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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Nenni

NADA 2018 Recap

Updated: Nov 18, 2019

This past weekend I attend NADA 2018 in Las Vegas. A few of my industry friends asked me how many NADA shows this was for me. I think 1995 was my first, so that makes this my twenty-third NADA show. For folks that know me, you know that what was most significant, was this was my first NADA outside of Dealer Specialties, Trader Publishing, Dominion Dealer Solutions. I had a great run with those companies, starting with my family business in Dealer Specialties, growing into the powerhouse of Trader and Dominion. The NADA show for me was always an opportunity to connect with key industry colleagues, prove that I could still “work the booth”, sell new dealers, and to connect with old friends.

Today I am on my own, running my Generations Digital in-store digital marketing consulting firm. My mission this year was to take in a large number of demos, to be in a position to make the very best product recommendations I can for my dealer-customers. My primary focus for this year included assessing paid social media providers, looking at new lead-generations providers, while also touching on some of the new attribution dashboards in the market.

For paid social media providers, I received many demos including Dominion’s Prime (my former company, and perennial AWA award winner), PureCars, Digital Airstrike, and Social Dealer. For the demos I sat through, the biggest issues I saw were providers lacking a strong strategy for sales and fixed operations marketing, relying on Facebook reporting vs. Google Analytics reporting, and improperly tagging campaign and referral traffic. I look forward to final demos in the next few weeks to determine the best solutions to present to my dealers for providing trackable, high engagement and high conversion paid social media traffic.

Cox/AutoTrader/KBB/ - If you attended NADA, you witnessed the metropolis that was Coxopolis. I worked for Cox as part of the Trader Publishing partnership, and still have many close friends in the company. They have made some incredible acquisitions over the years, and are now faced with the challenges of integration, retooling, and enterprise reporting using the massive collection of data at their disposal. For my local market in SW Ohio, I’ve gotten to know the leadership team for Cox who market,, and Kelley Blue Book offerings. For companies directly engaging dealers in my market, the Cox team has struck me as the most engaged compared to their peers. The Cox team not only spends considerable time in training and making sure they know their products and the industry deeply, they also sit down with dealership senior management monthly, going over product results and making recommendations for improvement. I sat through a deep demo of their Envision backend tool, that seeks to improve overall reporting for ATC, DDC, while also looping in vAuto and Xtime data. The Cox team is working to expose the entire shopping journey and show attribution for each stop along the way. They are working to include Xtime conversions, as well as use vAuto demand data to determine which campaigns, which keywords are working best and are optimal to run. While Envision is their historical performance tool, the Compass tool is their forward-looking prediction tool around where dealers should make future digital marketing investments (PPC, Display, Retargeting, FB, etc.), based on various dealer goals (i.e. new cars, used cars, fixed ops, etc.). Compass also makes recommendations for paid search based on Cross-Sell type data, to make sure the dealer is geographically targeting the right zip codes, vs. simply using a geographic radius. Best of all, the Cox systems and relationships seek to keep OEMs and tier 3 from inadvertently bidding on the same keywords, inadvertently increasing costs for both groups.

CarGurus - A few weeks into launching my digital marketing consulting firm, after seeing the incredibly strong results from CarGurus, I bought a fair amount of their stock (at just under $30 for those keeping score). I don’t buy a large amount of individual stocks, but my primary goal was to create a reason for staying close to their results. Since many of my dealers are looking for ways to make additional smart investments in traffic-driving strategies, I wanted to see the latest options that CarGurus offered. My demo started off with their Sponsored Listings. These premium listings feature three (3) vehicles at the top of the SRPs and one (1) at the bottom. They told me this number will not increase as CarGurus adds new dealers, so for markets where few dealers buy this premium feature, it will give those dealers a competitive advantage. CarGurus indicates that sponsored listings typically deliver around a 17% increase in leads, and around a 40% increase in “connections”. Connections are defined as: leads + website click-throughs + map views. They also offer display ads on the VDPs, and those same ads will appear on Google’s Display Network. That offering is called Focus ads. It costs a dealer $250 for less than 5,000 VDPs. If you are using Google Analytics to track, those inbound clicks are tagged for Focus as follows: Source: CarGurus, Medium: display, Campaign: focus. CarGurus seems to be on fire, growing monthly in traffic, VDPs, leads, calls, text, chats, etc.

AutobyTel/AutoWeb - If you would have asked my opinion of AutobyTel ten years ago, I would have said they provided low-quality leads for $25 each. Keep in mind I have fond memories of ABT. Pete Ellis and AutobyTel, along with Peter Ill of TraderOnline, Payam and Frank of AutoWeb, Yahoo Autos, StoneAge and others, who were pioneers of automotive digital marketing. Those were the days when my Dealer Specialties business development teams were trying to talk these companies into receiving used vehicle data and photo feeds, vs. using DMS data with stock photos, but that is a story for another blog. Today AutobyTel is now called AutoWeb, and they are positioning themselves as a way for dealers to purchase new car conquest leads outside of their defined OEM PMA, though they also offer used car leads. ABT accomplishes this in a few ways. There is the core lead gen that is done on the ABT website (that they drive with PPC and SEO), but also a daughter window that is left behind on the session, which they charge a per-click fee on each click-through-visit through to the dealer’s website.

PureCars – I have dealers that use PureCars for various offerings, and I know they’ve been in the business for a while, but I really didn’t understand everything they had to offer. I’ve learned that PureCars is truly a full-service provider, including paid search, social, retargeting and much more. They claim they develop over 1 million paid keywords for each dealer, including make, make/model, make/model/year, etc. While I was concerned with the large number of potential keywords generated, they said their algorithms measure the performance of the words and pause those that are not doing well. I look forward to grading some of this paid traffic in the future, to determine if bigger is better, or a more targeted approach (less than 1 million keyword) is better.

So that’s a wrap on NADA 2018! It was a very big show, and I’m sure I’m leaving out many strong, capable providers with great offerings. If you’re attending DigitalDealer24 in Orlando Florida, April 10-12, I’ll be presenting a session on how to grow your used vehicle operations, please join me! If you are an automotive retailer, I would love to help you with a complimentary digital marketing audit, including analyzing your paid search spending. I can help you improve your return on ad spend and gain more transparency with your digital marketing investments. Details here:

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