Blog Home Business Marketing The Most Clickable Creative Trends in the Auto Industry

Which cars perform best in campaigns? What type of location should you set your ad in? We consulted AI to find out. Buckle up!

What comes to mind when you think of a car commercial? Do you see a flashy sports car traveling at top speeds? Or a stylish, sophisticated sedan cruising through a city?

We probably all have some preconceived notions of what an effective ad in the automotive industry looks like. But, only data can tell us how these popular tropes perform. 

To find out what’s driving clicks in the automotive industry, Shutterstock.AI analyzed every piece of creative it has on cars. Through this analysis, the tool uncovered: 

  • Which models of cars are getting clicks right now.
  • How color palettes have changed for the industry.
  • Which settings perform best for automotive ads.
  • And, what types of detailed shots are most engaging. 

Start your engines, because we’re about to take a ride down the information highway.


Showcase Safe Cars

Shutterstock.AI’s consumer engagement data shows that audiences care about one thing above all—safety. Yet, research shows that approximately half of all U.S. car ads depict dangerous driving behavior. Perhaps many auto advertisers don’t quite understand what consumers want? Let’s fix that:

Cars with the highest click-through rates (CTRs) are sedans and SUVs, both of which often prioritize comfort and safety for riders.

In fact, sedans have the highest CTR of any type of vehicle in 2021. These cars have a 7% higher CTR than sports cars and a 29% higher CTR than race cars. SUVs come just behind sedans in terms of clickability. While sedans have a 5% higher CTR, SUVs are still an engaging vehicle for audiences. 

AI also noticed an uptick in engagement for vans. Their CTRs for imagery and videos have increased 159% from this time last year, and this style of vehicle has the CTR with the most rapid growth over the last twelve months.

Meanwhile, other types of vehicles, like trucks and motorcycles, have dipped in engagement.

What about color trends? Although 2020 saw a wide variety of colors in car ads—including greens, pinks, and aqua blues—2021 is seeing the highest CTRs on grays, charcoals, and black shades. This is perhaps keeping in trend with 2021’s engaging neutral palettes.


Set Ads Outside at Dawn, Dusk, or Night

Data says that today’s top-three settings for auto ads are:

  • Outdoors
  • In the countryside
  • Within nature

And the automotive industry certainly loves its winding roads. But, what types of outdoor settings get the most clicks? 

AI found that outdoor settings with mountains are the most clickable. Forest settings, specifically with conifer trees, are also highly engaging. 

This is contrary to last year’s trends. In 2020, urban city settings were among the most engaging for the auto industry (their clickability has dropped 37% this year).

If you’d like to showcase cars in a more populated place, AI suggests shots taken at car dealerships or car washes. 

AI also discovered that in 2021, the time of day in a photo plays a key role in its clickability. Imagery and videos shot at night have the highest CTR, especially if they feature stars in the sky. Second to nighttime is content shot during dusk or dawn, also known as the golden hour


Prioritize the Most Engaging Details 

Inside and out, cars have some pretty clickable components. Creatives just need to know which ones to feature in their campaigns. Focusing on details inside of cars, rather than showing the entire exterior, could play to your advantage.

Following 2021’s theme of highly-engaging and safety-focused creative, today’s most clickable accessory is a car seat. While advertisers are showing car seats just 23% more often in ads this year than they did in 2020, consumers are clicking on car seats 82% more.

If your brand isn’t geared toward families, have no fear! Marketers can use other close-up shots of a car’s dashboard and center console to garner clicks. 

The second-most clickable feature of a car is the stereo. Coupled with that, imagery of holding hands and gearshifts have consistently high CTRs. 

Despite the center console taking center-stage, marketers should be wary of including some of its elements in their photography. For example, the CTR of mirrors has dropped 59% since this time in 2020.

If you still wish to include a rearview mirror in your ads, you can balance its lower CTR by including the most clickable casting choice for auto ads—a dog.


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Cover image via Kasefoto.