How to Enforce Accountability in Automotive Campaigns


Posted By: Chris O’Neill, VP, Business Development, Future Flow Media


I was speaking with an automotive agency a while ago who shared a story about campaign accountability I thought others in the automotive marketing industry would want to hear.

Several dealerships were introduced to a direct marketing company that claimed to have the ability to send emails to vehicle intenders in each dealer’s area. There’s nothing wrong so far – Future Flow Media provides this capability and does it very well. The problems began to mount with how this vendor executed (or didn’t) the campaign and how they handled the situation.

The first red flag was the number of email records reported to be available, sometimes nearly the entire population of the town. I doubt EVERYONE in the area had legitimately identified as an auto shopper AND legit email opt-in all at the same time. Regardless, the dealerships went ahead with testing the new advertising vendor.

Second issue was the traffic patterns on the dealership websites. Web analytics reports showed most of the “traffic” driven by the email campaigns were <1 second hits to the home page and there were no behavioral patterns showing web activity typical of real shoppers on the website. This arose suspicion about whether email campaigns had been sent out at all, or if the vendor used a bot traffic generator to fake web hits. I understand the gravity of this kind of accusation and don’t use it lightly – which could have been alleviated quickly except for the third problem.

The vendor refused to do a sales match back. This is the process of matching the postal addresses of people who bought vehicles against the postal addresses of people who were sent the email campaign. People who received the email, and bought a vehicle, would have been influenced by the email in their purchase journey. The straight refusal to have any data processed, for analysis purposes only, accomplished nothing but to aggravate the (now burned) customer and cement the suspicion of fraudulent practices on behalf of the vendor.

How can automotive marketers ensure accountability when using outside partners for conquest email campaigns?

  1. Always insist on a sales match back process. I understand that data licensing terms can sometimes require a couple of extra steps, but it’s well worth your while. If there is sensitivity from either party, remind all involved this process is for analysis purposes only. One way to eliminate the risk that data can be misappropriated by either party is to encrypt each record with MD5 (your IT guys know what this is), making the data useless for any purpose other than one-to-one comparison.
  2. Observe customer behavior patterns on the website. Does it look like the kind of activity that real people do when they browse vehicles on a dealer’s site? There will always be some who hit the home page and leave quickly, but you should at least see some window shopping and tire kicking. In addition, there are specific leading indicators in dealership website activity our market research team here at Future Flow Media have identified. Get in touch with us and we’d be happy to share this information.
  3. Only work with marketing vendors that don’t sound fishy (impossible targeting criteria, more records than people, etc) and follow all the best practices for 3rd party email campaigns. They should have 100% confirmed permission data, the distribution systems optimized for proper delivery, and reporting of the open/click rates. For more tips and specifics on what to look out for, let us know and we’ll be happy to share more details.