The last few months have been a whirlwind of Facebook announcements and upgrades for automotive advertisers. The social media giant clearly has big plans to court auto dealerships, and they are bringing far more to the dance than flowers and candy. For those of you who haven’t been immersed in the hoopla like we have, let me bring you up to speed.
Marketplace for Cars Announcement
It all started with this announcement in late October. The announcement was covered by dozens of news outlets, but this TechCrunch article will be enough to get the basics. Subsequent announcements are setting expectations for automated vehicle postings to the Marketplace to be available mid-Q1 2018.
Why is this a big deal for dealerships? For starters, consumer usage of the Marketplace is growing rapidly, and dealer posting are free. In contrast, Craigslist charges $5 per posting and requires a minimum spend of a few thousand dollars per month to be allowed access to their API. So, the free Marketplace postings are a no-brainer for dealers. The Marketplace may not have Craigslist’s traffic volume yet, but if any online publisher has the ability to compete with the 800-lb. classified gorilla, it’s Facebook. Other related benefits for dealers include the ability for shoppers to initiate chat conversations with the dealership and buying ad placement alongside the free car listings.
Automotive-Specific Catalog Type and Feed
Within two weeks of the Marketplace announcement, the new automotive catalog type appeared in the Facebook Ads interface. Documentation for the new feed format’s specifications and requirements arrived a week after that, hinting at a rushed Facebook launch schedule. The new feed format includes over a dozen new automotive-specific fields, such as mileage, transmission, and fuel type. The feeds also require a dealer address with latitude/longitude coordinates. All of these new fields are clearly intended to be used in Marketplace search filters.
Hoot Interactive completed phase I support of the new feed format at the end of November, and selected dealer accounts were provided feed links to be used in live campaigns in early December. As of January 1, 2018, feed links for the automotive catalog type are available for all dealer accounts upon request. A date for the new feed format becoming the default has not been set, but we expect to make the change in late January or early February.
Implications for Dynamic Display Ads
How will the new catalog type and feed format change the way you run dynamic display campaigns? There are two primary improvements that automotive advertisers can now take advantage of. First, all the additional vehicle-related fields provide dramatically more flexibility in creating filtered product sets. Want to create a product set including only AWD sedans or diesel trucks? Well, now you can.
The second enhancement is what I find most exciting – broad audience targeting. We already had the ability to create a filtered product set for body_style=SUV, for example, and link that set to a campaign targeting in-market SUV shoppers. But imagine the work required to create filtered product sets for every vehicle type and make/model combination along with associated ad sets targeting a matching in-market audience segment. It would take days to complete. But with broad audience targeting, Facebook does all the heavy lifting for you. Vehicles in the feed with “SUV” in the body_style field will automatically be included in ads displayed to in-market SUV shoppers. . . to complete the example.
For advertisers that have enabled Oracle Data Cloud’s private network audiences, in-market segmentation will benefit for the additional granularity to the model level. If you haven’t enabled these private network audiences for your dealer clients, you should. They’re provided for free by Oracle Data Cloud and can be requested from within the Inventory monitor interface.
Process & Planning
If your agency provides Facebook marketing services, you dealer clients will be looking to you for a plan to take advantage of these new automotive offerings. It is Hoot Interactive’s job to take care of the technical, data integration portion of the plan for you. . . long before your competitors do.
Step 1: Automotive Catalog Support
Step one is simply supporting the new feed format for the automotive catalog type, which is already in place. Your agency can announce to clients today that you currently support the new automotive integration requirements.
Step 2: Testing
If you haven’t already, you will want to request the new Facebook V2 (we’re calling it V2) feed links for one or two dealer accounts for testing. Review with your campaign management team the process for setting up the new catalog type and connecting to the Inventory Monitor feed links. I would also encourage testing of the new broad audience targeting options to better exploit in-market audiences. Once you’ve begun step two, you can announce to clients that testing has begun with select dealer accounts, and you will be making it available to all dealer clients shortly.
Step 3: Processes
This step is in entirely in your hands. To maintain efficiency, you will want to define a standardized process for your team to follow when setting up dynamic display campaigns with the new automotive catalog type. Create checklists to avoid mistakes. Determine a default mix of in-market versus remarketing audience targeting you will employ. In short, assembly-line as much of the process as you can to better support large numbers of dealer accounts.
Step 4: Wait for the Big Marketplace Announcement
Unfortunately, we all must wait on Facebook before we can automatically make Marketplace classified postings from an automotive catalog feed. But once the capability is made available, your agency will be ready to be one of the first to offer such automation to your dealer clients.
Links to related docs on Facebook:
Overview of Facebook Automotive Offerings
Early Application for Facebook Marketplace Dealership Listings
Broad Audience Targeting Overview for Travel (no automotive article yet)