by Lindsey Montpelier
Ford’s Strike System: What You Need to Know
By Lindsey Montpelier – CBC Co-op/Compliance Coordinator
Automotive manufacturers’ compliance systems can be intimidating and confusing – especially since each OEM has different expectations and systems within their structure. Are you a Ford dealer, looking for some clarity? Or maybe you work at a marketing agency that works with Ford dealers? In either case, read on!
Let’s Start Here.
The first important thing to point out is that Ford Compliance and Ford Ad Standards are two different departments. Ford Compliance reviews the ads your dealership or agency is turning in for pre-approvals. They are the ones who make sure all ads submitted are following the Ford Co-op Program Guidelines – checking anything from brand integrity to distressed messaging and more. When you submit an advertisement (things like digital paid social ads, broadcast scripts, graphics, etc.) for review and it gets declined due to not following the co-op guidelines, Ford Compliance issues an infraction.
Strikes, on the other hand, are issued by Ford Ad Standards. This department checks your dealership’s website as well as 3rd party websites your dealership may be using – such as AutoTrader, Cars.com, Cargurus, etc. What they do is similar to Ford Compliance in that they are reviewing what your dealership is putting out to consumers. The difference is that Ford Ad Standards Guidelines primarily focus on pricing. While there are certain non-pricing rules pertaining to ‘preferential language’, etc., the main gist of the document is that Ad Standards’ top priority is to look at how rebates are stacked, price vs. MSRP, dealer fees, etc. Any sort of pricing or messaging you have up on your website or 3rd party sites, disclaimers included, are reviewed by Ford. If they see anything that goes against their guidelines, Ford Ad Standards will give you a strike.
Infractions vs Strikes
During the pre-approval process, infractions issued from Ford Compliance are simple to remedy. All you have to do to get rid of an infraction is fix the ad they declined and resubmit one that follows the guidelines. Once the ad’s pre-approved, your infraction will disappear as if it was never there. If you get an infraction during the reimbursement process after an ad has run, your co-op claim will be declined for that specific ad (always make sure to submit those pre-approvals!), but anything passable will still be reimbursed.
Strikes from Ford Ad Standards, however, can be very serious. This is because if you receive three strikes within a 6-month period, your dealership automatically loses its co-op fund accrual for the following month. Strikes can happen at any time, not just when you’re turning in something to be reviewed. Keeping this in mind, it’s important to make sure that everything you are putting on your website and 3rd party sites, from pricing to graphics such as homepage banners, specials graphics and more, does not violate Ford Ad Standards’ guidelines. Best practice is to always turn in all assets co-op for pre-approval before they go up on your website or 3rd party sites, so you can fix any issues before the graphics go live. Failure to do this can result in your dealership receiving strikes.
I Received a Strike. What Do I Do?
If you receive a strike, your advertising agency (if you have one) should reach out directly to Ford Ad Standards, as they can provide guidance in what is specifically needed to fix the issue at hand. The next call(s) should be to your DMS and / or your website vendor to implement changes. And if this is your first strike, remember to relax! Receiving multiple strikes is when you should start to worry. As long as you’re using your all resources and making sure your website and 3rd party sites are remaining compliant with Ford, then you should have no issue keeping yourself clear of penalties from Ford’s Strike System.
At CBC Automotive Marketing, we get that Ford’s strike system, and co-op in general, can be confusing and time consuming. We take it so seriously at our dealership marketing agency that we employ a full-time Compliance Department to make sure all our clients remain compliant with their various manufacturers. If your dealership or group has questions about compliance or could use some hands-on assistance, reach out and let’s have a conversation!
The preceding information is derived from Ford documents and multiple conversations with Ford Compliance and Ford Ad Standards. It represents our best understanding as of the date of publication. Every effort has been made to accurately represent the nature of these programs, but programs can change, and misunderstandings do happen. Dealers & agencies are strongly encouraged to use this article as a springboard to reach out to Ford to do their own research. CBC Automotive Marketing will not be held liable for any damages, including but not limited to strikes, infractions and lost co-op funds, arising from a reader’s interpretation of the preceding material.