Virtual Roundtable: Auto brands in the driver’s seat

Leaders at Hyundai, Nissan, Subaru and Horizon Media discuss what's next as the country begins to reopen.

Automotive Roundtable

This is the latest in a virtual roundtable series co-hosted by strategy and Media in Canada that explores advertisers’ branding, marketing and media investment strategies throughout the COVID-19 crisis.

In this instalment, Media in Canada’s Bree Rody and strategy‘s Justin Dallaire delve into how automotive brands have adapted to the pandemic and how their strategies are evolving as the country begins to reopen.

The roundtable brought together Lawrence Hamilton, director of marketing at Hyundai; Ted Lalka, VP of product planning and marketing at Subaru; Steve Rhind, director of marketing at Nissan (soon to be managing director of Infiniti); and David Mear, director of business solutions at Horizon Media. They were joined by Penny Hicks, managing director of client partnerships, and Yen Conrod Tran, senior manager of marketing, at The Globe and Mail (not pictured).

You can listen to the roundtable audio-only version below, or view the video version at the bottom of this article.


On different stages of activation

“[Early on], we were noisy in a useful way – hopefully – then we went quiet. And now we’re kind of starting to turn everything back on again, because I think people are starting to come out and things are normalizing.” – Hamilton

“We had a plan to get back in the market to take advantage of the spring selling season with heavy media focused on a number of key products in our lineup. And obviously, with the current situation with COVID-19, we had to rethink that strategy completely.” – Lalka

On the channels that have proven most effective so far

“[Early on], we saw a huge spike in television. It wasn’t so much in regular programming; it was news and information… That continued for about three, four weeks and now we’re seeing it come back down a bit as consumers are getting more used to their daily lives.” – Mear

“We focused our energies on television in the short term. We have paused radio and out of home, in particular… People aren’t commuting and they’re not on the roads as much.” – Rhind

“We have found radio to be especially effective right now. Maybe people are just using it as background music, tuning into news programming. But we’ve run some radio ads and we’ve gotten [a lot of positive] feedback.” – Lalka

On knowing when it’s time to jump back into mass media

“Wanting to get back into TV right now is an interesting practical challenge… The production industry is backing up; we’re going to struggle to get anything new made… We’re going to be regurgitating old footage to try and get over that little hump.” – Hamilton

“Long term, television is probably going to see the biggest impact, because consumers are now changing their viewing habits. They’re going [increasingly to] YouTube, Netflix, Prime, Crave that type of thing. They’re [viewing] a lot of content on those platforms.” – Mear

On relationships with agencies

“From a Nissan perspective, we have a unique structure called Nissan United. It’s a combination of OMD from a media perspective together with TBWA, so they’re all working under the same roof. But that’s [a] really positive benefit for us. The other thing they’re providing is global perspective, because we have a relationship with Omnicom and it’s [at] a global level. We’re getting regular updates… [Our agencies have] become even more involved on a day-to-day basis.” – Rhind