Mercedes-Benz Ads Get Local Flavor

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Mercedes-Benz is using geographic online ad targeting to generate test drives and requests for information at its dealerships.


"The goal is to get customers to the dealer level as quick as possible. The creative and click-through [URL] is generated on the fly," said Harris Damashek, senior account manager for agency Critical Mass, Chicago, which is working with New York-based Poindexter System's ad-serving technology to geographically target online ads for Mercedes.


The technology identifies the users' locations when they visit certain sites, including USAToday.com and Weather.com, and customizes the ad unit with the local Mercedes-Benz dealer.


For example, a visitor to Kbb.com (Kelly Blue Book) enters his ZIP code when he gets into the site. As he uses the site's research tools, the nearest Mercedes' dealer's name and click-through URL appear on the ad units, based on the user's ZIP code and Internet protocol address.


"We want to bring the things that work so well for classified advertising -- the fact that it's local, that it's specific, that it's dealer-centric -- down to our [online] ads," Damashek said.


Mercedes-Benz and Critical Mass have been testing the program with 34 dealers for about a year. The aim was to direct consumers to specific dealer sites rather than the main corporate site.


In addition to sending a lot of traffic to dealer Web sites, the geo-targeted ads generated new leads. Eleven percent of prospects visiting the dealer sites took post-click action, Critical Mass said. Seven percent of those actions were sales inquiries, and the rest were requests for test drives, literature or other information.


"Creative costs were minimized as well because the dynamic generation of ads was template-based," Damashek said.


With about 45 Mercedes-Benz dealerships now participating, Critical Mass is exploring allowing the individual dealerships to create messages in the ads.


"Maybe they want to feature a certain car that isn't selling as well," Damashek said.


Critical Mass also wants to add a "call" button to ad banners in the future so consumers can request a call from the local dealer on a specific day and time.


"We will create units that are more actionable at the dealer level," Damashek said.


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