By Tim Copacia,EVP, Strategic Development, J.D. Power – UnityWorks
Short-form video has skyrocketed since TikTok exploded into
the U.S. market as an alternative form of entertainment. Now over 150 million
U.S. consumers are on the platform, spending nearly a full-length movie’s-worth
of time daily watching all types of consumer-generated video clips about
everything you could possibly imagine. Although platforms like Facebook,
Instagram, and YouTube have enjoyed tremendous growth and success in the past,
TikTok has become a real competitive threat. For this reason, these other major
media platforms have scrambled to find a way to counter TikTok with their own
version of short-form native video experiences.
The founders of TikTok understand that consumers of
all ages and backgrounds enjoy watching short clips of diverse content relevant to their unique interests, passions, and life stages – all from their
mobile devices. And with so many content creators and individuals creating
TikToks, that content is now finding its way onto the other platforms too.
Why Short-Form Video
Is Different than Conventional Video Advertising
Short-form video advertising doesn’t feel like advertising.
It is why TikTok says, “Don’t make ads, make TikToks.” That is the goal for
those looking to use the platform successfully. The content must feel real,
authentic, and even personal to the viewer. You will completely miss the mark if you approach short-form videos like your other digital video ads. With TikTok (or other short-form video platforms), the focus is capturing the
viewer’s interest. That means no in-your-face offers or incentives within the
ad. If viewers are interested in purchasing your product, you can share that
information later in their shopping journey on your own website.
For many, this approach is entirely out of character. Most automotive dealers have, for years, wanted to pack multiple
vehicles, offers, and events in every video message. However, short-form video ads
require a new perspective and commitment. First, you must thoughtfully work to
create interesting content about your featured models or dealership that will inspire
further interest or action. That action may be a click on the “learn more”
button that takes the viewer directly to your website. Or it could be a click
within the app to learn more about the various trims and pricing available on
your lot. Lastly, it may simply inspire someone to like, share, or discuss the
product and features with friends and family. For short-form videos, the
impact of downstream influence on other family and friends is the most
In summary, short-form video advertising is not about "selling" but finding, educating, and entertaining in a personal way to capture viewers' attention within a discovery mindset.
Where to Start
If I were a dealer, I would sit down with my marketing team
and first get to know these short-form apps from a consumer perspective. If you
don’t start there, it will be difficult for you to accept this new approach to
video engagement. The best place to start is TikTok. After you observe how good advertising content is delivered inside the app, you
will better understand how your store can effectively build a
presence and connect with a new generation of buyers.
you better understand the experience, you can start
thinking about how your dealership can shoot and post organic content to the
platform regularly. By the way, this is all FREE. The purpose is to
build a following of consumers who find your content interesting. You can also learn what content resonates within the platform so your dealership
can develop skills and a content strategy. As far as content that resonates, it may be as simple as new vehicle walkarounds, new arrivals off the truck, in-dealership services and amenities, local events, or anything interesting about your products, services, or dealership. Work with your marketing team or agency to build a content plan and start posting. Get creative, and don’t be afraid to show your personality – those who watch your videos will have fun if you’re having fun.
trailblazer dealerships have first-hand experience with the power of using
TikTok to reach new prospects. For example, Lexus of Concord has consistently
posted videos on TikTok and now has over 300,000 followers and 5 million likes
to show for it. As the overall brand, Lexus USA has just 90,000 followers and
370,000 likes. That’s right: a single dealer has three times more followers than
the entire brand. Another example is Lockhart Cadillac, a dealership creating and posting consistent free video content on TikTok. The Cadillac brand
has just 19,000 followers and 196,000 likes. Again, this single dealer has seven times more followers than the brand itself.
Dealers committed to developing consistent and
relevant organic content are selling cars from their efforts.
Yes, I understand this is a big commitment for your store. But for your dealership to get visibility in front of a new generation of auto buyers, you must create a presence on TikTok and the other short-form video platforms available. Effective short-form video creative impacts performance more than other platforms.
Custom Video Content
dealers won’t pursue an organic video content strategy for short-form video
platforms. Those who see the value but are uncertain on how to get started can
begin by testing paid advertising. This is table stakes today. Like the
other typical digital video platforms, ad units can be placed on these
platforms but require “built-for-mobile” ad content appropriate for the
TikTok has thousands of content creators you can hire to
establish your dealership message. For many advertisers across categories,
hiring a TikTok content creator to construct authentic messages about a
particular car or your dealership is an option. These creators generally have
their own following, which can help ensure your message gets heard from the start.
