The Moment of Truth – Battle of the Big Cats Round 2 Judging

March 30, 2017

It’s time for the final verdict on the Google Adwords debate. Chris Leslie and Josh Mitchel both served up their thoughts. Now which one will convert? (See what I did there? That’s a PPC joke.) It’s time for the judges to weigh in and declare a winner for Round 2.

Let’s hear from our panel of unbiased judges: Jenn Dunstan, Marketing Director (FlexDealer), Jason Stum, Director of Strategy (Launch Digital) and finally Bill Playford, Vice President (DealerKnows).

JASON STUM – Launch Digital Marketing

When judging the first round of Battle of the Big Cats, I received a fair share of good-natured jabs for “fence sitting” for declaring the round a tie. I still stand by that judgment. But, you can rest assured that for Round 2 there is one definitive winner for this topic of debate – and that’s Josh Mitchell.

Here’s why…

When it comes to developing a marketing strategy for a car dealership, there is no shortage of digital (and traditional) mediums to spend your limited marketing dollars on. I’ve always been of the opinion that there are no such thing as bad mediums, just bad messages. The trick is identifying which mediums and messages will resonate best with the consumers in your market area. You can debate the effectiveness of certain mediums from market to market. However, Paid Search is one of those mediums that isn’t only effective in just about any market. Today, it’s a necessity.

The obvious reason and one we all understand are that people use the Google when they’re shopping for a car. It’s fairly obvious that mobile usage has now surpassed desktop usage in our everyday lives. Keeping those two things in mind, have you recently put on your consumer’s hat and performed a car shopping related search on your phone to see what the results look like?

I took the liberty of doing that for you. Watch the video I recorded on my phone for the search, “Chevy dealers near me”.

As you can see, there are four ad spots that hit the searcher right in the face. These ads take up the entire screen on a phone. Not to mention, searchers are given easy engagement opportunities with local call and driving direction extensions enabled. This is Google’s way of saying Look no further, tap here!!!

Let’s say, though, that for whatever reason, the user decides to scroll down. What do they see next? The Local Map Pack with three dealerships displayed and another engagement opportunity for the user to hit the drop down arrow for “more places,” which will then take the user off the SERP and into the Local Finder. There, they can then engage with any dealership that tickles their fancy.

For the sake of argument, let’s say, despite the well organized and engaging information the searcher has been presented thus far, they still haven’t taken an action. So, they leave the Local Finder, go back to the SERP. After a couple of swipes on the screen, they’re now presented with the organic search results. As you know, depending on the search and the health of your SEO, your dealership may or may not be present.

In a perfect world, your dealership would appear in all three areas where a searcher can find you: Paid Search, Map Pack, and Organic Results. The reality though, is that the one area where you have the most control over being found and the message that is presented, is through paid ads.

Knowing that this is what consumers are seeing on their smartphones today, how can you justify NOT having visibility through paid search campaigns that are targeting any combination of name, make, model or dealer near me type searches? I know I can’t.

Full Disclosure: Jason works for Launch Digital Marketing, a full service automotive digital marketing agency. But even if Jason didn’t work here, his opinion on this subject wouldn’t change one bit.


It’s probably going to come back and bite me in the rear, but I agree with Chris’s position on this, or at least how I interpret it.

Josh makes some good points regarding responsibility. Let’s face it: car salesmen are stereotyped as duping people. If you invented pulling the wool over someone’s eyes, you shouldn’t let it happen to you.

You know I’m saying this with a grin, but it’s mostly true. Google offers straightforward and free training on the majority of its products. You can take the majority of the exams that the agencies take. If you get duped, it’s mostly your fault. That, however, is where the agreement stops.

I did a word search on Chris’ post, and my browser did not return the word “dead” in the body of his text. Throwing a bunch of money at ANY advertising platform is a waste when those who are responsible for raising revenue aren’t moving more product. This is especially true when you are competing against a manufacturer marketing association or, worse yet, the OEM itself.

You may be rich, but their pockets are much deeper.

Yes, Google nearly has a search engine monopoly. But, does that imply that those searchers somehow have more of intent to purchase a vehicle? AdWords is there to provide cash to support all of Alphabet’s money pits side ventures. Google has been super generous to me over the past couple of years. But, it’s in Google’s best interest to never tell anyone to use its platform less. It is going to give you every shred of data to prove it’s a good idea.

Does that sell more cars by itself? Absolutely not. Google will do the best for Google. You need to do the best for you.


After reading Chris’ thoughts, I’m relieved that my agency works with a set management fee, unrelated to ad spend. Budget decisions and recommendations are best left to the unbiased. At risk of your eye rolls, my response to Chris and Josh’s arguments is a wholehearted “Here, here!” To both.

Digital marketing is only successful with an omni-channel approach. This means that outbound advertising cannot be synonymous nor exclusive to AdWords. In the same breath, any educated strategic discussion still must begin with Google. If 78% of new vehicle buyers use search engines during their shopping process, there’s a disproportionate chance that they’re ‘Googling’ these queries.

Where companies and their third-party vendors fall apart, is by stopping the conversation there. Rather than making AdWords the scapegoat for your digital marketing failings, dealerships must expand their focus by including other notable mediums.

Josh’s case to use your consumer data to calculate where, when and how much to spend, is sage advice for our ever-changing digital ecosystem. And while we can sit back and wait for the ‘Ups’ regardless of online source, the messaging performs best when it bleeds offline, and into the eventual 1-on-1 conversations.

I give this round’s point to Chris, for encouraging a critical look at ad budget. Don’t forget that most franchise dealers have the luxury of leveraging their OEM’s search presence. In their case, it’s the perfect time to experiment in less-predictable, more-creative arenas like Instagram, YouTube and Twitter, without forfeiting exposure in search.

Editor’s Notes

Chris Leslie has clearly mounted a comeback in Round 2 winning decisively over Josh Mitchell. All of our efforts are best served with a solid mix of accountability, data and common sense.

Here at Nextup, we know all-too-well what Missed Opportunities are present when we don’t properly assess our data, spends and staff properly.

Round 3 should be a doozy!

Who won? Cast your vote!


How do you feel about Adwords?

Adwords is dead and is wasting my money!Adwords works well for me!


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