2016 was another record-breaking year for the auto market, with U.S. shoppers buying 17.5 million cars, trucks and crossovers, just ahead of 2015's previous record. It was the seventh consecutive year of year-over-year sales gains. Automotive marketing reacted to the trend of consumer preference for trucks and SUVs, with the automakers going after those markets with a vengeance. Along with some in-your-face competitive ads, there was no shortage of poignant and sometimes hilarious advertisements, integrated campaigns, and smart social digital and social media strategies.
MediaPost and a panel of industry observers, experts and marketers have done the arduous work of finding the best of the bunch. You get to enjoy the results: our Marketing Automotive Awards. We congratulate this year's winners, who will be honored in New York during the auto show on April 12.
Automotive Marketer of the Year: Tim Mahoney, CMO, Chevrolet
Tim Mahoney just celebrated his fourth year at the automaker on April 1. He is responsible for executing Chevrolet’s brand platform, “Find New Roads,” and for overall coordination of GM’s global marketing operations. Chevrolet is one of the world's largest car brands, doing business in more than 140 countries.
Mahoney has demonstrated repeated success since coming to the automaker. In 2016, Chevrolet grew retail market share in the U.S. faster than any full-line automotive brand, with total sales up 5% to more than 2.1 million cars, trucks and crossovers. One juror said that, under Mahoney, Chevrolet has been ”the model of consistency in the messaging across all channels. Their imagery has improved as has their retail sales at a time when many of the industry have turned to fleet.”
Automotive Agency Of The Year (Traditional): Commonwealth//McCann (Chevrolet)
Creative highlights of the year include the “Real People” series, a long-form video that pitted the pick-up truck bed of the Chevy Silverado against the Ford F-150, and a touching tribute to Prince, who made everyone want to drive a “Little Red Corvette.”
Commonwealth//McCann has been supporting Chevrolet with “high-quality work with an unwavering voice,” said one juror. Adds another juror: “The Chevy ‘actual people’ ads are brilliant and totally change the conversation about Chevrolet.” A third juror said: “You’d think that normal, ‘real’ people wouldn’t get at all worked up over results of a J.D. Power survey. But somehow, these spots are peopled with genuine enthusiasts whose honest reactions to Chevy cars are infectious. Everything about the series is beautifully done, whether selling a little Malibu or a big Silverado. At a time of cynicism about ‘reality’ anything, this campaign makes us want to believe.”
Best Integrated Campaign (3 channels or more, including online): Nissan Rogue from Nissan Direct
The automaker took full advantage of an integration with the new “Star Wars” movie. A 30-second, action-packed spot, “Battle Tested,” starred the Rogue, stormtroopers and rebel fighters. But it was with a purpose. When a droid steps in front of the vehicle, it stops quickly, demonstrating the Rogue’s forward emergency braking pedestrian detection. Nissan also capitalized on the film by using pieces of the actual set as well as an army of stormtroopers at auto shows. Nissan leveraged the film and the advertising through its public relations efforts, by hosting movie premieres across the country, which generated a tremendous amount of buzz and social media. Best of all, the ads worked. Nissan Rogue sales have been setting records.
As one juror put it: “Soup to nuts, the best seamless integration across the brand and at retail, plus it sold cars. The dealers had everything needed to leverage all the work done at the brand level. Seamless integration.” Another juror weighed in: “The runaway success of the Rogue campaign and the Disney/StarWars alliance boosted the Rogue into the No. 1 crossover spot by the end of 2016. Not only was this a great campaign, it was the first campaign to result from Nissan’s reworking of their marketing and advertising strategy through an unusual process of bringing current agencies together, reworking the structure and setting new goals rather than firing agencies and hiring new ones. This collaborative process was clearly effective and resulted in both great work and strong sales.”
