‘You’ve Met Your Match’: Auto Trader’s winning content strategy


Auto Trader is the biggest automotive marketplace in the UK, but car buying has recently undergone a revolution. A suite of new brands has led to ad spend in our competitor set almost quadrupling over three years [1], challenging Auto Trader’s dominance. We needed to defend our position, maintain spontaneous awareness levels, and improve cut-through vs far higher spending competitors – all without increasing our spend.

The big idea

Our competitors had more money but didn’t have Auto Trader’s credentials in matching people to their perfect cars. We wanted to leverage our unique position as ‘Britain’s Biggest Matchmaker’ to remind consumers that Auto Trader was still the UK’s number one destination for car buying and selling.

We partnered with ITV to conduct their biggest-ever survey to identify what Britain looks for in a car. This revealed that, rather than adopting a broadcast approach, we could create maximum cut-through by connecting with three key audience segments: family values, young affluent adults, and sports fans.

Leveraging ITV’s heritage in dating (à la Love Island), the content strand ‘You’ve Met Your Match’ was born. We cross-referenced each segment with ITV’s most iconic personalities, with the highest indexing for each starring in bespoke adverts. This put recognisable, trusted faces at the heart of our content: Stephen Mulhern (Saturday night staple) for the family values segment, Emily Atack (queen of the jungle) for young affluent adults and Micah Richards (sports and entertainment rising star) for sports fans.

The ads saw the celebs deliver funny, innuendo-filled lines, showing that Auto Trader could match even the quirkiest characters with their perfect car. The research even informed which cars appeared in each segment’s ads.

Making it happen

The research uncovered insights that informed our content and targeting strategy. But with such a disparity in spend levels vs competitors, we needed to squeeze every drop of value out of our investment.

Through an innovative ‘winner takes all’ share opportunity designed to stretch investment, we identified that ITV was the perfect partner to deliver our message. TV provides the strongest brand fitness, social and trust signals [2], and ITV offers a huge contextual opportunity and a suite of effective AV components on a mass-reach stage.

We negotiated social usage to amplify the ads across our owned channels as well as the celebs’. The latter saw the stars post the ads and exclusive behind-the-scenes bloopers on their socials, reaching 4.6m followers combined, and they even appeared in Auto Trader’s branded Instagram filter. 


Despite vast competitor spend, the year of the ITV partnership was Auto Trader’s best yet. Although we can’t directly attribute it to the content or partnership, Auto Trader did see an average of 65m web visits during the campaign, the highest in their 47-year history, and revenue also soared.

‘You’ve Met Your Match’ content resonated with each audience segment, with all creative executions achieving ‘exceptional’ evaluations[3]. Creative testing found our content to be considerably more effective for strength of branding vs the category’s average. We maintained spontaneous awareness (growing one percentage point YoY), despite accounting for just 3% of the category’s ATL spend[4]. To put this in context, over the same period, Cinch accounted for 24%, WeBuyAnyCar for 19% and Cazoo for 18%.

[1] Ad Intel, All Auto Trader Competitors Spend Report, 2018-2021
[2] Thinkbox, Signalling Success, September 2020
[3] ITV System1, Creative Testing and Research, 2021
[4] Ad Intel, Motors – Suppliers Category Spend Report, 2021



‘You’ve Met Your Match’: Auto Trader’s winning content strategy

Defending Auto Trader’s no.1 position as Britain’s Biggest Matchmaker by reminding the nation that they're still the best place for today’s car buyer to shop.

Feel free to get in touch

We'd love to chat

The Specialist Works

07779646722 [email protected]