Ford marketing chief Jim Farley has pledged the automaker's support for boosting local advertising.
Digital marketing helps dealers reach potential customers with online advertising.
Ford and ADP this week are unveiling a nationwide digital advertising program for all Ford, Lincoln and Mercury dealerships.
GM and Cobalt are rolling out new Web sites and services.
Moving into digitalWith digital marketing, ADP is extending beyond dealership management systems — the computer hardware, software and services it traditionally sells to dealers to run their daily operations.
Separately, General Motors has signed up Cobalt Group, a more experienced digital marketing company, to offer GM dealers a retail digital marketing package. That program began rolling out on Tuesday, April 1.
In February, ADP, of Hoffman Estates, Ill., unveiled its digital marketing services during the National Automobile Dealers Association convention in San Francisco.
"Ford has recently embraced this. They've come to us, and we're partnering with them in order to roll it out across the country to all their dealers," Steven Anenen, ADP Dealer Services president, said at the time. "I think that will include consulting and a lot of our training that will help as they bridge the gap from paper to more of the digital age."
Ford declined to say what the partnership will cover. ADP has offered to manage Ford dealers' search engine marketing, micro Web sites, display ads and other digital advertising tools.
ADP's digital advertising services also can include traditional media such as radio, print and cable TV.
The Ford, Lincoln and Mercury Digital Advertising Program for Dealers aims to increase dealership sales and profits while cutting advertising costs.
According to ADP internal documents, Ford dealers will have no long-term commitments and can cancel the services with a 30-day notice. Ford has negotiated pricing for the services.
By offering to manage digital advertising services to dealers and landing Ford as its first major client, ADP is moving into territory occupied by Cobalt and Dealer.com Inc.
Traditionally, ADP has provided dealers with software, trained them and then let them do the work. Now the company is moving to a "we do it" approach, said Kevin Henahan, ADP's senior vice president of marketing. If the dealer asks for it, Henahan said, "using our applications, our know-how and our content, we'll actually do the work for the dealer in many of these areas."
GM-CobaltGM and Cobalt declined to discuss their initiative. But GM has been informing dealers online that it will provide them "an industry-leading integrated digital marketing package designed to drive more traffic and more qualified in-market consumers."
By participating in the new program, a dealer will receive several key digital marketing offerings for free.
The package includes a new Web site from Cobalt, a marketing team to manage and fine-tune the site, leads from a variety of sources funneled into the dealership's lead management software tool, and help with search engine marketing.