By: Adam Stone

What car dealers need to know about the most recent Facebook scandal

Whether you are watching major network or cable news and/or looking at your LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter newsfeed, you have probably seen that Facebook is embattled in a scandal that has made such a significant impact, that Facebook is actually changing their policies regarding their 3rd party data partners. A lot of different information in this story is floating around, so I decided to write this blog post to make it easier for car dealers to understand what happened and what impact it will have on their marketing plans.

What happened?

There are two events that are noteworthy:

1) A Cambridge University researcher named Aleksander Kogan developed an app for Facebook — a personality quiz that collected personal data from Facebook users that covered over 50 million profiles. Allegedly, that data was then illegally sold to a company called Cambridge Analytica that was hired by the Trump campaign to use that data to target audiences for ads and fundraising, while mapping out where the candidate should visit to garner the most support across the country. The extent of how it was used, however, is not clear yet.

In response to the media surrounding these events, Facebook announced that it is making some (largely cosmetic) changes to its privacy settings in an effort to provide users with more control over their personal information.

2) It also announced some changes to how advertisers can use its platform. On March 28th, 2018, Facebook announced that it would be disabling a form of advertising known as “Partner Categories.” Major data compilers Axciom, Epislon, Experian Marketing Services, Oracle Data Cloud (formerly Datalogix) and Quantium are the third party partners that LEGALLY collect and model data from a variety of sources, like public records, loyalty card programs, surveys and independent data providers and are available in the Facebook advertising platform (FBX) so advertisers can build a highly targeted audience. This is what will be changing for dealers. Facebook announced that 3rd party data from these companies will only be available for approximately 6 months and then will no longer be available for use in FBX.

Facebook announced that 3rd party data from these companies will only be avairbnbailable for approximately 6 months and then will no longer be available for use in FBX.

So what does this mean for dealer marketing plans?

As Facebook makes this transition dealers will have to rely more on their own 1st party data to build audiences on Facebook. This will happen a couple different ways:


The importance of retargeting the visitors to dealer websites is well known to dealers as shoppers continue to go to only a handful dealerships while visiting as many as thirty or more websites during their journey. Facebook retargeting has always been especially useful due to not only it’s cost effectiveness, but also because it is cross-device.

Facebook retargeting has always been especially useful due to not only it’s cost effectiveness, but also because it is cross-device.

What do I mean by cross-device? Well on any typical dealer website, give or take half the traffic is from a desktop or laptop and the other half of the traffic is from a mobile device. Since Facebook users login from multiple devices, Facebook is able to retarget them across multiple devices. So a shopper can be shopping on a dealer website on their laptop and later be targeted with advertising in the Facebook mobile app on that users phone. Considering the Facebook mobile ad unit is in my opinion the best mobile ad unit in existence, this makes Facebook a very important place for dealers to retarget their website visitors.

1st party data — marketing communication strategy

Considering customers today only buy or lease a new vehicle every 3 to 6 years and/or service twice a year at best, the more touch points a dealer has in between, the greater chance they will come back again. Utilizing FBX to match your customer and prospect data from your CRM to Facebook profiles allows dealers to target posts and ads for service and sales more frequently.

What about 3rd party data from Facebook’s Partner Program?

According to Facebook, access to those valuable and legal 3rd party data audiences will no longer be available in FBX after September 2018. I believe that between now and then things could change depending on how the Cambridge Analytica scandal unfolds or not. Since these data partners were collecting their data legally, it appears the decision to remove them from Facebook appears to be largely a PR tactic. With time, I would not be surprised if Facebook may find a way to re-integrate them into their platform in a different, yet similar way.

Online Video and Oracle data

That said, the companies in the Facebook Partner program provide their data on other platforms aside from Facebook. One under utilized medium by dealers is online video pre-roll. At Octane Marketing we are able to access the same Oracle data sets that were available on Facebook and target model specific owners and in-market shoppers with engaging online video pre-roll ads all over the internet.

Online video consumption is at an all time high, yet very few dealers have dedicated budget to online video pre-roll ads despite superior targeting and reporting when compared to network and/or cable tv buys. In addition, online video CPM’s are much more cost effective, allowing dealers to increase their reach and frequency to their target market for significantly less money. Currently my company is talking to our clients about complimenting their Facebook spend with online video so they can continue to utilize these valuable 3rd party data sets to build custom audiences.

The bottom line

1) Dealer’s Facebook targeting capabilities won’t change until September 2018

2) Retargeting and 1st party data use on Facebook remain as very important and legitimate strategies for car dealers.

3) By the time we reach September there may be a new way to utilize 3rd party data sets on Facebook — so stay tuned.

4) Online video pre-roll ads are a terrific opportunity for dealers to find a new way to reach in-market shoppers.

Interested in learning more? Please reach out so our team at Octane Marketing can help drive more qualified traffic to your dealerships through Facebook and online video pre-roll ads. I look forward to hearing from you.

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