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Canadian Privacy Laws Limit Facebook Targeting for Auto Dealers


To get people to drive away from your dealership in a new ride, you need to drive them to your website, something we do every day with inbound marketing. But one of our most powerful tools — Polk data targeting through Facebook advertising — isn’t available for our neighbors to the north.

We took a look at how Canadian privacy laws limit Facebook targeting for auto dealers and how dealerships in Canada can work around the limitations.

Legal Limitations

Polk data integrated with Facebook advertising back in 2013, allowing auto dealers in the U.S. to create ultra-targeted ads.

The information shows people who are actively shopping for a specific model or brand — along with age, location, income statistics, even educational background.

In Canada, however, this information is blocked by PIPEDA.

The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) blocks the collection, use and disclosure of personal information for commercial use. This covers all provinces except British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec — where there are similar laws in place; BCPIPA, ABPIPA and QBPIPA respectively.

PIPEDA, and its similarly named counterpart laws, prohibits any “information about an identifiable individual” from being used for marketing purposes. The law covers organizations transferring information across provincial borders and outside Canada — so any American marketers working with Canadian clients must comply.

Inbound Creativity

PIPEDA isn’t the end of marketing for Canadian auto dealers. It’s designed to protect consumers from traditional marketing tactics — like unwanted mass mailings — but that’s not a concern for dealerships who use inbound marketing.

Inbound marketing aims to offer targeted information that leads and customers actually want to see because it’s educational. And PIPEDA doesn’t block marketers from sending to leads who opt in to communications.

When we create ads for our Canadian clients, we need to find creative targeting avenues outside of the Polk data we would use with a U.S. dealership. This might mean we spend more time writing targeted content or encouraging Page likes. Or we utilize Facebook’s custom audience feature to reach leads through email addresses.

After the ads are running, we follow the Facebook analytics more closely, paying special attention to click-through rate (CTR), impressions and device performance. This helps us determine if an ad is successful. We can make changes quickly and easily mid-campaign on Facebook, which helps us get the biggest ROI on those ads, even without the Polk data targeting.

Get the Guide

American auto dealers may have the added benefit of extra data, but Canadian dealerships can work around those limitations to run successful ad campaigns on Facebook.

We put together an eBook that can guide you through the creation process of an awesome Facebook ad campaign. If you need a hand putting something together for your auto dealership, just reach out to us. We’re here to help!