In April 2008, I blogged about a pretty dramatic change in strategy for General Motors PPC advertising. They effectively took away all non-branded keywords from all of their automotive brands: Chevy, Pontiac, Cadillac, Buick, etc. Instead, they used GM.com as the URL to own all of these keywords like: small cars, mid size sedans and crossover vehicles.
These clicks landed on a page that evolved over time, but at one point displayed up to 36 different GM brand models on the same page leaving the searcher to figure out how to drill down to what they were looking for. Needless to say it didn’t exactly put the best foot forward like a landing page should do. But to be honest I don’t think conversion metrics were what this strategy was about.
GM bid exorbitantly high on these kind of keywords and essentially owned the number one ad position, at least on Google, from about April to January 2008. We manage another automotive OEM’s PPC accounts, and I was really tempted to try and find out just how much it would cost to be number one on some of those keywords, but I never had the guts to do it. My guess is that they were bidding upwards of $25.00 on many of those keywords. All of which are far from being great converting keywords. Essentially this was a “branding” buy targeted more toward spend than the actual results it delivered.
In March of 2008, it was reported that GM was going to be spending $1.5 Billion on online advertising. But alas things have changed quite a bit in the last few months, and GM is now begging the government for billions. Advertising Age says that GM spent over $212,038,000 on Internet advertising in 2007. In late October GM cut its 2008 advertising, but didn’t say how much it cut. GM apparently cut its 2009 advertising budget by 20%, but didn’t specify how much that marketing budget actually was.
So now they are back to letting each brand, bid on non-branded terms and taking up half the ad positions with all of their ads. I’m not sure if this is really any cheaper in spend, but is likely more effective in driving conversion or KPI actions on those sites than dumping them on a landing page with 30 cars on it.
Whether this is a change in strategy or the result in advertising budget cut backs is unknown, all I know is that it’s much more expensive to compete against 4 GM brands than against one. From an ROI perspective I was happy to cede the number one ad position to GM and bid to my results rather than to an ad position.
Even with budget cuts and bailout discussions, at least for now GM is still the biggest spender on the block for automotive PPC marketing.