Jeep marketer Mark McCraith: Television beats social media at generating car sales

Fiat Chrysler’s chief marketer has said he believes social media is an ineffective channel in generating sales for his car brands.

McCraith's comments came at the MUmbrella/ SMI Spends & Trends breakfast

McCraith’s comments came at the Mumbrella/ SMI Spends & Trends breakfast in Melbourne

Speaking at Mumbrella’s Spends and Trends breakfast in Melbourne, Mark McCraith, who is in charge of brands including Jeep, Fiat and Alfa Romeo, said television was the most effective media, quipping social media was only helpful as a channel for complaints.

“I’ve never sold a car via social media”, McCraith joked from the stage. “It is an avenue for a lot of complaints which does at least does take the pressure off our call centres, I guess.”

After the event McCraith clarified the remark and his comment taking aim at a stage in Google’s conversion sales process called “zero moment of truth”, arguing they should just rename it “television”.

He told Mumbrella: “TV has worked extremely well for the Fiat Chrysler brands, especially for Jeep over the last four years.

“We are yet to see social media show the ability to drive a lead and thus sell a car from activity we have done.”

Fellow panelist Mark Coad, CEO of media agency PHD, said TV in its various forms still had a role to play despite the ongoing debate about falling TV audiences and the role of catch-up TV services and video streaming rivals like Stan, Presto and Netflix.

“The networks are dealing with it in their own ways with catch up TV and their digital plays,” said Coad. “That is very different to social.

“Mark McCraith may possibly have not sold one car on social media, but he has possibly unsold one. There is still a role to play for digital.”

McCraith also discussed the economic market and the impact competition and the falling Australian dollar are having on the business.

“The market has had a record year selling 1.1m cars,” he said. “Interest rates have never been lower, its a great time to buy an affordable car, so that’s the key part. We are also the most competitive market in the world – everyone’s budgets add up to more than 1.1m [cars sold] and everyone is after their share of the market.

“We have lost in currency 31 per cent in the last three years. There is actually a real challenge to our profit and loss in trying to keep prices at the same level, while at the same time retaining our market share at the same time. It is a challenge as is the free trade agreements with Japan and Korea which now mean that Korean cars are far more competitive than they have ever been.”

PHD’s Coad also focused on the outlook of the economy and said he did not expect a return to major growth in Australia.

“I think we are in a period – and I hate to talk it down – where we are going sideways. We will continue (as an economy) to bounce along the bottom for a while and there are no surprises in that,” he said. “We are in for a slow build.”

Coad said the focus on television was important but it was good not to write off other channels in a year when prime time audiences are down some six per cent.

“Television is definitely important – a significant amount of viewing is still done on the black box in the lounge room,” said Coad. “What we have seen is a structural shift in how they are viewing it but that is not to the detriment of what and how they deliver it.

“I’m not heralding the death of TV – it is alive and well – but it is just structurally changing how it goes about its business and technology is a key driver of that. ”

Nic Christensen


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