How Honda is Successfully Taking the Physical Showroom Online

April 1, 2021

Key Takeaways

Paid Channel Focus — YouTube: In light of the need to stay indoors due to COVID-19, Honda Canada launched a campaign promoting online shopping for cars. The campaign visibility ranged across YouTube, Facebook and Search. YouTube saw the highest ad spend for this campaign at $340K over February and March 2021, with a +37% budget increase MoM. Facebook saw a $103K spend across February and March 2021, with a -39% budget decrease MoM. For this campaign, Search ads saw a very small experimental spend of >$2K in March 2021. Their strategy focused on very specific keywords such as competitor dealers in Canada. By adjusting their ad spends and experimenting with new channels, Honda opened themselves up to higher campaign accessibility and the ability to see what channel generated more traffic.  

Content Tactic — Creating Compelling Ad Creatives: Throughout the channels used to promote this campaign, Honda maintained a similar creative across YouTube, Facebook, Search and the website landing pages. They maintained four main elements across the creative including: 

  • Clean graphics: Honda built a series of simple illustrations to represent the main aspects of their online shopping program all featured in the bold Honda red. 
  • Bold headlines: Viewers are not expected to guess what each illustration represents and are offered simple headlines to address the main features of each benefit to online shopping. 
  • Copy focused on “you”: The copy clearly indicates that everything is on the viewer’s terms. On Facebook, every carousel tile features “your”. This outward facing approach reminds the viewer that it’s ultimately about them and their ability to choose. 
  • Telling a story: Together, the graphics, headlines and copy tell a story representing the buyer journey, demonstrating how online shopping is easy by highlighting four steps: explore, build & price, save and share.  

Website Coordination — Build Resources to Support your Campaign: Though none of the campaign landing pages lead to the ‘Virtual Showroom’, Honda set visitors up to easily access this page by highlighting it in blue on the primary navigation. This content supplements the entire campaign by giving the viewer the opportunity to assess their car buying experience the way they would in person. Honda creates this through videos about each of their models that feature:

  • Clear Introduction: The showroom is presented with the specific car model and a ‘salesman’ who is welcoming and professional.
  • Key Facts Overview: Key facts are presented on the screen in large font when being addressed so that the viewer can easily take note.

Model Presentation: Close ups and high quality footage of all angles and aspects of the car present details that viewers can continue to come back to.

On average, Google search interest for “Honda Online” has ranged higher than the average equivalent interest across competitors*. In March 2021, Honda saw a +113% difference in search interest compared to their competitors.

Google Search Interest
*Competitor data averaged across Chevrolet, Ford, Hyundai and Nissan

Honda Canada’s YouTube ad spend increased by +47% from January ($569K) to March ($834K) 2021.

YouTube ad spend

In light of the changed buying landscape due to COVID-19, Honda promoted an ad creative that highlights buying cars online.

Click to view

The YouTube ad landing page is Honda Canada’s homepage. The initial banner on the homepage follows up on the advertisement’s message with the tagline “Car Buying. The Couch Edition”. The learn more link leads to a slightly longer version of the YouTube ad. 

Car Buying
Click to view

To supplement the YouTube ad, Honda released a matching Facebook carousel ad to expand the message across platforms. The Facebook ad uses the same creative as the YouTube video.

Facebook carousel ad
Click to view

The Facebook advertisement received a mixture of positive and negative comments.

Often Honda Canada only responded to the positive comments.

ad Comments

While Honda raised the YouTube ad spend for this campaign +26% in March 2021, they lowered the Facebook ad spend -40% MoM. The focus of these ads is to promote the ease of online car shopping stating that their tools provide a safe and easy way to shop from home.

The creative used throughout the Facebook ads, YouTube video and website offer a few key design and copy elements that speak to their customers.

Facebook Ads

The Facebook ad landing page lets users discover all car models available. Users can click on any model to learn more. The ad creative is also portrayed on each model’s landing page.

Landing Page
Click to view -> Click to view

With a small percentage of the ad spend, Honda tested a few Search ads for their online shopping campaign. Their strategy focused on very specific keywords such as competitor dealers in Canada.

Ad spend

Website Content

Honda’s primary navigation features multiple click-through options. A few key links are highlighted in blue to draw in the eye including the “Virtual Showroom”.

Website Content
Click to view -> Click to view

In the Virtual Showroom, visitors have the option to filter by desired car type. They can then watch a short pop-up video about the key aspects of the vehicle.

Typically, these videos range from 3-4 minutes in duration.

Virtual Showroom

The video starts by introducing the specific model and giving the viewer an opportunity to see who will be guiding them through the tour.

The narrator is friendly, welcoming and delivers information succinctly.

Start of the Video

A basic fact breakdown is offered two times throughout the video. Once at the beginning for a set of important overview facts and once at the end for more detailed facts.

The facts are presented neatly and with a large font as the narrator introduces each one.

The Facts

The majority of the video features close ups on details of the car model including the entire exterior and interior, the trunk and under the hood.

While the narrator explains the benefits of the space, he provides examples of objects can fit in the truck or in the back of the car.


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