Beware—Your Manufacturer Is Watching How You Do VSEO

Do you post dealership videos on the web? If so, new rules could cost you. Videos your dealership posts on YouTube, Facebook, and other unpaid social media and digital platforms could soon face an increased level of scrutiny and monitoring from your brand.


At least one major manufacturer has announced they intend to begin actively monitoring dealership videos posted on the internet for things like brand standards, logo usage, and possibly MAAP and other standard compliance issues such as the scissors rule. Failure to meet existing standards in these new areas could well begin to result in costly “strikes” to your dealership.


As it stands today for most brands today, compliance is geared to insure that paid advertising in places like newspaper, direct mail, radio, or television are required to comply with a manufacturer’s brand standards and guidelines. Traditionally, these requirements have not been of concerns on “free” platforms like YouTube, Facebook (outside of a paid Facebook ad) or blog sites. Information we’ve been recently provided, however, indicates this is about to change for some. Compliance personnel, share their rationale: “while a social media platform by itself is a ‘free’ vehicle, the act of linking it to a dealership’s website in essence rolls this free asset into a ‘paid’ asset, and therefore makes these platforms subject to the same compliance rules as ‘paid’ advertising.”


Whether you agree with this rationale or not, we recommend every dealership takes some time to review the status of their social media assets.


Some of the questions you should be asking or researching are:


1.       What social media platforms are linked, in any way, to my dealership website (or for that matter any paid advertising you control)?


2.       What videos or other produced elements reside on those social media sites (e.g. YouTube)?


3.       Are the assets current? For example, do you have videos up that contain out-dated offers or other content that is out of date?


4.       Are they brand correct? For example, do they contain the proper use of your brand’s logo according to published individual dealer marketing guidelines, one brand to a video, etc.? If you are in doubt on this point, and control the YouTube channel the content appears on, you can go in and change the viewership privileges from public to private. After that, you can submit the content for approval using your appropriate co-op preapproval compliance network.


Beyond your immediate website, we are also recommending for you to do a search on YouTube or other video share sites to assess what other video or content bearing your dealership’s name exists “out in the cloud” and attempt to take appropriate actions as outlined above.


What about content referencing your dealership you suspect violates brand standards but that you didn’t post or don’t have no control over? While we have been told there will be some considerations here, at least one brand has indicated their likely policy will be to ‘strike’ offending material, then leave the burden of proof to the dealership to show they don’t or can’t control that content.


Painful as it may be, now is the time to get a handle on the content that your dealership employees, vendors, and even customers have posted on the web…it could well cost you if you don’t.


Ed Steenman owns Steenman Associates, a full service agency providing traditional, digital and VSEO services and training to dealerships and groups. For more information,or visit and twitter@steenman.





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