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Autotrader - Screwing Dealers and Helping Competing OEM's

reverson

Jr. Refresher
Mar 21, 2012
288
317
93
First Name
Ryan
Like most dealers, we are begrudgingly paying Autotrader tens of thousands of dollars a month to list our cars on their website.

I've become accustomed / numb to seeing OEM banner ads on Autotrader SRP pages, however I've always felt that the VDP has been the one page that focuses primarily on my dealership.

However when I just checked out my VDP's I noticed that Autotrader is pushing my dealership contact information (phone number, address, website link, contact form, etc) below the fold so they can serve a competing OEM's banner ad???

Toyota is one of Honda's largest competitors. Why am I paying Autotrader all this money to turn around and try to conquest my Honda shoppers and make it more difficult for customers to contact me?

I'm a reasonable guy so I would be fine with a Toyota ad at the bottom of my VDP but not at the very top above my dealership contact information! I know Cars.com and CarGurus serve banner ads on VPD's too, but there's a big difference - the dealership contact information is still front and center.

Who does Autotrader care more about, their dealer clients or competing manufacturers? The answer is apparent and a new low for Autotrader. Autotrader should be reimbursing dealers for any banner ad revenue they've generated off of our backs.

autotrader-vdp2.jpg
 
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jon.berna

D.R. Truth
Nov 14, 2011
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157
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Jon
Wow, so is there a package that ensures other banners don't render on a VDP? Not that I agree with that but just curious
 

reverson

Jr. Refresher
Mar 21, 2012
288
317
93
First Name
Ryan
Wow, so is there a package that ensures other banners don't render on a VDP? Not that I agree with that but just curious
I asked this exact question because I know CarGurus offers a similar "focus" ad-free package but I was told they do not offer such a package. Not that I would even pay it if they did.

This has to be hurting their shopper engagement stats and making it even tougher for them to justify their existence to dealers.

Honestly all they need to do to rectify the situation is reorder the layout of the VDP to push the dealership contact information back up above the fold.

This is happening nationwide with all dealers so I feel they have an uproar coming.
 
Reactions: Alexander Lau

Steve Stauning

Jr. Refresher
Mar 15, 2012
231
156
43
First Name
Steve
First... WOW!

Not sure the dynamic at play here, but when you're selling your clients on VDP views and Attribution, reducing leads and calls from a VDP (by putting the contact info and calls-to-action below the fold) should (assuming some basic human nature here) increase the number of VDPs a given visitor will see.

None of this is good for the paying dealer, of course.
 
Reactions: Alexander Lau

jon.berna

D.R. Truth
Nov 14, 2011
136
157
43
First Name
Jon
They serve many masters. The revenue from display ads is nothing compared to the dealer revenue. (Avg dealer VDP pageviews x number of dealers x cost per impression) This to me from my napkin math is 2-5M in MRR, I have no idea though.

This is a mistake
 
Reactions: reverson

craigh

Super Moderator
May 19, 2011
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Craig
Who does Autotrader care more about, their dealer clients or competing manufacturers?
Money.
They sell every image, advertising slot, placeholder text and square inch of white space for the almighty dollar.
If they can charge you and the OEM, they're going to do it.

DealerRater had a similar model as well - if you didn't pay for premium DealerRater, they would advertise your competitor on the top, side and bottom of your dealership listing page.

It's dirty, but at least they offered an out.
 

reverson

Jr. Refresher
Mar 21, 2012
288
317
93
First Name
Ryan
Money.
They sell every image, advertising slot, placeholder text and square inch of white space for the almighty dollar.
If they can charge you and the OEM, they're going to do it.
Yeah I'm completely fine with Autotrader charging us both and having OEM's help subsidize our listings cost through their display ad spend. (I know this is naive to think that's what would actually happen with the display ad spend but in a perfect world that's what would happen)

What I'm not fine with is it negatively affecting our results and common sense says this will lead to a reduction in phone calls, directions, leads, etc.

I'm sure they're going to get enough pushback over this that they re-arrange their page layout back in dealers' favor soon enough.
 

craigh

Super Moderator
May 19, 2011
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Craig
Until you can stop listing on AutoTrader, they're going to keep doing this.
It's far worse up here in Canada where Trader.ca essentially has a 50/50 market split with Kijiji (with 80% overlap).

They do anything they want and dealers just grumble about it. They also replicate the services of any third parties that start to take business away from them, making it "easiest" to just stick with Trader. This is why they now offer high resolution photos, 360 spins, comments, etc.
 

ryan.leslie

Sr. Refresher
Apr 20, 2009
577
494
93
First Name
Ryan
Interesting that this came up on a Tuesday, because it was discussed at length many moons ago by a lot of us before the forums existed. I just scrolled through: Uncle Joe, Jeff, Alex, Lightnup, Paul Rushing, Dennis Galbraith... some guy that went by JL that couldn't disclose his real name because he wasn't sure if his employer would still employ him... ah, the good old days ;) The interaction on this old blog post from 2008 birthed the forums in my opinion, and as much as has changed, here we are discussing monetization of user-generated content (dealer inventory) and the appropriateness of "leaks" that may distract the user (ad placements) almost exactly 10 years later!

If you are up for a trip down memory lane, this is a good one: https://www.dealerrefresh.com/blueprint-series-third-party-lead-providers/

I agree with you @reverson, the portals will respond to the requests of the dealers, they ultimately have to. Without dealer inventory, they don't have content. Without content, they don't have eyeballs. Without eyeballs, they aren't monetizing that ad real estate anyway.

That is eventually what happened in 2008 when dealers were concerned about links to affiliate industries on the VDP. I'd guess the equation resolves in the same way in 2018.
 

Jeff Kershner

Founder
May 1, 2005
3,464
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Jeff
@ryan.leslie, funny that you deep linked to an article from @Alex Snyder in 2008. Here's one where I bitched about somewhat of the same practice in with outside banner ads in prime position on a dealers AutoTrader.com VDP in 2006- https://www.dealerrefresh.com/dan-marino-looses-22lbs/ - unfortunately the images no longer show up.

With that being said, I haven't been on Autotrader.com in quite some time. The last time I was, the VDP's were so loud, slow to load and clumsy that as a consumer I was turned off.

The question is, does that banner in that spot have any true effect on the consumer that's shopping for the vehicle YOU have listed or is it nothing more than an overlooked distraction? And at that point, who really cares?