Pitch Brief: Autotrader.com Content Work Project


By Max


This month, online car marketplace AutoTrader, which has been working with MDC Partners’ Doner for more than 16 years, issued an RFP seeking a new creative agency. A spokesperson from AutoTrader told adweek.com that the company isn’t looking for an Agency Of Record but simply a partner for an upcoming campaign since the company is “constantly reevaluating partnerships for new perspectives and fresh thinking.” Do you have a new perspective? If so, we might be able to help you get a fresh take on AutoTrader - through its customer data.


AutoTrader.com, Inc. is an online marketplace for car shoppers and sellers. It aggregates millions of new, used, and certified second-hand cars from thousands of dealers and private sellers. The firm offers its products and services online and on iPhone, Android, Windows 8, and iPad apps. The marketing side of the firm has an editorial team that reviews new and used cars and provides tips and advice via videos, articles, and social media content.

A recent focus on the millennial market

AutoTrader is constantly monitoring trends in the automotive market and has lately been moving towards targeting millennials.

Its 2013 report on the “next generation buyer” was an extensive research study that explored the motivations, opinions and behaviors of this new generation of car shoppers.

For its Fall 2015 campaigns, AutoTrader turned to Zambesi for producing campaigns targeted at millennials. The ads they produced, called “The Journey,” depict the lifestyles of two millennials, one woman and one man, and the search for the perfect car as it changes through the years.



AutoTrader faces stiff competition as an online car marketplace, especially from Ebay Motors, which grabs 36.2% of market share, while AutoTrader.com conquers the lesser share of the market (17.3%).

Moving our focus to Millennials, we split this cohort in two segments: Children, or no children. By measuring this way, we can see how different life stages affect brand choice among Millennial buyers - while echoing the latest AutoTrader ads.

Ebay Motors consistently takes the half of the market share among Millennials, independently of the presence of children. AutoTrader, however, performs better with Millennials who have children than Mojo Motors or Cars.com, but loses shares to Cars.com in the Millennials with no children segment.





AutoTrader's study on the Millennial car buyer highlighted that - more than any other generation - Millennials rely on Word of Mouth when making purchase decisions (46%).

If having a baby is the primary trigger for car research, as shown in the last ad, this presents a potential opportunity for AutoTrader to position itself as a reliable, helpful company for Millennial parents by combining peer review (ie. word of mouth) with a parenting angle. For example, it could introduce a parents forum where peers and AutoTrader customer service reps alike can answer queries and share feedback and tips. Or, AutoTrader could publicize the safest cars for new parents in their next campaign. As more Millennials enter their peak child-bearing years, safety and affordability will be two very important goals informing their car purchases.



Millennial parents looking for a car are mostly Male (60%), living in the Midwest, and in the older Millennial age bracket of 25 to 34. They are college educated and earn an income that places them in the middle class. Most are already married (41%), while the second largest segment (23%) is in a relationship.


The top 10 psychographic traits indicate an audience enthusiastically engaged with the automotive sector. Widening the view, we can observe a lifestyle orbiting around professional careers (business people 185.1), house matters (Homemakers 206.6, Home Decorators 175.7) and hobbies that take them outside (Outdoor Enthusiast 172.1).

Beauty and Fashion interests also reach high shares of this audience, and they are technology friendly with 18.1% of the audience identified as Techies.



Millennials love their apps and use them for just about everything. In order of popularity, Lifestyle apps are on top followed by Travel and Health and Fitness apps. Entertainment and Games apps also reach almost half of the audience.

Insight: The lifestyle apps usage is characteristic of this audience which makes it highly probable that they would be interested installing AutoTrader’s app and search on mobile rather than on desktop. Leveraging the high reach of mobile games, placing mobile ads into their favorite games could lead to good conversions. Moreover, this year’s study of StartApp on mobile ad revealed how Lifestyle app ads (such AutoTrader’s) see higher engagement and higher click-through rates when placed within mobile games (21.8%).

According to an AutoTrader’s study, three of the top five ad formats which prompted research into a potential car purchase are digital. Video ads, Mobile ads and Tablet ads brought 34% of their audiences into the research stage.

Magazines are the most popular source of information and are consumed by 46% of the audience, covering interest areas like Parenting, Hobbies and Cars. Among all the motor magazines, Car and Driver is the most relevant news source.



Insight: The technology-oriented nature of this audience reveals opportunities to increase brand awareness and market shares. For example, while technology plays a big role in the lives of this audience, their limited budgets mean it isn’t always possible for them to have all the technology they want in their new or used car. Partnerships with audio system brands to facilitate or discount installations after the purchase could give a decisive advantage to AutoTrader over their competitors.

Analyzing the sub-segments of the netizens trait, we notice the tendency to use the internet for almost every task (AOTA 117.7 Popularity) including finding financial information online.  AutoTrader has a partnership with Geico Insurance, not present in the top 10 insurance companies of the target audience (which sees Liberty Mutual as the most relevant insurance company), which it might be able to leverage more strongly for mutual benefit.


Moreover, the Millennial audience actively looks for new technologies and trends to implement in their lifestyles, as shown by the techies trait segmentation which sees a major part of the audience falling into the Techsplorers segment and Techno Gamers segment. Partnerships with consumer electronics companies could be a good way to grab their attention. The target is currently engaged by Samsung products as well as audio systems like Bose, JBL and JL Audio.


Insight: The Millennial audience appreciates content that is concise and informative - they won’t stick around for anything less. They’re a practical bunch, preferring videos that portray real, ordinary people, without action or special effects - but with a dash of humor, and maybe even nostalgia.

Millennial parents actively look for a car that resonates with their values for simplicity and pragmatism. Even their Top 10 Book interests reveal their preference towards didactic literature that serves a purpose, more than just pleasure reading.


This tendency becomes even clearer when we look at the most popular website genres, most of which are also practical sources for Career (Business), Beauty & fashion, Kids and Travel information. Reading is not primarily a pleasure but rather an educational activity.

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Topics: Report; Customer Analysis; Market Analysis