With more new-car buyers returning to the market this year, AutoTrader wants to remind shoppers about the huge array of vehicles and research tools on its site with a new multi-media advertising campaign.

Even in the midst of the recovering economy, new-vehicle shoppers are doing more research online wanting to know more than ever they are getting the right model at the right price.

A new 30-second television commercial at the heart of the campaign portrays AutoTrader.com as the “ultimate new-car marketplace,” where shoppers can compare new models and special offers. It continues some of the imagery from AutoTrader’s successful “Heart and Mind” campaign that has aired over the past year using high-energy music, visuals and graphics to show how the site’s shoppers can compare and review new and used vehicles. The new spot shows a man at home surfing AutoTrader.com for a new car and illustrates his internal process for to narrow his choices for a car that meets his needs and price.

AutoTrader is spending more than $25 million on the ad campaign, which will be “promoted heavily” all year, said Clark Wood, chief marketing officer at the company. He expects to rotate a used-car ad into the mix at the tail end of the year.

The auto shopping and research site offers both new and used cars, but the goal of this ad effort is to attract more new car intenders, Wood said. “As the new-car market continues its recovery and the spring-summer car-buying season heats up, we wanted to use our very memorable ‘Heart & Mind’ imagery to specifically highlight how AutoTrader.com can help people find the perfect new car,” he said. “With more than 1 million new cars listed for sale on our site and an unrivaled suite of tools for reviewing new car inventory on dealers’ lots, AutoTrader.com is one of the largest new-car marketplaces in the country.”

Indeed, AutoTrader.com reported in February that it had set a new record of 17.4 million unique monthly visitors in January, breaking its prior peak of 16.8 million last May. Wood said monthly traffic has continued to hover between 17 million and 18 million unique visitors all year. “We continue to see our traffic grow.”

The new TV commercial is backed by a broad media buy that includes the NBA playoffs, along with HGTV, ESPN, History Channel, USA, Lifetime and Adult Swim. In addition, there’s “DVD on FX” spotlight featuring the new-car shopping process on AutoTrader.com and integrations in original programming.

Two national radio spots similar to the television ad can be heard on the ESPN, Premier, Westwood One and Dial networks.

Doner in Southfield, Michigan, has been the company’s creative ad agency of record since 1999 and developed the new TV and radio spots, as well as last year’s “Heart & Mind” campaign. “Doner has done great work for us,” said Wood.

Online, the new campaign will be targeted at new-car shoppers across the internet via search-engine marketing and social media, as well as video sites YouTube.com, Tremor and YouMe.

AutoTrader worked with Moxie in Atlanta, Ga. and 360i in Chicago for different elements of the online push.

AutoTrader.com, founded in 1997, wants consumers to know it is the top address for new-car shoppers. “About 13 years ago, AutoTrader.com helped change the way people shopped for used cars,” Wood said, “We’ve made similar inroads in how people shop for new cars and wanted to make sure even more people know how AutoTrader.com can bring certainty to this major purchase.”

author photo

Jean Halliday is a seasoned journalist with the nation's longest consecutive run covering auto advertising. Her years in the trenches include stints at Automotive News, Adweek and Advertising Age. The native New Yorker now lives outside the Motor City. You can read Jean's blog at AutoAdOpolis.wordpress.com.

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