Automotive News Marketing Seminar Barely Gets Out of Kansas

Automotive News Marketing Seminar
Automotive News Marketing Seminar

On May 17th, I attended to Automotive News Marketing Seminar in Los Angeles, CA. I found what the speakers had to say both informative and insightful, but probably not for the reasons you would think. Among the panelists were Jeff Conrad – VP Acura Sales Division American Honda Motor Co., Inc.; Bill Fay – Group VP Toyota Marketing Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.; Tony Disalle – U.S. VP of Buick Marketing General Motors; Donald Romano – President Mazda Canada, Chief Marketing Officer Mazda North American Operations; Fred Sattler – Executive VP, Managing Director Initiative+ and Steve Shannon, VP Marketing Hyundai Motor America. Presiding over the panel was AutoWeek editor-in-chief Keith Crain who made no bones about sticking a fork in the OEM marketing execs to see which ones had social media campaigns that were well done, and which ones were done well, and in some instances, even seemed a little rare.

One had to wonder as we sat through presentation after presentation, which a few of us even napped through, how well they understood the material they were covering when their presentations of new media, with the exception of Mazda, were as flat as the old media they claimed their audience was outgrowing. Mazda created a dazzling Power Point presentation that kept the audience engaged, entertained them, got the point across, and even glossed over the missing details–like a successful campaign example.

Meanwhile, the other OEMs relied on charts and graphs and historical anecdotes that seemed designed more to convince themselves they knew what new media was rather than their audience. The presentations were flat and dull and were as effective as a black and white photograph trying to illustrate the beauty of a Technicolor world. When it was time to click our ruby slippers and go, Mazda was the Wizard of Oz and everyone else was stuck back home in the dull black and whites of Kansas. At one point, Crain even asked the panel, “Are all of you too old to know what new media is?” We all laughed, and the panel did as well albeit uncomfortably, with the exception once again of Romano, who jokingly or not, answered, “Yes.”

The truth is, new media is still evolving… daily. So the confusion as to what it is or isn’t is understandable, and I don’t aim to criticize based on knowledge of the latest technology alone. But the heart of new media never changes, and that is to embrace the moment. You can’t stand back and analyze it, you need to react and interact. You can’t preach your story, you have to get your audience to participate in it. Once others begin to interact with you in the new media du jour, that’s where you will begin to win brand recognition and earn community respect. Make your audience part of the game, not just the spectators.

That’s why all the other OEMs failed at the Automotive News Marketing Seminar and Mazda did not. All the others treated us like a captive audience instead of engaging us. And we are no longer captive as the flash of mobile device screens from table to table proved throughout the seminar. Mazda not only made their point with their presentation, but in the manner it was presented. All that was missing was Mazda Marketing Seminar check-in on FourSquare and a hashtag to tweet with.

The irony of this missed opportunity to demonstrate what new media is really all about, is that marketing people are like the flu, spreading themselves through a room and making contact with as many people as possible, infecting as many people as possible with their presence. For them, it’s all about the networking, everyone is either a potential client or a future employment opportunity, so they are the easiest audience in the world to reach out too. Yet the head marketing gurus for each of the OEMs in attendance, with the exception of Mazda, didn’t even seem in touch with their own kind.



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