Blurring The Lines Between Paid, Owned, and Earned Media – 2013 Is All About Integration

paid-owned-earned-mediaBefore we get into the blurring and integration portion of this post lets first define exactly what paid, owned and earned media is.

Paid Media

Paid media or bought media is when a dealership pays to leverage a channel.


  • Display Advertising
  • Paid Search
  • Pre-roll
  • Facebook Ads


Paid media is immediate. It’s something that can be controlled and scaled, depending on a variety of factors. Paid media comes with a seemingly overwhelming amount of analytical data to back it and depending on if you are looking for impressions, clicks, what happens after the click and more, you can adjust paid media on the fly to meet your goals.


Paid media can be pricey and drive up lead acquisition costs if you don’t know what you are doing. Paid media comes in many different forms, not all of them are created equal while still others work well together that don’t work so well alone. Paid media takes a level of understanding to do it right.

Owned Media

Owned media is a channel that a dealership owns and controls.


  • Website
  • Mobile Site
  • Blog
  • Twitter Account


Owned media can be controlled and can be very cost effective. With owned media you have both flexibility and longevity with the ability to target certain niche audiences.


There is no guarantee with owned media and it can take a long time before any kind of notoriety can take place. You must be willing to invest time and resources into producing quality content.

Earned Media

Earned media is when the customer IS the channel. It comes from outside sources.


  • User Generated Content
  • Retweets
  • Facebook Shares
  • Blog Mentions
  • Backlinks


Earned media placements are great for SEO and reputation. The best part, it doesn’t have any hard costs.


Unlike paid and earned media you don’t have control over the message. It’s hard to predict what other people will say about you so it’s important to monitor your earned media.

Digital Strategy

Now that we have defined what paid, owned and earned media is let’s get right to the crux of things. The idea behind paid, owned and earned media has been around for a while now, it’s nothing new and has been used to create digital strategies in the past, but mostly in a very linear fashion.


That is, emphasis was more on how to create each type of media than on how each one can be used to assist the other. This is the blurring of the lines hinted at in the title of this post and what dealerships will need to start  thinking about in 2013 if they want to see the sum of their marketing efforts becoming greater than the total of its parts.

A lot of this blurring is being driven by social media, the great force multiplier of the digital space. As an example take a look at Twitter, which can be considered owned media, now take a look at what happens as the dealership influence increases and more and more people start to retweet the dealerships tweet, it is now earned media as retweeting helps to further brand awareness.


Another example? How about reviews and the fact that tablet users are 3 times more likely to be influenced by reviews than a smart phone user? So, what can you do with that knowledge? I don’t think I have to point out that reviews are earned media but if you were to bring attention to it though PPC (Paid Media) then once again, you are blurring the lines. Oh and you can target tablet users through PPC.

It’s time to STOP thinking  linear and start thinking how you can use paid, owned and earned media, together, in order to sell more cars and fixed-ops. But how is that done? I can answer that using two words: build trust. Trust in advertising has been on a steady decline for as long as advertising has been around and it’s only going to get worse.

Below I am going to give you 3 different examples how convergence within these three types of media can have a bigger impact on your bottom line than each by themselves.

Social Increases The Ad Recall Of Paid Media

Nielson did a study and found that the ad recall of a social ad was 55% greater than a non-social ad. What does that mean? It means that if you add a social layer to your paid advertising mix then you will not only get more clicks but more people taking action after the click.

So, by having a strong social presence your ads will do better, both on and off Facebook (as an example). Here, let me give you an example to better prove my point. Let’s say that 2 different people in your local community are looking to buy a car. Person A has bought a car from your dealership before and had a great experience both during the purchase and afterwards on your Facebook page. Odds are good, because they know, like and trust the dealership, that they will give you a shot to earn their business again. In fact if they were to do a search in Google and saw one of your paid ads they are more likely to click on it and go to your site because they have a social connection with you.

Person B, who may or may not be familiar with your dealership also sees your ad but because they aren’t connected with your dealership in anyway are just as likely to click on another dealerships ad than yours. Wouldn’t you prefer the advantage?

Going back to Facebook, let’s say that you have over 10,000 likes, built organically through your community outreach program and you decide to run ads on Facebook, targeting the people that like your page. Let me ask you a question, do you think your ads would do better because you have built a faithful following on Facebook? What if you didn’t?

Owned Drives More Sales Than Paid Alone

Again, Neilson did a study and found that the offline sales of people exposed to a brands website is 3X more likely to make a purchase than those that were subject to the paid ad alone. What does that mean? It means that it is better to drive people to your website than through your front doors. I know, that sounds a little strange because we are adding another step but if your website is done right, it will increase conversion.

Earned & Paid, Increasing Conversion

  • I peer recommendation is worth 200 traditional media impressions.  – Relationship Economy
  • 90% of people trust the recommendations of people they know – Nielson
  • 70% of people trust recommendations from people they don’t know (i.g. online reviews). – Nielson

With recommendations being so important what if you had your own, stand alone review site, that allowed people to post and read reviews that then directed people through to your website? From there you could run pay-per-click ads that directed people to that site. Think about it, if you created ads that allowed people to read reviews about your dealership, with links from that site to your dealership website then you would notice an increase in conversion because people would feel better about doing business with your dealership.

The Opportunity

Building trust in your advertising isn’t just about creating ads that are true. It’s also about using owned, paid and earned media to your dealerships advantage. Looking back at the examples above why wouldn’t you want to add a social layer to your paid marketing? No reason. Once you do that how can you increase trust on your website so that it will drive more online and offline sales?

The opportunity is there and it’s time that you look at things a little bit differently. How can you converge your media? How are you going to blur the lines?

Post author

David has been in the auto industry for 11 years, starting off as a salesperson, then internet sales and then finally BDC manager before he started consulting full time. Now he is considered the forefront of automotive social media and is both the VP and partner of

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