovative campaigns in eighty categories.

Lauren will be one of nine judges on the Innovative Engineers panel, chaired by Accenture Interactive Africa Lead, Dee Chetty. It is the judges’ responsibility to comb through this year’s submitted projects, compiling shortlists, and ultimately crown the winners in the categories of Web Applications, Digital Installations and Activations, Use of CRM, Loyalty Programs and Gamification, VR & AR, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, and Craft – Software, Coding and Tech Innovation.

Lauren (centre) pictured here at the 2018 Bookmarks Awards, where the team scooped up an award for Paid Search Marketing.


Andrea Quaye, jury president of the 2020 Bookmark Awards commented, “I’m thrilled to be joined by such an esteemed and professional Bookmarks Jury in 2020  – a group of extremely talented individuals who bring a diverse point of view to the judging process and who share their expertise to set the benchmark for digital excellence in South Africa. Our job is to define what is considered to be the best work in digital – for its innovation, creativity, impact and effectiveness.”

TMI is, of course, no stranger to the Bookmarks, having won the Bronze Craft Award and Golden Pixelor Paid Search Marketing in 2016, as well as a bronze award for Paid Search Marketing in 2018. With extensive experience leading an award-winning agency that’s at the forefront of digital marketing innovation, Lauren will bring an expert eye and insightful mind to the evaluation process that will certainly contribute to the quality of the Bookmarks. 

The Bookmarks is scheduled to take place on 19 March 2020 at The Galleria in Sandton. We wish Lauren all the best as she represents TMI Collective. 

The best paid social advertising options for your company

The best paid social advertising options for your company

Social media marketing is integral to your business for numerous reasons. It is by advertising on social media platforms that you are more capable of reaching a wider audience, enhancing your online visibility, cultivating awareness of your brand and targeting specific demographics. What’s more, you have a variety of options at your disposal, all of which you can use.

The thing is, however, that all social media platforms differ from one another, so you must decide which of them is best suited to your marketing needs. Identify your advertising goals, decide which platforms you’re going to use and then choose which paid social media advertising features you must consider for your company.


  1. Facebook

You’re able to work with both images and video content when you advertise on Facebook. Image ads are useful for displaying your products, while video ads help to spread content that is both informative and entertaining. You can also make use of carousel ads, which comprise a block of text and numerous images. These are effective for advertising more than one product, a collection of products, or for telling a story through images. Facebook is also useful for generating leads. Create a lead campaign on the platform, either to direct users to your website or to them to sign up for your services.


  1. Instagram

Instagram is similar to Facebook in that you can advertise on it with images, videos and carousel ads as well. One thing to remember about video ads on this platform is they begin to play, with or without audio, as soon as users to scroll to them. This means that you can’t rely solely on audio to ensure the ad has an immediate effect. Instagram does have a specific feature that you can also use to your advantage, and that is Instagram Stories. It’s a very popular means of attracting the attention of prospective customers and getting them to click through your services. 


  1. Twitter

Twitter is a social media platform on which you can share content that’s catchy and to the point. It also allows for numerous promotional and advertising opportunities. There’s Twitter Promote Mode, with which you are automatically able to promote the first ten of your daily organic Tweets. This feature is for those marketers who have a substantial amount of content to share every day and who want their reach to increase at an impressive rate.

You also have the option of creating individual Twitter campaigns if you want more control over what you post and if you want to spend less on advertising. As with Facebook and Instagram, Twitter ads can also either be video- or image-based.


  1. LinkedIn

Unlike Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, LinkedIn is an exclusively professional networking platform that allows to you get recognised by businesses and people searching for employment. When advertising on LinkedIn you have two options at your disposal. There’s the creation of sponsored posts that incorporate punchy wording and imagery, and there’s InMail message ads, which involves sending a personalised message straight to the inbox of a prospective customer. 


There are numerous social media advertising opportunities out there. Other platforms you can use include Spotify, Youtube, SnapChat and Pinterest. No matter your choice, always make sure you have the right objective and target audience in mind. By directing your social media ads towards the right audience and for the right purposes, you’ll have a better chance of increasing awareness of your brand and gaining a steady online following.


Google’s investment into AI

Google’s investment into AI

Artificial intelligence is all around us, and it’s no surprise that Google is at the forefront of its innovation and advancement. Google Lens is the company’s major investment into the AI space and it merges perfectly with its core search function. 

Introduced to the world in 2017, Google Lens is image recognition technology developed by Google itself. It gives smartphone users the ability to find out more information about something they see by snapping a picture of it. Using visual based machine learning, it can identify and subsequently serve the user relevant information about the contents of the image. What’s more, the technology doesn’t only serve information on objects, but also barcodes, QR codes, labels and pieces of text.

Available on both Android and iOs, Google Lens has recently added features such as the ability to read handwriting, identify landmarks, plants and animals, and copy text. This year, Google has announced that even more features are to come, including the ability to recognize and recommend menu items, as well as split bills and figure out tips.

As Google Lens is essentially the newest edition to search engine marketing, how can companies optimise their online content for it? While Google Lens hasn’t receive full adoption by all consumers yet, it certainly won’t hurt to be prepared for this advancement in search marketing. Below are just a few ways to get your website prepared:

  • Ensure branding imagery is on point: From logos to signs, ensure your brand imagery is high quality and clearly visible. This makes your company easier to be picked up and your information served on Google Lens.
  • Fill in all alt tags: As imagery is your most important tool when it comes to Google Lens, all alt tags must be completed in detail.
  • Optimize photo data: Adding to the basics of your image information will help the platform to serve more relevant information to users. On top of image size, date, time and coordinates, use unique, high quality images, use the JPEG format, use appropriate image sizes for your website and add captions that are as descriptive as possible.

By 2018, Google Lens was officially available on both Pixel and non-Pixel phones via the Google Photos app on iOS, in Google Assistant and on the Google app. Languages it supports include; English, spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, German and Korean. This makes it clear how heavily invested Google is in the AI industry, making access to information simpler by the day.