Auto dealers enjoyed strong sales in 2010 and several surveys have found that consumer intent to purchase an auto in 2011 is rising. For example, Ad-ology Research recently reported that about 35% of consumers plan to purchase a vehicle this year. To fuel these higher sales, manufacturers and dealers are putting money into new ad campaigns. Some research shops report that dealers are being particularly aggressive about the resources they’re putting into online advertising this year.

New data released by Borrell Associates pegs auto industry ad spending at $22.6 billion in 2011. The spending level puts the industry just below general merchandise stores, which, according to the research shop, is the industry with the highest overall ad expenditures. Dealers and auto makers will increase their ad spending by an average of 7.2% this year.

While dealers expect to sell about 12.6 million vehicles this year, an 8.6% increase over last year, they’ll also see a big bump in used-car sales.

Auto industry advertising by media format for this year will break out as follows:

  • Broadcast TV $2.3 billion
  • Cable TV $1.3 billion
  • Cinema $247 million
  • Direct mail $1.3 billion
  • Directories $231 million
  • Online $7.3 billion
  • Newspaper $5.0 billion
  • Other print $2.5 billion
  • Outdoor $561 million
  • Radio $1.6 billion
  • Telemarketing $294 million

Most automotive marketers are allocating just over 30% of their ad budgets to online formats, a figure that easily surpasses what is being spent on newspaper. The online spending is largely going to banners and paid search, with smaller sums being spent on lead generation and SEO.  Borrell analysts also note that auto advertisers have a much higher than average awareness of social and mobile media and will be ‘aggressive’ in these formats.

[Sources: 2011 Local Automotive Advertising Outlook. Borrellassociates.com. 15 Jul. 2011. Web. 18 Jul. 2011]