Auto advertisers are casting wider nets into the sea of potential buyers on Facebook, thanks to the evolution of the social network’s ad targeting tools.

Facebook’s dynamic ads for auto tool had focused on tracking people who may have visited a vehicle detail page on a dealership site or third-party site such as Cars.com, and showing them a tailored Facebook ad for those sites. An updated version of that tool lets advertisers prospect even shoppers who haven’t been to their sites.

With the updated version, known as automotive inventory ads, advertisers can upload their vehicles with details such as make, model, year and location. The tool, according to Facebook, then automatically generates ads that present relevant vehicles to the right audiences, such as people who have visited a car-related Facebook page, but have not yet visited a dealership or third-party website.

With the update, Facebook says, dealerships can reach more potential customers who have expressed interest online in buying a vehicle.

The inventory ads will continue to re-target consumers who visited a dealership’s site, but they also try to showcase dealers’ inventory for a broader group of shoppers, says Trace Przybylowicz, Facebook’s industry relations lead for auto.

The inventory ads, also available on Instagram, mark the continued progression of Facebook’s targeting capabilities in the auto market. “We’re starting to build solutions that are tailored 100 percent for this vertical,” Przybylowicz.

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Cars.com had plenty of bait to work with when it used inventory ads during a monthlong beta test last summer. The site said it used the inventory tool to generate a series of carousel ads that pulled listings from various dealerships’ inventories in Cars.com’s database of nearly 5 million new and used vehicles, and showed photos of the vehicles along with details such as make, model, price and dealership location.

Dealer leads triple

The carousel ads, an ad format that includes several photos that users can swipe through, featured vehicles from several dealerships within the same carousel. The ads included a Shop Now button that linked to vehicle detail pages.

The site said dealer leads nearly tripled during the test.

Jenny Chan, Cars.com senior director of consumer marketing, said the company continues to deploy the inventory ads. The site, she said, is “constantly testing new things” with the ads, such as new copy, different ways of showing inventory and varying the calls to action.

The success of the early testing “was a combination of the robust inventory that we tapped into from our dealership space and the collaboration between [Cars.com] and Facebook to do optimization,” Chan said. “It was a strong call to action from our ads, so we’re driving interested consumers to our website, and from there our website takes over.”

Constellation Agency, another beta tester, ran a campaign for Lexus Santa Monica in Southern California that pushed new and used vehicles from Oct. 10 to Nov. 6.

The agency was skeptical about prospecting at first because it normally takes a more detailed approach to consumers who are nearly ready to buy, said Jack Wei, Constellation’s senior campaign manager. With the wider net, he said, marketers weren’t sure they’d get the “bang for our buck.”

Generating awareness

But the prospecting capability of inventory ads, he said, proved valuable alongside the re-targeting function. The campaign produced three times more vehicle detail page views during the test than in the previous three weeks. And the cost per vehicle detail page view was far lower.

Constellation has since expanded the prospecting effort to manufacturers at the national level.

Constellation CEO Diana Lee said Facebook is beginning to show advertisers that it can do more than generate awareness.

“You’re finding people that are in market for a vehicle that have researched through the Internet to find that vehicle, and then you’re bringing the inventory to them and you’re saying, ‘Hey, what about this one?’ ” Lee said.

“It’s not just awareness,” she added. “It’s actually creating a lead that is VIN specific.”

(Auto News)

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