However, I would be a bit uncomfortable going this route. I
believe the best and safest way is to create the content yourself or engage a
professional video content and campaign provider to shoot content and then
create a series of ad units placed in rotation each month on your
You should shoot this content in portrait format from an
iPhone. Focus on capturing the coolest product features of the models on
your lot or the unique experience shoppers can expect from your dealership.
Once ads are complete and ready for serving, the overlays on top of your ad
will subtly identify it as sponsored content and allow interested viewers to
like, share, or click for further information.
We have found that running paid ads on TikTok has a lower
CPM than Facebook, Google DV360, and YouTube.
Our Experience with Learning
to Use TikTok
UnityWorks is a pioneer in digital video advertising, and
like other industry digital marketing companies, short-form video content is
much different from what we typically create. We began by conducting a deep
dive into the TikTok platform and developed an understanding of the environment
and the best practices for content development. From there, we decided to focus
on model-based ads highlighting the most surprising or unique features to stop
a viewer from rapidly scrolling through their “for you” page.
We then conducted our own video shoot and engaged talent
(including a TikTok automotive influencer) to help tell the story. At times, the talent would just make expressions or hand gestures, and at other times, speak into the camera while conducting a rapid-fire vehicle walkaround.
We knew the features we needed to capture and set out first
to create a robust library of “built-for-mobile” footage that we could later
edit from. Unlike other digital video ads which use ad planner b-roll footage
from the OEM, we believe it is best to shoot content exclusively for these
platforms. It’s not about slick Tier 1 content but product clarity and
authenticity. Our first shoot was for the Ram 1500. We captured all the key features that make this product desirable, including the Ram Box
storage, multi-function tailgate, incredible interior storage, and the big-screen entertainment center. We also conducted a night shoot to capture the
intrigue of interior and exterior lighting. In addition, we used various music tracks that
aligned with current TikTok trending music. We also used the TikTok automated
voice at times and different interesting graphic and visual cues to make the content fit into the TikTok world of entertainment.
After we created 10 ad units, we began to learn what was
working best and adjusted along the way. We rotated three ad units per dealer
per month and ultimately delivered many effective ad units that
generated strong viewer engagement.
We also took our learnings and applied them to the new Grand
Wagoneer. There, we created 15 diverse ad units from a single custom video
shoot that captured the beauty and unique features of this new premium
How Brands Can
Leverage Short-Form Video Content for Their Dealers
Brands need to work with video content providers who can
deliver the type of content I just shared for Ram and Wagoneer and make it
available to all their dealers. The content is easily customizable via
overlays for any dealership that sells these products. This approach allows
brands to offer a scalable solution across TikTok or other short-form video
reduces the pressure and cost for the dealers to create their own organic or
paid ad content. With video content ready to place in the market each
month, dealers can stay in front of potential buyers.
Unfortunately, most brands and dealers have not
effectively developed a consistent digital video strategy. The industry has
been overwhelmed with paid search; sadly, video continues to be an
afterthought. In addition, legacy companies are not investing in production
and prefer templated OEM-produced creative that does not benefit the consumer
or dealer in a meaningful way.
Therefore, I have limited confidence that brands and dealers
will embrace this new short-form video opportunity. What’s amazing to me is
that this is where the new generation of consumers spends most of their time. But for whatever reason, neither the brands nor the dealers are in the game. It is a greenfield opportunity for those brands and dealers who intend to grow
their market share in the coming years. I also believe the EV story is
ripe for these platforms.
Perhaps the only way brands will fully benefit from these
new short-form video strategies is if the direction comes directly from the
top. So, the brand CMO must champion this initiative and drive retail marketing
teams to formulate plans for a scalable short-form video strategy across the
Lead or Get Out of
Overall, short-form video is the future of advertising, and automotive dealers must stay ahead of the curve.
Fundamentally, media is about buying the attention of a
targeted audience at the right time. However, as consumer attention shifts towards
short-form video, it is time to reevaluate channel investment towards discovery
channels and full-funnel marketing – not the last click (return-on-ad-spend)
game of the past decade. The future is here, and new vendors will emerge
as leaders. The winners will come from the first movers, not the traditional
Now is your chance.
Tim Copacia is the Executive Vice President of Strategic Development at J.D. Power UnityWorks. He
is a former agency CEO and automotive pioneer in digital marketing, CRM,
customer experience management, and data-driven video experiences. He has held
executive-level roles at BBDO, Wunderman/Young & Rubicam, Campbell Ewald, and Ross Roy/InterOne Marketing Group. He has led multi-million-dollar omnichannel
marketing programs across all marketing tiers for several major OEMs.