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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Nenni

You Fired the Agency, but they Still Track Your Site?

Dealers spend large sums of money driving visitors to their website. They spend on digital marketing such as paid search, paid social, display ads, and purchased referral traffic. Dealers also spend on traditional media to drive organic and direct traffic to their website. The expectation is that all of this traffic belongs to the dealership, and that there is no way their competitors could ever harvest this data. However, with the growing number of pixel trackers and tracking scripts on dealer websites, dealers could be “leaving the barn door open” without even realizing it.

So what trackers am I referencing? Many agencies or vendors will ask the dealership or website provider to place a tracking script on the website in order to execute a digital marketing program. These tracking pixels allow the agency to collect website visitor data in order to retarget or remarket the dealer’s messaging back to that website visitor after they leave the dealer’s site. All of this sounds very normal, and it is until the fateful day when the agency or vendor is fired.

Yes, it happens; agencies and vendors get fired from dealerships every 18 months or so. The challenge is, when the dealership fires the agency, nobody bothers to remove the tracking pixels that were placed on the dealer’s website. So, what does that mean? It means the agency may still be collecting all of the dealer’s website visitor information, long after the dealership stopped doing business with them. Now most agencies are professionals with high integrity, and while they may be collecting this shopping data, they aren’t doing anything with it. However, there could be unscrupulous agencies that take this shopping data, package it up, and re-sell it to third-party data brokers. These brokers then market the original dealer’s data as “in-market shopper data” to any other dealership willing to pay. And these brokers are selling it for pennies on the dollar of what the original dealer spent to drive the initial website visitors.

Are the agencies allowed to do this? Well, if the dealership does not have a privacy clause in their contract, or if the agency has some cryptic language in their contract that allows for this, then the dealership could be helping their competitor without even knowing it. My advice is to re-read your agency agreements, or have your attorneys do so, with an eye toward data privacy. In addition, ask your attorney to draft some privacy language that you can insert into each and every agency agreement you have.

So, what should a dealership do if they are worried they may have old tracking pixels still installed on their site? The best advice is to perform a pixel-tracking-audit on their website. Using tools like or Ghostery, dealers can determine what trackers are currently on their sites, and begin removing the ones that are no longer needed. A side benefit should be a slight load-speed performance improvement on the website, since too many tracking scripts can bog down the page load times. In addition, the dealership needs to implement a new policy that whenever an agency is terminated, their tracking scripts are also removed at the same time.

I hope you have found this information helpful. If you are an automotive retailer or B2C business, I would love to help you better allocate your advertising funds with a complimentary digital marketing audit, including analyzing your paid search and social media spending. I can help you greatly improve your return on ad spend and gain more transparency with your digital marketing investments.

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