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With CES, IAB, NADA In The Books, The 2023 Outlook Has Improved

January was, as it usually is, a powerful and insightful month with CES, the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting and NADA 2023 taking place, one, after the other, after the other. The three shows — because of their separate orientations and distinct characteristics — generally provide business leaders with a great sense of what’s to come in the first half of the calendar year. (Analyzing the three shows is sort of like looking at the different stocks in the Dow Jones Industrials to get a sense for what the general market is likely to do.) I try to attend the three shows each year, as they help me set expectations for the agency and our client base. With February upon us, I believe 2023 will be a strong year, increasing my projections upward from just a few short weeks ago.

Of the three events, NADA 2023 left me most encouraged with the months ahead. While car dealers I spoke with at the conference say they are going to curtail expenses, few said they will be cutting marketing expenses. In fact, most dealers I spoke with believe marketing is a must in 2023. Many dealers go one step further, saying ‘brand building’ is a must in 2023. "We have to communicate to our prospects that our mindset has changed,” said a Bay Area dealer. “We have to let our customers know that the ‘profit’ mindset is a thing of the past — and that we are, today, in a ‘service’ mindset. We have to forge relationships grounded in trust,” he concluded.

With this years event in Dallas — as opposed to Las Vegas — there was a different vibe on the show floor and in the meeting rooms. People seemed to be very focused. They were doing research; they were shopping; they were open to buy. There wasn’t the usual chaos that comes with Las Vegas and the Vegas strip. The conversations were both far reaching, and deep. I must admit, I had more conversations about Google Analytics 4 (GA4) than I cared to. There was a lot of talk about data and how it can affect both the sell and buy cycle. It seems dealers will be using data to guide most, if not all, of their decisions in 2023, that they will be taking emotion out of the decision making process.

Now that we are in the era of the digital-enabled shopping and buying experience, technology seems to be taking center stage with dealer groups and dealers alike — dealers seem ready to make huge changes in their business and its operations, and that is exciting. Some dealers are a step behind and because they are behind they are willing to, immediately and urgently, evaluate all aspects of their business — they are evaluating everything, tech-wise anyway. I spent a lot of time with dealers from all over the country — and there were between 40,000 and 50,000 attendees at NADA — who are investigating the tech stack from top to bottom — they’re asking, is it durable, are we agile, how can we enhance the operation?

Dealers are also trying to leverage technology to find efficiencies in marketing, in general, and advertising, in particular. Technology and data will help dealers turn their inventory, and will help dealers create action plans with their inventory. Technological and digital efficiencies appear to be everywhere. Dealers want technology to help them find high-quality audiences. Today dealers are making more of a distinction between in-market buyers and auto intenders. One Florida-based dealer told me he no longer “wants every lead. I just want the leads that will help me move the needle.”

At R2 Media we are all about solutions and how those solutions help our client partners think more strategically about how they buy media, where they buy media, and the messages they are communicating within that media to their customers. The learnings that we picked up at CES (around the latest technology), the IAB ALM (around advertising technology) and NADA (around digital retail solutions in automotive) all come together to help us build strong advertising solutions and bring them to market for client partners.


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