Will Election Advertising Impact Your Automotive Digital Marketing Success?

Will Election Advertising Impact Your Automotive Digital Marketing Success?

Your dealership isn’t running for political office, but what type of impact will election advertising have on your dealership’s own online advertising success? 

According to Politico, Facebook and Google political ad spend for the 2020 election cycle reached over $3 billion (up from $0.74 billion in 2018).

While Mark Zuckerberg sticks by his claim that political advertising will account for only 0.5% of Facebook’s total revenue, automotive advertisers shouldn’t turn a blind eye to the impact political advertising may have on their marketing results. 

As a digital marketing agency with more than a decade of experience building Facebook and Google Ads for auto dealers, we decided to compare election year stats to non-election year stats to see if we could find any trends. Keep reading, as the results may surprise you.

This post will address three main topics (click to jump to each section):

How We Got Here

The aftermath of the 2016 election (where a political data firm gained access to private information on more than 50 million Facebook users) — along with a 2019 discrimination settlement — led Facebook to make some changes regarding user privacy and data management. 

As a result, automotive advertisers have experienced changes to Facebook advertising, including the removal of Partner Categories for ad targeting and the introduction of Special Ad Categories

These changes have impacted ad targeting in particular, causing auto dealers and other businesses that fall under the Special Ad Category to switch up how they target their products and services. 

Note: due to a settlement agreement between Meta and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, Special Ad Audiences (SAAs) will no longer be available to use after 2022.

3 Ways Election Advertising Could Impact Your Online Ad Success

Depending on where you are in the country, the demographics of your audience, and other social and economic factors, political advertising will have a deeper impact on some auto dealers’ digital marketing efforts than others‘. 

Here are three ways online political advertising could impact your dealership’s digital ad success. 

1. Rise in Advertising Cost

What happens when demand for a product increases, but the supply stays the same? The cost for that same product will rise.

This is the situation for many advertisers trying to purchase ad space on Facebook and Google. 

There’s only so much online advertising space to go around. With the addition of political ads to the ad auction, the price for ad space will inevitably rise, even if your business has nothing to do with politics. 

Auto dealers and other businesses may see Facebook ad metrics such as cost per 1,000 impressions (CPM) and cost per click (CPC) increase in the weeks and months leading up to the November election.

2. Decrease in Ad Reach

With the potential rise in ad metrics such as CPC and CPM during election season, it only makes sense that auto advertisers could also see a decline in ad reach. 

When it comes to Facebook and Google advertising for auto dealers, reach is the total number of people who have seen a particular ad at least once. 

With more “competition” from political ads during election season, some dealers may see their ads reach fewer people than in other months. 

3. Growing Ad Fatigue

Unfortunately, political ads can sometimes give other (non-political) ads a bad reputation during election season. 

People may see so many political ads online that they become sick of seeing ads in general and thus begin to ignore them. This can be particularly true in swing states or areas with contested House, Senate, and gubernatorial elections, where more ads are likely running. 

A History of Automotive Ad Performance During Election Season

Back to the original question: will election advertising actually impact automotive digital marketing success? 

As a digital marketing agency that has built online ads for auto dealers for the last decade, this is our best answer:


After looking back at August, September, and October Facebook ad stats for the 2018 (election) and 2019 (non-election) years for a portion of our automotive clients, here’s what we found:

  • 2019 had an average 5.74% higher ad reach than 2018.
  • 2018 had an average $0.11 lower CPC than 2019.
  • 2018 had an average $0.38 lower CPM than 2019.

While reach took a slight dip in 2018 for our automotive clients, stats such as CPC and CPM were actually better in the months leading up to the midterm elections in 2018, compared to the same months in 2019, when there was no major election. 

What does this mean for auto dealerships advertising on Facebook and Google during future election cycles?

While your dealership could experience a drop in the stats above, it is still possible to find digital marketing success during an election

3 Ways Your Dealership Can Thrive in the Midst of Political Advertising

1. Optimize Your Targeting

If you aren’t already building Facebook Custom Audiences and Special Ad Audiences based on your customer relationship management (CRM) data and website activity, now’s the time to start. 

While targeting a more general audience may increase your reach, the more you can hone in on your audience targeting, the more likely your audience will resonate with your message. 

2. Increase Your Ad Budget

No dealer wants to hear they need to spend more on digital marketing. However, as Economics 101 teaches us, with a rise in demand, there is also a rise in cost. 

As more ads compete for space, you’ll likely need to pay a little more for your automotive ads to reach your target audience. 

Not sure where to begin when it comes to budgeting on Facebook and Google? This post will give you the insight you need. 


3. Try Other Platforms

While we don’t recommend auto dealers stop advertising on Facebook and Google, try also sharing your content on additional platforms like Twitter, which doesn’t allow political advertising at all. 

While you’ll still find political ads on Instagram (which Meta currently owns), the platform is less saturated than Facebook. Instagram can be a good opportunity for auto dealers looking to add depth to their digital marketing strategy. 

Vote “Yes” to Improve Your Automotive Digital Marketing Strategy

Improving your dealership’s digital marketing should get everyone’s vote! 

9 Clouds has more than a decade of experience in optimizing online advertising results for auto dealerships and other businesses. Take a look at our digital marketing case studies — and talk to us about our starter packages to learn what we can do to help you!

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