To OEM or Not to OEM? That’s the Advertising Question

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As an automotive dealer you’ve got a lot to worry about. No doubt, when it comes to your business’ online advertising you’ve got a keen interest in sharing the most effective message that’ll have the most impact in service of your business goals—to sell cars. At your dealership, you’ve got a certain idea of what your business is. It has a certain voice, a certain persona that you want online users to get acquainted with; it resonates with your audience and eventually prods them to trust you with their business. But what if you’re not satisfied with the message or advertisements pushed on you monthly by your OEM? Maybe you think their incentive message is too weak? Perhaps too generic? If you run the incentive advertising of your manufacturer, are you simply settling for creative that doesn’t do your business justice? It’s a fair concern, and one that deserves serious consideration. This post delves into the question of “why” run OEM incentive advertising, and questions whether individuality in your advertising, at this level, might not be the hill to die on.

Why Run OEM Advertising?

At Strathcom we hear this a lot from clients big and small. Of course, you want to have as much control over your marketing message as possible—you want your dealership’s brand (more than your manufacturer’s) front and centre when it comes to impressionable online eyeballs, but you’ve got to consider whether this is a wise position to hold when it comes to OEM monthly incentive advertising. Think about this: the whole aim of OEM digital advertising programs is to offer dealers an incentive (namely co-op reimbursement for an eligible portion of their ad spend) to toe the corporate line. If you’re a rural Ford dealer your bread and butter is pickups—probably F-150s. Ford, as the OEM, wants to help you move your pickup inventory and, with its vast resources, delivers top-notch creative that’ll help you accomplish those goals. Not only that, if an OEM (like Ford) has a monthly promotion, an incentive to help push online users to convert at your store, why not play along? A feature of all OEM digital advertising programs is co-op eligibility, usually for campaigns that centre on promoting new models, the corporate brand, or location-focused advertising that promotes your business specifically. While each manufacturer has different limits when it comes to the amount of ad spend you’re able to claim back in reimbursement, the advantage is significant. OEM-compliant incentive advertising offers a chance to run high-quality, brand focused advertising, at a discount.

Is There a Compromise?

And it’s not all “my way or the highway” when it comes to running OEM co-op compliant advertising either. Some programs (namely Ford’s D3 Digital Advertising, of which Strathcom is a preferred provider) consider the concerns of dealers in order to have a personalized, store-specific marketing message when it comes to running OEM incentives. A likely trend on the horizon for many OEM digital advertising programs is “brand-able” creative—a compromise of sorts. While co-op eligible advertising carries with it the strictures of corporate advertising guidelines, the type of guidelines that dictate what a dealer can and can’t do in the way of personalization of the original corporate-approved creative, some manufacturers offer premium-quality video and graphic advertising that’s easily branded with your own business’ logo. Think of it; professionally produced creative with the visible stamp of your business’ logo. If we’re talking compromise, this is a great example with the odds tilted heavily in the favour of you, the entrepreneur. While individuality and “pop” in digital advertising is important, devoting resources to OEM produced-and-compliant advertising is an easy win. The heavy lifting is already done for you, and you’ll be recompensed a portion of your ad spend.

Look, the purpose of this post isn’t to dissuade clients from striving for the most effective, individualized advertising in favour of conformity with the prescribed corporate marketing message; that’s what non co-op eligible advertising is for. The point is, that when it comes to the monthly OEM incentive campaigns, it pays to play along. You, the dealer, get to take advantage of top-notch marketing materials, are eligible to have a portion of your ad spend paid back, get to draw on the authority of the manufacturer, all while the OEM channels the brand’s message through your business. When it comes to digital advertising with Strathcom, our aim to deliver your message to the audience that wants it; we understand the importance of a business’ individual identity. However, when it comes to OEM incentive advertising, and whether to just bite the bullet and run with the corporate message, it makes good sense to play on their terms.

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