Social Media Video for the Automotive Industry

The global Car & Automobile Sales industry was worth $4 trillion dollars in 2018.

In such a highly valued, highly competitive industry, having exceptional digital marketing is crucial to stand out among the crowd. And clearly, there’s a crowd. As of 2018, the U.S. automotive industry spent the most on digital ads out of any industry, second only to retail.

This means the average person likely comes across at least a few car ads per day on social media. It gets overwhelming. They see the same basic formula of car photos + text over and over and tune it all out.

Unless, of course, they see an ad that makes them want to stop scrolling and pay attention. More attention leads to more recall, which can then lead to more conversions.

Although the auto social ad market is crowded, catching your target audience mid-scroll isn’t an impossible task. All it takes is experimentation, humor, and a little keen observation to achieve exceptional results in your automotive social media campaigns.

Need inspiration? Here are a few of the most effective social campaigns by car companies that embraced innovation, wit, and authenticity.


Evidently, social media is an ever-changing game. New formats roll out all the time. As such, brands must adapt their strategies to keep current or risk irrelevance. The most obvious example in social media of this constant change? Instagram.

Since its founding in 2010, Instagram has introduced an array of new features, reinventing social media and social video in the process. Its latest invention, IGTV, has provided brands with a new opportunity to innovate. 

In the auto world, Mercedes-Benz took to IGTV early on with a short film designed specifically for the new format. The First Driver, telling the story of Bertha Benz, wife of Mercedes-Benz co-founder Karl Benz, was the first cinematic video on the platform. This helped position the company as a social media trailblazer.

It was also optimized for vertical video, which makes for a seamless viewing experience.

Vertical video is one of 2019’s biggest social media video trends.

As an added bonus, adopting new social media formats can help automotive companies subtly underscore the technical innovation they champion in their cars. After all, if your brand can handle producing cutting-edge cars (and perhaps even electric vehicles), then why not show that you’re good with all forms of new tech?


Well-behaved ads seldom make history . . . or get likes and shares. Being unafraid to be bold is vital. Sure, there’s a fine line between “witty” and “gimmicky,” but for the automotive industry, it doesn’t hurt to occasionally go a little goofy and off-the-wall. 

Honda Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles’ Shorty Award-winning pre-roll campaign demonstrates that difference. By buying and repurposing old ads from a variety of other companies (that were relevant to their target demographics), Honda Certified was able to both save on their ad budget and get noticed by viewers. The recycled ads also served as a clever way to reinforce the Pre-Owned branding:

Honda Pre-Owned YouTube Ad Screenshot
A screenshot of one of the Pre-Owned pre-roll ads that ran on YouTube. This still features an old POM Wonderful ad.

The idea sounds silly, but the execution is wryly self-aware enough that it works well.


Authenticity is everything for consumers in 2019. Modern audiences seek realistic community, not artificial advertising. They don’t want to feel like they’re being sold something. Instead, they want to feel like they’re just getting a recommendation by an “in-the-know” friend. With that in mind, it’s no coincidence that influencer marketing has become so powerful.

But creating a sense of community isn’t only for influencers. Paying attention to your target audience’s specific preferences and catering (not pandering!) to them can make your brand feel much more human.

Take our work with local dealership Superior Honda. For showcasing the Honda Pilot, we took the typical “here are our car’s features” video ad and localized it to the needs of the New Orleans community.

Superior Honda New Orleans Honda Pilot YouTube Ad Still
Showing how the Honda Pilot is tailgate-friendly is a must to win over the #WhoDatNation.

Grounding these features in a real-world context allows for New Orleanians to feel truly engaged. They’re not being shown yet another generic car ad on their feeds. Rather, they’re seeing their city, culture, and community meaningfully reflected.

Driving Sales with Social Video

Automotive companies, whether manufacturers or dealerships, face challenges in trying to rise to the top of such a crowded market. Accordingly, it’s important for these companies to remember that there can be more to selling a car than simply promoting specs in video ad content.

When using video on your brand’s social media, being creative, having a sense of humor, and relating to your target audience are proven ways to get liked and shared, not scrolled and ignored.

If you aren’t sure how to start (or maintain) successful social and video campaigns on your own, you don’t have to figure it out alone. No matter your needs or industry, Online Optimism can help. Contact us today!