How Carfax Missed a Big Opportunity in Advertising


Over at Automotive Digital Marketing, there’s been a long discussion started by Jim Ziegler about Carfax and its place in the automotive community. I haven’t chimed in because, quite frankly, I’m not needed there. The discussion is self-perpetuating and there’s no shortage of opinions.

It did, however, catch my attention strictly from an advertising perspective as they have an ad out that misses on more cylinders than I thought was even possible. This physics-bending ad is intended to position Carfax as some sort of secret weapon to be used against car dealers. It isn’t, but that’s not the main reason why the ad fails so miserably.

First, the video itself:

Did you see the biggest problem with it?

Car salespeople are still stuck in the 80s, according to this video. They had a big opportunity to introduce the reality of today’s car buying experience, and that reality is that dealers look at Carfax very closely themselves. They do not want to put out a vehicle that won’t pass with flying colors. Most use it as a selling tool, a vote of confidence that they stand by their product. To position dealers as the enemy is foolish, mostly because there are plenty of people who feel that if something is considered a potential conflict point, they’ll avoid it. Why would you want to make your product appear to be a point of contention during a transaction?

There are many challenges with the way Carfax is marketing, but this is the biggest. Be a conduit between dealers and customers. Don’t be adversarial to one side or the other.

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  1. Jeff Glackin

    Great post JD! I was just saying to Jim that Carfax seems to feel they need to put dealerships in a bad light to remain viable. They have built their company by building fear and doubt in the minds of the consumer.

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