Recently, Ford sent out a memo to their franchise dealers outlining their new co-op policy regarding funds associated with digital media investments. The new policy will require Ford Dealers to use 50% of the digital media funds for paid search, starting July 1st, until dealership impression share increases.

The reason for this change in policy, according to Ford, it the abysmally low AdWords impression share that Ford dealers have when consumers conduct a search in their local market for Ford related terms or general shopping terms.

The dealers must increase their paid search spend until they hit a target impression share, which would make the brand more competitive in search results.

While I understand the reason for this policy change, and how it will help to support the national advertising campaigns that Ford runs, it does not fix the underlying problem. 

Why are Ford dealers not seeing the need to invest in search engine marketing?

According to Ford's memo,  their dealer network is being outgunned by competitors by nearly a 3:1 ratio in paid search. Other dealer networks are investing in paid search, protecting their brand related terms, resulting in a much higher impression share.

So what is really the root cause of this competitive disadvantage? An issue is the current state of franchise dealership education. It is not a problem unique to the Ford dealer network. While some Ford dealers may not understand that they must advertise online, why is the Ford network they so far behind their peers?  

While policies that require spending in specific strategies (SEM) makes sense in the short term, to protect market share, the bigger problem at hand is the failure of dealership education and certification regarding online marketing. 

Franchise dealers hate being told how they have to advertise their dealership.

So, I'll raise my hand to offer assistance to the Ford dealer network regarding strategies to help Ford dealers understand the "why" behind digital advertising and online marketing. PCG has developed a comprehensive catalog of online workshops designed to educate dealers on automotive digital marketing and sales process. 

Once Ford dealers understand the "why" behind this policy change, they will adjust their spending patterns naturally. Forcing franchise to spend their advertising dollars in certain areas, without establishing a clear financial benefit first, will create friction between Ford and their dealer network.

Right now, affirmative action is needed. I support that decision, however, what about social media advertising? Video pre-roll advertising? Will the beatings continue without education?

Do you agree? Share your thoughts below. 

2016 Digital Marketing Strategies Conference

I invite all dealership leaders to join me at the 6th Annual Digital Marketing Strategies Conference (DMSC), May 22-24th in the Napa Valley. This conference is designed for dealership owners and managers who want to gain a competitive edge with their online marketing strategy. 18 tickets remain; act quickly. 

Conference details: http://digitalmarketingstrategies.org/