Automotive Advertising: Nailing or failing it?

13 April 2021

Using our pioneering neuro-led research service, Engagement Insights®, we measured image perception against key marketing values, campaign imagery from leading brands across the Automotive, Fragrance, Cosmetics, Watches & Beverage sector, in order to produce tangible results and deepen our understanding of what visual ingredients emotionally engage your audience.


Over the next few weeks, we will be delving deep into our findings sector by sector, unveiling key insights into demographic splits. First up, we’re sharing and analysing our results from the Automotive sector.


As an industry, Automotive leads the way in design and technology but also has the highest advertising spend, largely driven by high customer desire and significant competition.

The images we tested in the Perception Index® for the Auto sector focused on European SUV 2019 campaign launches, as the SUV is the most popular car model. Along with the attributes tested across the whole benchmark, the sector value we selected to test against was high performance.


Read more about sector values in this SBBlog.


The Results

When comparing all sectors tested, Automotive imagery overall scored the lowest across the entire benchmark - across all attributes. The results showed significantly weak associations with premium quality, distinctiveness, and progressiveness.

Considering Auto is an industry run by latest technologies, quality and personalisation, these images produced by traditional shoot methods do not convey these traits to the consumers effectively. So why are Auto brands still spending high costs for ineffective ads? And why aren’t Auto advertisers doing more to step outside the box and streamline their creative?


PI Sector overall table




This sector is perceived as the least unique, suggesting a lack of distinctive and original imagery in the Automotive sector. This is mainly driven by respondents in the UK, (where SUVs are popular), who may have been overexposed to these types of images and car models.

In the US however, the SUV marketplace is in competition with their more commonly used pick-up trucks, therefore may not be as saturated allowing for a stronger perception of distinctiveness.


PI Sector - Auto uk vs Us



Considering all attributes, women ranked the Automotive imagery last against all other sectors tested. When considering that women are actually more likely to purchase an SUV than men, yet the imagery being used is not pulling the correct emotional levers in this demographic.


image (13)-2




Overall, the Auto brands’ imagery have a very weak association with high performance - driven by younger audiences (under 40s) having a relatively low perception of high performance.

Automotive is one of only two sectors where the sector values perform stronger for younger respondents Vs older respondents.


Auto deepdive over 40s vs under 40s



In conclusion, although the Automotive industry pride themselves on being innovative, progressive and having the latest in cutting edge technology, this does not translate through their advertising. According to the neuroscientific results from consumers of many different demographics, the Auto industry needs to step up their ad game across all attributes, especially unique and positive.

Traditional shoot methods are restrictive in terms of creativity, not to mention expensive, time consuming and harmful to the environment. Explore the world of virtual production, and discover how CGI can bring your ideas to life, save your costs, eliminate the need to travel and most importantly - engage your audience. 

Stay tuned for the insight scoop on the other sectors we tested in the Perception Index®


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