We work heavily in the OEM automotive market and the other day I was checking out our client’s competition in the “Luxury Crossover” vehicle segment. I saw many of the brands I would have expected to see, including Acura advertising on that search term. When I clicked on the Acura ad I was absolutely shocked and confused by what I was shown. I fully expected to land on a page for the Acura MDX, what I actually saw was perhaps one of the dumbest uses of PPC advertising dollars (and I’m guessing a LOT of Dollar$) I’ve ever seen.
The landing page was a FLOATING morass of words and thumbnail sized video screens, none of which had anything to do with Luxury Crossovers. Words like “It knows where the sun is” and “It knows when to breath hard” float around with bolder words like “Advancing the Future”. If you click on any of the thumbnail images to see the videos you get 3 or 4 minute videos about Acura drivers who include: A record producer; a woman who trains dogs; a woman who likes chickens; and a standup comedian/TV producer. None of the videos even mention a single vehicle. Its just people talking about themselves.
So what’s wrong with all this? Almost everything! Acura are you taking notes:
1. Load Time for the Flash Site landing page is 5 to 8 seconds. Marketing Sherpa correctly says that 50% or more of searchers will abandon in the first 8 seconds if they don’t see what they are looking for.
2. Once the site actually loads. The searcher will never see what they are looking for. However, there is a very small menu bar at the top that list the various “alphabet names” of Acura Model names: RL, TL, TSX, MDX and RDX. There are no images of any vehicles on the page either.
3. What about Quality Score? Everything is in Flash – what’s the Google Adbot supposed to read? Even if it wasn’t in Flash, I searched for Luxury Crossovers – Where are they? You might as well be advertising on the word Chocolate instead of Luxury Crossover. Google’s Adbot can’t read the site so it thinks it’s about nothing – and this case it would be right.
4. Even if there was content about Luxury Crossover’s on any of the pages with Video, there are links on those pages encouraging you to visit “Acura” branded content on: The Wall Street Journal; Expedia; Wired Magazine; Men’s Health and Forbes. Never divert your PPC traffic to someone else’s website, even if it emphasizes your branding message. Acura paid for the click, why should they pay for that searcher to abandon the sales funnel.
5. The goal is to sell new cars? Not magazines, and not warm happy feelings about dogs or raising kids. What are the KPI’s (key performance indicators) or Conversion points? How is someone supposed to sort through the mess of irrelevant content tied to this page that never even mentions a car and end up on the local car lot?
6. Once you play one of the videos, you can’t page back to see the other content. When you do you end up back on the search results page and guess what the easiest way to get back to the content is? You got it – Clicking on the PPC Ad AGAIN. There actually is a small box to close the video window and get back to the floating morass, but most people are in the habit of just clicking the back button.
7. Search is about RELEVANCE and not branding. I’m sure that Acura’s agency is touting “Time on Site” as a success metric for this page. Time on site only counts if searchers are finding what they are looking for. If searchers are so confused trying to find what they are looking for (Luxury Crossovers) then time on site is an illusion.
It all reminded me of a blog post this past year by Gord Hochkiss: Will Agencies Get Search? Don’t Hold Your Breath. Gord says:
Search is small. Advertisers and agencies like to think big. They like big, bold ideas. Killer campaigns. Knock-your-socks-off creative. Search is none of those things. Search is thousands of micro-niche campaigns. Search is granular and gritty. Search is turning a whole bunch of dials and pulling a lot of levers, to squeeze out new customers a few at a time. You can’t “unveil” a new search campaign, like snatching a sheet off a sculpture. Launching a search campaign is more like putting a million grains of sand into a bucket, one spoonful at a time. That’s not a concept that “brilliant” advertising minds can get fired up about.
Interestingly enough within that same Blog post, I discovered the debate that appears to have “raged” between Gord and Mike Margolin from Rubin Postaer & Associates (which incidentally is the Agency of Record for Acura). For the Record, I’m obviously on Gord on this argument, branding needs to have a limited role in PPC. The only thing Acura is “Advancing” with this branding in this campaign is confusion.
The ultimate irony in all this is a quote from one of the video pages about one of the Acura drivers:
“In an age cluttered with technology for technology’s sake they differentiate the practical from the pointless. It’s an obsession Acura shares with them.”