Marketing vehicles (or anything for that matter) can be broken down into four parts: message, creative, distribution channels, and measurement. Of course, what is typically implied in all of this is execution and the money that fuels this execution.
You can have all the greatest plans and strategies in the world but without the funds to execute, that’s all they’ll ever be: plans. As we’ve all found out while growing up, money doesn’t grow on trees. Raise your hand if you’ve ever buried a dollar bill in hopes that a money tree will sprout. I even went so far as to buy a “Money Tree” – I call it Ben. (Yes, Franklin)
This can especially be troublesome for smaller dealerships or groups that are starting out where advertising dollars are sparse.
Luckily, OEMs are there with co-op programs. These funds are available for your dealership to advertise the brand’s vehicles. Typically OEMs will reimburse you back with a percentage of the cost to run the advertising. In some cases, they will cover the entire cost of the program.
So, if you’re not taking advantage of your OEM’s co-op programs, you’re leaving money on the table. My guess is that 95% of you know that there are funds available, but it’s the co-op process that gets in the way. This time, raise your hand if you have a stack of co-op affidavits/tear-sheets that need to be submitted. I’ll bet that the total annual unused co-op funds are in the 10’s or 100’s of millions annually.
Here are some tips on how to take advantage of co-op programs for your brands:
Pay attention to the specifics for each brand
While this may seem straightforward, in practice things can get tricky. For an automotive group that may represent multiple different brands the task can be fairly tedious. Heck, even if you have one brand, you may actually have 4: Chrysler, Ram, Dodge, and Jeep are all different brands. Some need a disclaimer (Toyota), some need the model code (Nissan), some require specifics on pricing (MSRP vs. list price). The point is, each brand is willing to provide you funds to advertise their cars, you just need to follow their rules.
Be aware of changes in guidelines
Brand standards will change from time to time and OEMs will typically send you new guidelines when this happens. It’s important to fully re-read the documentation as small details may change that will affect the approval of your ads.
For example, in May of 2015, Volkswagen changed their corporate font from “VW Utopia” to “Volkswagen Text” and more recently, Volkswagen has decided to remove "Das Auto" from the logo completely. After a grace period, any ads with the old font and the tag line "Das Auto" will be rejected from co-op funding.
Take the easy way out - Get your agency to do the legwork.
If you think this is a lot of work, you’d be right (They are giving you “free” money - after all). So why shouldn’t they want things done correctly. In many cases, each ad needs to be submitted to the OEMs for pre-approval and then resubmitted with a screenshot of the ad as it appeared “in the wild” before your dealership is reimbursed. Think for a second about the years and years that brands have spent developing their brand. Now imagine you and all your DP and GM buddies coming up with your own Chevy, Audi, and Kia ads. Do you think they would look better or worse than the guidelines?
Remember, it’s in the OEM’s best interest that you sell more of their cars. Co-op is another tool that they provide you to do that. By taking advantage of this tool, you’re able to stretch your advertising dollars, reach more buyers and sell more cars.
What are some other interesting things you have learned about co-op funds? Or, challenges you’re facing. Share them in the comments.