Research proves print + digital ads drive vehicle sales


Vehicle advertisers need to know the facts rather than be influenced by their gut.

With this in mind, Newspapers Canada hired a third party, Totum Research, to answer the key question of what media influences vehicle purchases. A total of 2,461 interviews were undertaken, and the results are fascinating – proving the power of newspaper advertising.

First, we asked those who had bought a vehicle in the past two years about their buying process. On average, from beginning to end, it was a two-and-a-half month process. Newspapers – print and digital combined – proved to be the most impactful at every stage of the vehicle buying process, with the earliest stage (i.e. thinking about buying a vehicle) showing particular strength.

During this buying process, each newspaper medium performs well. Print newspapers scored at the top – above all else – earning first or second place at each stage out of 11 media. Newspaper Web sites earned an impressive standing at third or fourth. This element alone proves the power of newspapers to influence in this category.

Second, we asked consumers which medium triggers visits to vehicle Web sites. Three sites were tested: the manufacturer, brand/model, and dealer. We wanted to understand this as many vehicle manufacturers and dealers are looking to build their awareness and visits this way.

The research found newspaper print and digital combined perform-driving visits to these sites more than any other advertising option. By medium, print newspapers are in the top spot and newspaper Web sites score in the top five (out of 11) for each of the three vehicle Web sites.

Interestingly, 20% of Canadians never visit these vehicle sites, so it should not be an advertiser’s only effort as it is not used by a substantial group of people.

Furthermore, dealers want to encourage visits and test drives. For triggering a visit to a car dealership, newspaper print plus digital scores well above all else with print newspapers scoring number one and newspaper Web sites performing solidly at number three. By far, newspapers are doing the job.

For booking a test drive, newspapers print plus digital and “other non-auto Web sites”* score above all others. By medium, print newspapers and newspaper Web sites perform solidly at number two and three respectively. These scores demonstrate that dealers should be using newspapers to drive traffic to both online and retail locations.

Third, we wanted consumers to tell us what each medium was used for. Print newspapers proved to be the top medium for three key consumer needs: providing general information, comparing prices, and deciding from where to buy or lease.

This demonstrates that print newspapers can be used for branding (i.e. general information) as well as specific information (i.e. pricing and choosing a dealership).

On this front, newspaper Web sites proved to be top medium for sourcing specific information on vehicles versus all other media. The ads here no doubt reinforce the message in print, but also allow the consumer to take the next step and get more information by clicking through.

Finally, we asked consumers about on ads in different media and what works. Three out of four people indicated that they read vehicle ads in print newspapers. Conversely, for social media, only one in seven people looks at vehicle ads. Also, a quarter stated they do not use social media at all!

This research is a powerful statement to the newspapers ability both in print and digitally to effectively deliver vehicle advertising.

All the research is available for use including a 44-page PowerPoint, a two-page PDF overview summary, and a one-page advertiser success story. If you have questions about the research, contact Suzanne Raitt at or 416-923-3567 ext. 234.

* Web sites excluding newspaper, television, radio, magazine, auto media sales, and vehicle manufacturer, model, and retailer sites.

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