Looking for a way to step up your internet advertising program on a tight budget? Did you know many online advertising initiatives are eligible for manufacturer co-op dollars that can help you stretch your budget and make a bigger impression with online buyers? We can show you the money.

Co-Op Dollars

Chances are good that you’re familiar with the co-op programs that for years have supported your store’s offline advertising. What you may not know is that the same funds can be used online, helping you to merchandise your listings and promote your specials — even build your dealership’s brand. For approved campaigns, you can typically expect to be reimbursed for 30 percent to 100 percent of your costs. Eligible products vary by manufacturer and are subject to certain guidelines, but often include:

  • Online listings
  • Online photos
  • Lead acquisition
  • Inventory specials
  • Banner and display ads

Are You Leaving Money on the Table?

An estimated $8 billion in co-op advertising funds is up for grabs each year in the automotive industry, half of it going unclaimed.[1] Why? Explanations vary, but the reason we hear most often from dealers is that they are either unaware of the programs or unfamiliar with how to capitalize on them.

While the standards may initially appear strict, remember that the manufacturers want this money to be used. Co-op advertising helps you — and them — sell more vehicles.

Among the factors to consider are:

  • Accrual information. Some manufacturers base the amount of money you’re eligible to receive next year on the number of new cars you sell this year. For example, if the manufacturer offers $300 per car sold in 2007 — and you sell 100 cars — your co-op allowance in 2008 will be $30,000.
  • Advertising “musts.” To be eligible, the online campaign has to meet specific requirements. For example: Manufacturers mandate the correct and appropriate use of their logo (e.g., size, color and placement).
  • Advertising “don’ts.” Online campaigns must also avoid certain things, most notably misleading language. OEMs implemented co-op programs to help protect the brands they have invested many years and many millions of dollars building. In many cases, specific phrases, such as “blowout pricing,” “liquidation sale” and “best deal in town,” appear on the do-not-use list because they give the vehicles an undesirable connotation.
  • Prior approvals. Many manufacturers require that the ad campaign be reviewed and approved in advance by their auditing firm. This step is an important one to consider even if it isn’t mandated: Once a campaign is certified, you’re guaranteed to be reimbursed.
  • Claiming information. To be reimbursed, you must submit the claim you receive from the auditing firm along with proof of advertising (e.g., screen shots or an invoice) and, if required, the prior approval number. This process eliminates fraud and rewards dealers with the most dollars possible.
  • Reimbursement: If you opt to be reimbursed by check, you can expect to receive the money within 30 to 60 days. Should you decide on an electronic funds transfer, the money will typically be deposited within two weeks.

By investing just a bit of your time — and chances are good that your online advertising services provider will help — you can familiarize yourself with the co-op program’s policies, auditing requirements and reimbursement procedures. From there you can begin to use these funds to stretch your online budget.

To learn more about the co-op eligibility of Cars.com products, contact your sales representative.

[1] 2006 State of the Industry Study, Hand Promotion Management