Google Vehicle Ads: Everything we know about new advertising format

  • Google revealed more details about its forthcoming Vehicle Ads format at Car Dealer Live
  • Google’s Mohammad Lone took to stage to explain the ad solution and how it would work
  • Format still in closed beta testing, but car dealers can apply to be part of the test

Time 11:04 am, March 18, 2024

Google has revealed more details about its forthcoming Vehicle Ads format for car dealers in the UK.

The search giant presented its new advertising format at the recent Car Dealer Live event and explained that while the product is in ‘closed beta’ testing with select dealers right now – others can get in on the action.

Google’s Mohammad Lone, omnichannel strategist, told Car Dealer Live guests that dealers need to reach out to their Google account managers to ask to be included in the testing.

On stage, Lone explained how Google’s Vehicle Ads format – which displays car dealers stock at the top of searches in a shop style carousel – works, and how dealers can get the best results.

A video of his session at the event has been published above. All other sessions from the event can be watched in full with a replay ticket on the Car Dealer Live website.

Final dates for the full launch of Vehicle Ads have not yet been confirmed, but a full roll out is expected in the spring.

How do Google’s Vehicle Ads work?

Car dealers need to provide a feed of stock from their website to Google. A number of partners can already do this, so dealers need to speak to their DMS companies or website providers to help. 

Google uses these feeds to create display ads that sit at the top of a user’s search in a familiar shopping style carousel. 

Users searching for local used cars – with terms as wide as ‘BMW X3’ – near them will be served up the ads and if they click them they will be sent through to the car dealer’s website. The ad showcases a picture, price and some basic details on the Google search page.

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Lone said: ‘The more quality you put in, the better quality you get out. So, for example, make sure you input high quality assets of your vehicles. 

‘Inputting as many different angles as possible is incredibly important. It helps your campaigns perform and it helps your campaigns be cost efficient.’

Google's new vehicle ads format

And what happens after that?

When a user hovers over the advert, Lone explained it becomes slightly bigger and if they click it they’ll be taken to that car’s landing page on your website. From there, dealers can choose what to push to the customer – test drive bookings, a call, or directions to the dealership. 

‘Dealers need to set their calls to action and tell Google what is most important to them so they can track performance,’ added Lone.

What type of stock does it support?

The product launched in the United States, Canada and then Australia. Tweaks have been made for its roll out in the UK and it caters for both new and used cars.

Google uses AI in the format so you can feed it with images, logos, videos and other details and it will produce your ad in the right style to customers across its platforms including Gmail, YouTube, Search and Discover. 

Should Google Vehicle Ads replace other advertising mediums car dealers use?

Lone told guests that this could complement the likes of Auto Trader advertising but the difference here was ‘people use Google as part of their daily lives’.

Lone did not think car dealers should change their existing advertising, but test with Vehicle Ads instead. He told the audience that Google advertising was intended to be a ‘profit centre’ for partners. 

‘When you invest one pound on this platform, we want you to make three pounds, because then you’ll be happy with it and you’ll continue investing in it,’ he said.

‘So I would really look at this as less of an additional cost. It’s a new opportunity to find new customers, and ultimately, to make more revenue for the business.’

Lone said it is ‘impossible’ to give a cost to the advertising solution as every advertiser can choose a different budget. He said dealers should think about what they want to get out of the adverts and then track the results of any campaigns carefully.

Google at CDL 24

Mohammad Lone spoke to James Baggott at Car Dealer Live. Watch the video interview at the top of this page

Can dealers set up Vehicle Ads themselves?

They can, but it involves reading up on, and understanding, the feed requirements. One suggested that dealers look into this in detail first as they will need to have their feed of stock ‘approved’.

Lone added: ‘There are many business partners out there who are experts in feeds. So find the right partner for your business – that can help you quite a lot.’

Lone said the dealers who are getting the most out of the beta test are those that have taken a little longer to work out what they want to get out of the adverts – be that a call, a test drive, a reservation or something else. 

‘The key thing you need to make sure you do is tell the system what’s worth what to you,’ added Lone. ‘If you tell it what a call is worth to you and what a reservation is worth you can work out accurately what the ROI is.’

Lone explained that maintaining your feed is important too, ensuring it is kept up to date. Lots of ‘high quality’ images are important too with ‘minimal/plain backgrounds’.

Lone said dealers should run campaigns for at least four to six weeks to get sufficient data.

Which dealers are being accepted onto the closed beta test?

While no specifics of who is currently on the test, Lone told Car Dealer that Google had been looking for a mix of car manufacturers, dealer groups, marketplaces and independent dealers.

‘They need to be open to new products and willing to test, learn and give feedback,’ he explained.

Dealers can apply to be part of the test via their Google account manager.

More details on the Google Vehicle Ads can be found in this ‘Performance Max’ campaign guide.

Watch the full interview with Lone from Car Dealer Live at the top of this page.

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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