Shopping site CarGurus is jumping into TV advertising for the first time with a three-city campaign that starts today, April 3.
The third-party site TV ad race has long been dominated by competitors Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, Cars.com and Edmunds. But CarGurus is ready to test the waters in hopes of closing its consumer awareness gap with rivals.
The expansion into TV comes as the site appears to be building momentum. There were reports last week that the company may be preparing for an initial public offering this year. In addition, the consultancy AIM Group said in its 2017 Automotive Advertising Annual report that CarGurus "leapfrogged" past Autotrader and Cars.com as the traffic leader among third-party sites.
CarGurus, founded in 2006, has built its user base through digital advertising and word of mouth. CarGurus sees TV as a way to "move the needle significantly" in consumer awareness, says Sarah Welch, the site's senior vice president of consumer marketing.
CarGurus has selected Denver, Nashville and Austin, Texas, as test markets for its inaugural TV campaign. The site is running two 30-second spots on 40 channels and is investing in prime-time placements.
The 12-week TV push will be complemented with a national YouTube campaign. The lighthearted spots, titled "Guru" and "Detective," reflect some consumers' view that they need special skills to navigate car shopping, while emphasizing the simplicity of using CarGurus.
Welch said several factors went into the selection of the three markets. One was the cost of the ad buys. CarGurus also wanted to test markets that were small enough for it to measure the impact of the spots on awareness levels and site traffic.
CarGurus will use the three cities as "control markets" to measure against other locations. Planning for the TV campaign began late last year.
CarGurus says it draws 23 million unique monthly users and serves more than 21,000 new- and used-car dealerships. It has more than 5 million car listings.
Welch said, "We wanted to make sure [the markets] were pretty predictable in terms of the traffic growth and the lead volume so that we could compare them to other markets, and understand what the incremental lift of adding TV to those markets would be."