Should Dealerships Go Over The Top with Advertising?


In advertising, going over the top isn’t such a bad thing. But this isn’t about pricey ad campaigns or even big budget commercials. Over the top advertising is its own segment; OTT is digital advertisement delivered via streaming services. Should dealerships go over the top with their advertising? Auto Dealer Today magazine advises that this type of advertising might be ideal for dealerships.

Here’s what dealerships need to know about over the top advertising and why streaming services might be a great way to get in front of potential customers.


During Covid, streaming services like Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and Netflix became popular choices for those stuck at home during shelter-in-place mandates and/or quarantine. When states began issuing mandates related to health safety measures, many nonessential businesses closed their doors to in-person business.

This meant that entertainment venues like movie theaters were no longer an option for those who wanted to catch the latest Hollywood blockbuster. Movie studios began releasing their latest cinematic masterpieces via streaming services, and this gave consumers a way to enjoy the movie experience without leaving home.

Streaming services reaped the benefits of at-home entertainment. Bloomberg reported that Netflix added more than 20 million new subscribers during the early months of 2020, which marked the beginning of the pandemic in the U.S.

While it was reported that Disney+ lagged in its expected number of subscribers, the streaming service still boasted more than 100 million subscribers. And the movie Luca, which is the latest release from Disney’s Pixar Animation Studios, has recently dropped on the service.

Streaming services have become popular for their convenience and cost. In addition, streaming services also offer their own unique programming…exclusive to that streaming provider. For example, only Netflix subscribers can watch the hit series “Stranger Things.”

Subscribers to streaming services pay a monthly fee for a subscription. Services can be accessed via a phone, tablet or the television. The option of portability means that subscribers can watch—and binge!—content anywhere. Even on vacation.

According to statistics compiled by Statista, more than 60 percent of adults have a subscription to a streaming service. Only 28 percent have remained streamless—that is, they’ve never signed up for a service.


While Statista notes that more than half of adults stream, Auto Dealer Today reports that by 2025, it is predicted that about 60 million households will be streaming content. The takeaway? Streaming services might be the new major media.

This means that for dealerships and other businesses, advertising might need to focus on streaming services. So why is this type of advertising called over-the-top? According to the magazine, streaming advertising enables businesses to reach their audiences directly…enabling them to jump over television distribution.

Auto Dealer Today explains that over-the-top advertising doesn’t have to contend with television programming schedules or other restrictions common with television advertising.


So where should dealerships advertise? Is one streaming service a better fit than others? Where to advertise may depend on budget and other preferences, too. Dealerships can stream ads on Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, Crackle and others.

Unlike other platforms, over-the-top ads can’t be skipped by the user. Think about watching YouTube content and the ads that are shown between videos. Usually the user is provided with the option to skip the ad after only a few seconds. Maybe they see a quick snippet of the ad before hitting that skip option. With over-the-top advertising, there is no choice for skipping the ad.  

Over-the-top advertising via streaming service also may be more budget-friendly for dealers according to Auto Dealer Today. While television advertising could be costly, the magazine explains that dealers could spend only $5,000 for an OTT campaign.


Over-the-top ads can be more targeted than television ads. Auto Dealer Today explains, though, that these ads also should be personal. The magazine uses an example of targeting a family automobile to a subscriber who may be making purchases related to a new baby (like diapers, etc.). This type of targeting, however, is related to over-the-top advertising on Amazon services which can tie into buyer habits on the commerce side.

For dealerships that are interested in pursuing over-the-top advertising, writer Erica Sietsma for Auto Dealer Today advises that they use an experienced vendor for pursuing these media opportunities.


Over-the-top advertising is one digital medium for dealerships to use to get in front of potential customers. However, other online options exist as well. Social media ads via Facebook and other platforms also can help dealerships get noticed online.

Statista reports that Facebook ranks as the top social media platform and boasts about three billion users. YouTube is the second most popular platform followed by WhatsApp.

Ads via social media platforms could include photos of the latest models or inventory and a link that sends individuals to a form to fill out about interest or other data. This call-to-action type ad could help dealerships generate new leads.


What if dealerships have a limited ad budget post-Covid? The pandemic might have hit many dealerships hard, especially smaller dealerships. However, the current microchip shortage also could be affecting dealerships, too. Maybe inventory is limited. Dealerships also could be offering top dollar for trade-ins.

While dealerships can investigate advertising options via social media platforms and streaming services to fit in their budget, maintaining their own social media presence also could help dealerships stay visible online.

Platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter and TikTok allow dealerships to post content specific to their dealership and interaction with current clients and potential clients, too. An active presence on these sites also could help dealerships get noticed beyond just their own geographic area. While going viral on the internet is never a given—there is no prescription for viral content—when content does go viral, businesses could see quite a boost on their social sites.

So what kind of content should dealerships focus on via social media platforms? Each dealership could have its own social media content strategy. Each platform may have a different focus, for example. Instagram, which is very visual, might be the ideal place for dealerships to post pictures of new inventory.

The dealership’s YouTube channel might provide unique videos from the dealership. Videos can include tours of the showroom or even virtual test drives of new inventory. Maybe dealerships showcase a certain car and show a video about the car, focusing on features and showing off the exterior and interior of the vehicle.

Dealerships might be active on Facebook, as this is the most widely used social media platform. Facebook posts can include updates on dealership hours or give followers insight on what’s new at the dealership. This might be a great place to post new promotions or sales. Dealerships also could write posts highlighting staff members to celebrate a work anniversary, birthday or some other honor/award.

Twitter is meant to be brief. Character count is limited. Dealerships may direct followers to their Instagram updates via Twitter or just post updates related to hours or promotions.

What about TikTok? This is a newer social media darling. Gen Z loves TikTok, which focuses on shorter videos. Dealers might become active on this platform to be more accessible to younger consumers. Not sure what to post on TikTok? Keep it concise. Videos are about a minute.

One great dealership video was posted to TikTok from the account sctoyota. The caption over the video is “Real Advice from a Salesperson,” which is in response to a question related to how not to get scammed when buying a used vehicle.

Obviously, other dealerships should come up with their own unique content but the video illustrates the type of content that could be popular from the dealership team. Cool videos that feature new inventory also could catch the eyes of TikTok users.


While streaming services are booming, dealerships might consider investing in over-the-type advertising to reach out to specific audiences. There are many different streaming platforms where dealerships can place their ad content, and a pro could help dealerships find the best placement for the most successful OTT campaign. These ads also ensure that viewers cannot skip their content…as might be able to do on other online platforms.

Social media advertising also could be an option for dealerships that want to maximize online visibility. Facebook, YouTube and other social media platforms offer advertising opportunities. Call-to-action buttons via Facebook ads could help increase leads for dealerships, too.

To further maximize their online presence, dealerships also might want to ensure that they are active on social media. While not all dealerships might have designated team members to handle multiple accounts consistently, staying active on a few social media platforms could help dealerships maintain local visibility and interact with current and potential customers. Social media accounts also could help dealerships update the public on sales, promotions and amended hours (for holidays, inclement weather, etc.).

Not all dealerships have bountiful advertising budgets. For those who are limited in what they can invest in advertising, working with a professional could help the dealership find the best opportunities for their budget.

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