California Auto Dealers, Here’s Why Your Facebook Retargeting Ads (Probably) Aren’t Performing

California Auto Dealers, Here’s Why Your Facebook Retargeting Ads (Probably) Aren’t Performing

If you’re a digital marketer running Facebook ads in California, you’ve likely noticed that your retargeting ads have not been performing as of early 2020.

Frustrated? Yeah, we get it. 9 Clouds provides digital advertising services for auto dealers all over North America, and our clients’ retargeting ads are consistently successful in nurturing car shoppers toward their purchase.

So when one California client’s dynamic retargeting campaign wasn’t spending any money after activation, we knew something was up.

We figured — rightfully, it turns out — that this had something to do with the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA), which went into effect January 1, 2020.

This act means that some advertisers are no longer able to create effective campaigns using pixel-based Custom Audiences to retarget ads to California users.

First Things First: We Checked Our Own Facebook Catalog Setup

At first, our team couldn’t find any resources or evidence stating that retargeting ads would completely fail due to CCPA.

In fact, many resources suggested that California marketers were simply seeing a decline in their retargeting spend — not a total stop, like our California auto client.

So, before making an assumption that CCPA was to blame for our retargeting woes, we checked our own setup. Did we skip a step in our process?

  1. The Facebook pixel was on the dealer’s site and capturing View Content events. Check.
  2. The Facebook catalog was set up correctly using our Cumulus software to connect the dealer’s inventory feed with the catalog. Check.
  3. The dynamic retargeting campaign was created correctly — connected to the correct catalog and to the Facebook pixel, targeting recent vehicle description page (VDP) visitors. Check.

We hadn’t missed a thing.

If you’re not sure how to check your own Facebook catalog setup — whether you’re troubleshooting an issue or just doing regular Facebook ad maintenance, download our free Catalog Health Check and Facebook Ad Maintenance resources.

Finally, an Answer: CCPA Is to Blame

After several months of back-and-forth with both Facebook support and our agency’s Facebook rep — which included various levels of support teams and troubleshooting — our Facebook rep finally confirmed that our California auto dealer’s retargeting ads were not delivering at all because of CCPA.

“We implemented changes so that personal information about California residents that partners share with Facebook that could be found to be a sale to Facebook under CCPA is not used outside the business purposes of our agreements starting on January 1. As result of these measures, some businesses targeting individuals in California may see impact to their campaign performance. We will continue to explore future updates to support our partners amidst regulatory changes and our global commitment to privacy.”

— 9 Clouds’ Facebook rep, April 2020

While this statement claims that marketers running retargeting ads in California may see an impact, our experience is that they won’t run at all.

It’s not just 9 Clouds, though. Other automotive marketing partners we work with have reported similar results. We imagine many dealerships in California are experiencing the same thing.

Is There a Workaround?

I’ll cut to the chase . . .

Not really.

Our rep told our team that in this situation, Facebook’s best practice is to “run a broad audience in a single ad set and not to separate retargeting and broad” and to “remove exclusions from the ad sets.”

If you’re a California marketer, this is what your targeting would look like if following Facebook’s recommendations in this scenario.

What’s the Problem with This “Solution”?

Sure, your ad set will run if you do it this way — great. You’ll certainly spend your advertising dollars.

But that’s not going to achieve your goal of a bottom-of-the-funnel (BOFU) dynamic retargeting campaign, in which a shopper who was actually on your dealership’s website can see an ad with the actual vehicle they viewed.

There’s certainly a time and place for broad, top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) targeting — but it’s not here. A dynamic retargeting campaign is not the time to let Facebook optimize who sees your products.

You already know who should see them, because these people were just on your website viewing a specific vehicle.

As far as successful dynamic retargeting goes for marketing-savvy auto dealers, this recommendation from Facebook just isn’t going to cut it.

California Auto Marketers, Stay the Course with Facebook Advertising

Sure, at 9 Clouds, we love to recommend dynamic retargeting campaigns for all of our auto clients. These campaigns are highly targeted, perform well, and consistently have a strong return on ad spend (ROAS).

But, we’d mastered Facebook advertising for auto dealers long before we had dynamic retargeting campaigns in our toolbox. And while it’s a tool we hate to lose for California dealers, it’s not the end of Facebook ads for our friends in the Golden State.

Just because you can’t run dynamic retargeting campaigns (right now) in California does not mean you should stop all your Facebook advertising. Stay the course with your TOFU and middle-of-the-funnel (MOFU) campaigns.

Let’s go back to our California client whose frozen retargeting campaign prompted this whole investigation. Besides the attempted retargeting campaign, our team is running six other TOFU and MOFU campaigns for the dealership using relevant interest- and CRM-based audiences. At a glance, in the past two weeks, these campaigns have:

  • An average cost per click (CPC) of $0.17
  • An average click-through rate (CTR) of 2.53%
  • Contributed to 630 users to the website, with an average session duration of more than one minute
  • Resulted in more than 800 VDP views
  • . . . And we have yet to report on any Offline Events this month!

Let’s imagine a California in which we could still retarget to users. Would our results be even better? You bet.

But that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to keep providing the absolute best results we can for our clients using the tools we currently have.

We’ll stay the course. And so should you.

And, hold tight. Once the legal mess is sorted out, perhaps retargeting will become available again in California. In the meantime, keep driving that qualified traffic to your auto site as best you can.

Update: Facebook released the Limited Data Use (LDU) feature on July 1, 2020, which enables businesses to specify when Facebook should process data in accordance with its role as a service provider under the CCPA. Learn more about what this means for all auto marketers here.

Learn More About Facebook Ads for Auto Dealers

Whether you’re an auto dealer in California or elsewhere, perhaps you aren’t sure how to best make use of Facebook’s advertising tools.

Facebook Ads for Auto Dealers eBook Cover

We’ve got you covered! Start by downloading our free eBook, Facebook Ads for Auto Dealers, where you’ll learn how to engage potential customers at their personal stage in the sales funnel — and help guide them toward a purchase at your dealership.

If you’d like personalized information about how 9 Clouds can help your dealership with digital advertising, request a free digital marketing assessment. From South Dakota to California to the rest of North America, we’re here to help!

Get the Free Facebook Ads for Auto Dealers eBook Now

Pssst: Do you upload Offline Events for your dealership? If so, you may have noticed some changes in the process lately — we sure did. Facebook’s new Limited Data Use (LDU) feature means you need to take immediate action to continue using Offline Events (and other APIs, like the Pixel) successfully. We wrote about the change here, and you can learn more about streamlining the process with our new Offline Events tool, Hydra.