Holiday Auto Ads: A winter sales wonderland

Does anybody really wake up on Christmas morning and find a new car in the driveway with a big red bow on the roof? Every holiday season, automotive advertisers work hard to make that happen – and they’ve gone to greater lengths than ever this year. While automotive advertising during the months November and December is typically dominated by messaging for year-end sales events, this holiday season the ubiquitous tactic has been taken to a new level.

From Nov 21-Dec 11, 76% of advertising spending on television from automotive manufacturers and dealer associations promoted sales events. This is up from 65 during the similar time period in 2015. Why has there been such a large increase? Though the industry has enjoyed healthy levels of new-vehicle sales, there’s been a big build-up in unsold inventory over the past few months. According to Wards Auto, as of Dec 1st the industry had a 73-day supply of new vehicles on hand, far above the 60-day supply that is considered ideal.

The overstock appears to be due to more output from certain manufacturers. Wards Auto found that vehicle production in North America rose 3.6% year-over-year this November. Luxury-car production saw the biggest gains, jumping 12.3% above the previous year. Not surprisingly, luxury automotive advertisers like Mercedes Benz and Audi have thus been the most aggressive when it comes to promotions, devoting over 90% of their TV advertising to sales event messaging with the hope of moving these new vehicles off the lot.

Put a bow on it

While traditional retailers may build their entire calendar around the crucial winter holiday season, automotive brands don’t experience quite the same sales surge and are more focused on making monthly sales targets. But given that during the months of November and December the end of month sales events coincide with the holidays, the creative messaging reflects that.

For example, creative during this time period from Mercedes Benz features two parents on Christmas excitedly waking their children and running outside. In the driveway, a new Mercedes Benz with a silver bow on the front and the announcer stating “get a great offer on the car of your grown up dreams at the Mercedes-Benz Winter Event.”


As we inch closer to the end of the year, automotive advertisers will likely begin marketing even more aggressively in order to move more inventory and meet end of year goals. Accordingly, expect sales event advertising to rise even more towards the end of the month. Many sales events are also promoted as lasting through the first week of January to ensure they don’t lose any potential buyers to the holiday frenzy. So even if you don’t see any bow-bedecked cars in your neighborhood over the next few weeks, expect to see plenty on TV.

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