Facebook rolls out dynamic ads for auto, updates lead ads for appointments

Facebook wants to grease the car-buying process.

On Thursday Facebook tuned up two of its ad products for auto brands looking to get people to come in for a test drive and drive off the lot in a new car. Auto advertisers can now use Facebook’s dynamic ads to turn the social network into a private showroom for people who have cruised around the web looking for cars. And they can use the company’s lead ads to follow up with those people and schedule a test drive at a nearby dealership.

“The intent very much with both of these products is to remove any of that friction, either the pain of the researching and the getting to the dealership or the actual getting straight to ‘I just want this information, I just want to set up time to do a test drive,’” said Facebook’s auto industry lead Stephanie Latham in an interview.

Dynamic ads for auto

Facebook’s dynamic ads for auto brands work similarly to the versions that cater to retail, hotel, airline and real estate advertisers. They retarget the people who checked out a brand’s site or mobile app or browsed similar sites elsewhere online with ads promoting specific products corresponding with that behavior. In the case of auto brands, that means a person may peruse the trucks on an auto manufacturer’s site or read a “best trucks of 2017” roundup article on an auto publisher’s site — assuming those sites carry Facebook’s tracking pixel — and be shown an ad from Ford or Chevrolet showcasing their latest pickups.

To tailor dynamic ads to auto manufacturers and dealers, Facebook has customized the ads’ backend system to for auto-specific inventory. Auto brands can upload their lists of new and used vehicles, including each car or truck’s make, model, year, price, mileage, trim and location. Then Facebook will automatically plug that information into the ads shown to people. Given that a person may have already spent hours hammering out the details of the car they are interested in, including that information in the ad can be crucial for it to not only capture their interest but get them to click on it to visit the brand’s site and view more details or schedule a test drive.

New features for lead ads

Auto brands can also use Facebook’s updated lead ads to capture potential customers. This ad format, which marketers can use to solicit people’s contact information and have Facebook automatically fill out the forms using a person’s Facebook profile, has been available to auto brands since 2015. But with the dynamic ads update, auto advertisers can use those retargeted ads to create Custom Audiences of people who visited a brand’s site or app through a dynamic ad and then aim their lead ads at that audience to shift them closer to making a purchase.

Auto brands — and any other type of brand — may be interested in taking advantage of new features that Facebook is adding to lead ads that extends the ad format’s function beyond capturing contact information to converting people into customers.

Facebook has added business locator and appointment scheduling features to lead ads so that a person can find a advertiser’s nearby location, such as a local auto service center, chiropractor office or hair salon, and schedule an appointment through the ad. These features are available to all advertisers buying lead ads.

To activate the locator feature, a brand must include the zip code field in a lead ad’s form and provide Facebook with data mapping out its locations by zip code; people will be able to change the zip code and have the locator re-populate accordingly. The appointment scheduling feature uses one of the up to 15 custom questions that a brand can include in a lead ad. After a person submits the form through Facebook, the brand can present them with a call to action button to call the business’s office or specific location or to send it a message through Facebook’s Messenger service. And since brands can have Facebook pipe their leads directly into a third-party CRM system, they can configure those systems to automatically send a confirmation email to the address submitted through the form.

Lead ads’ new business locator and appointment scheduling features will not work when the ads run on Instagram, according to a Facebook spokesperson. That’s a bit par for the course considering that the majority of lead campaigns run on Facebook without being extended to Instagram. The Facebook-owned photo-and-video app already imposes some limitations on lead ad campaigns, such as only pre-populating a person’s name, email address, phone number and gender and requiring the person to manually input any other information.

In addition to making lead ads more functional, Facebook is also making its form-based format more fashionable. Brands can now attach lead ads to Facebook’s full-screen, mobile-only Canvas ad format, which blends interactive features with the gloss of a magazine ad.

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About The Author

Tim Peterson
Tim Peterson, Third Door Media's Social Media Reporter, has been covering the digital marketing industry since 2011. He has reported for Advertising Age, Adweek and Direct Marketing News. A born-and-raised Angeleno who graduated from New York University, he currently lives in Los Angeles. He has broken stories on Snapchat's ad plans, Hulu founding CEO Jason Kilar's attempt to take on YouTube and the assemblage of Amazon's ad-tech stack; analyzed YouTube's programming strategy, Facebook's ad-tech ambitions and ad blocking's rise; and documented digital video's biggest annual event VidCon, BuzzFeed's branded video production process and Snapchat Discover's ad load six months after launch. He has also developed tools to monitor brands' early adoption of live-streaming apps, compare Yahoo's and Google's search designs and examine the NFL's YouTube and Facebook video strategies.