Honda Craves wasting its money on “Cup Cake PPC”

By Tad Miller | Nov 9, 2007
More Articles by Tad


Someone told me about this article and how they thought it was a very interesting idea. The premise is that Honda is advertising its new CRV website on keywords like “cup cakes” and “chocolate” and thousands of other non-automotive keywords as part of its CRaVe Campaign. All the clicks land on Honda’s all Flash website that is essentially a “20 questions” game to guess what you are “craving”.

My first reaction was disbelief. I couldn’t believe that Honda would buy into such an idea or that an agency could in “good conscience” actually recommend such a strategy. I should qualify this by saying I have never been big on the idea of using PPC for “branding” purposes. The effectiveness of pay per click advertising can be measured down to the smallest detail and success metric. These metrics can be used to fine tune and target advertising to maximize the results. Even though no auto manufacturer actually sells their vehicles directly online, there are still key performance indicators (KPIs) like build a vehicle online, calculate payments and contact a dealer that can show what keywords are the most effective. Without KPIs or conversions advertisers are just wasting their money on traffic. They might as well spend their money on billboards along the side of the road…

The CRaVe game doesn’t appear to really have any traditional automotive KPI actions on the site, but does have a link to the Honda CRV page with details about the vehicle and access to all those KPI actions (it requires scrolling down below the fold to see that link). It also has a link to get Honda “news” for E-mail marketing. Essentially its just a game with a few views of the vehicle. There’s nothing that even distinguishes it from any other car. If anything its more commercial for XM radio, which is the console used to ask the 20 questions.

So what’s so wrong with advertising on cup cakes to sell cars? Apart from the obvious stupidity of thinking that click could ever become a sale it doesn’t consider Google Quality Score. Neither does Honda’s all-Flash website that can’t even be read by the Google Adbot. Even if it could be read the site content, the non-automotive keywords being advertised appear nowhere on the site. It’s important to have relevant readable content to the keywords you are advertising on again for Quality Score.

Quality Score is going to determine minimum bids for those non-automotive keywords. I would expect at some point in the very near future those bids will likely rise to $5.00 to $10.00. Which brings up another interesting nugget. I’ve searched on the word “chocolate” at least 100 times since hearing about this and haven’t got Honda’s ad to show up even once. Could the Quality Score be impacting this Campaign already?

Perhaps this “idea” is just to make compelling press releases. They also could be advertising on these words with an intentionally small budget so they don’t waste all their money on these clicks. However this article says they are spending $50 Million on their total advertising push for the CRV.

Assuming I could get one of the ads to show for these unrelated keywords it would also be important to at least have those non-automotive keywords appear in the ad copy to improve Quality Score and Ad Rank.

Google has Quality Score in place to make sure advertisers give searchers relevant ads and a good searching experience. It’s very expensive and difficult to “conquest” on a competitors name and get KPIs or conversions. I’m guessing “cup cake” PPC is even harder.

So what’s going to sell more cars? Chocolate, Gossip or Cupcakes…

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