Automotive Agency Of The Year (Digital): Ansible (Kia)
Ansible created a bot for Facebook Messenger to introduce consumers to the Niro Hybrid Utility Vehicle, helping Kia to be among the first automotive brands in the U.S. to incorporate Facebook Messenger — which is used by more than 1 billion consumers monthly — into its marketing plan. The entertaining, interactive Nirobot chat experience delivers instant access to comprehensive product information.
NiroBot features full-screen galleries, guided vehicle discovery, rich product specification menus, deep linking to kia.com, expansive technical information regarding the vehicle, step-by-step tutorials and test drive scheduling calendars on an easy-to-use interface. Additionally, the NiroBot can connect the user to a live Kia representative at any time during engagement.
Since launching in November, more than 700,000 conversations have been sent, with an average conversation lasting of over three minutes.
Best Social Campaign: Carmichael Lynch for Subaru Zero Landfill Initiative
As the first automotive manufacturer in U.S. history to become zero landfill (having achieved a landfill diversion rate of 98% or greater), Subaru has been approached by over 800 companies to help them become zero landfill, too. So when the National Park Service asked them to sponsor the year-long National Park centennial celebration, Carmichael-Lynch encouraged Subaru to use this opportunity to do something of lasting historical importance for the parks — do what they’ve done for hundreds of others and help make the entire National Park System zero landfill.
Throughout the spring and summer of 2016, Subaru’s campaign collaborated with the National Parks Service to both educate people about reducing waste and keeping it off park land and to bring its own experience and expertise to the process, branding waste-reduction initiatives in parks and reflecting that work in its ad campaign. The work served to broaden awareness of the brand and to further solidify loyalty and consumer opinion of Subaru.
Best Minority or Interest Group Campaign: Walton Isaacson for Lexus RX
Lexus promoted its revamped 2016 RX crossover with a unique marketing campaign that aimed to reach a diverse audience. While anchored by two national TV spots, it also had three ads for, respectively, Hispanic, African-American, and LGBT consumers from Lexus' diversity agency, Walton Isaacson. The spots were ground-up creative for their respective targets and showed segment insight.
Creative includes a spot for an African-American audience, in which a modern couple start their day in an upscale, futuristic home and drive off in the RX. An Hispanic audience spot is a fantasy in which a man wakes up in a desert to find a Lexus RX key fob in his hand. He enters the vehicle and drives through a dreamlike mountain pass. A woman appears as he drives by and gets in. The third diversity spot is for an LGBT audience, with a couple starting their day in their avant-garde home as one man grabs his briefcase and walks outside to his new RX.
Best Viral Marketing Execution or Campaign: SapientRazorfish for Mercedes-Benz, #MBPhotoPass
This is a social media campaign that went viral. Via its #MBPhotoPass campaign, the company is slaying user-generated content as a way to appeal to their different buyer personas and get audiences engaged. The company “passes” access to their Instagram feed to social influencers, journalists, photographers and team members to curate content for the account for certain periods. Mercedes worked with over 40 photographers and influencers, including Loki, a wolf dog with 1.3 million Instagram followers. Using 360-degree cameras, Loki and his owner, Kelly, go for a drive with videos showing the interior and exterior of the vehicle plus dog and owner playing in the snowy landscape.
Mercedes let the influencers tell a story using their vehicles. Along with access to the Instagram account, these influencers were given the keys to a Benz to drive around while they are taking pictures and curating the company's Instagram account. Instagram alone generated 173 million impressions, 2.3 million likes and comments, and $4 million worth of earned media. To date, there are more than 8,500 user-generated photos on Instagram tagged #MBPhotoPass.
Best Interactive Execution or Campaign: Spark44 and Mindshare for Jaguar Land Rover
To support the launch of the Jaguar XE compact luxury sedan and F-Pace performance SUV, a "dedicated day of digital” on April 19 was planned with the focus on creating awareness and driving an interactive conversation on digital media around the campaign. The campaign team had the goal of garnering more than 361 million digital media impressions on the day of digital activations. To do this, a key social component of the campaign was creating the promoted hashtag #UnleashTheCats to drive word of mouth.
On social media, the team posted promoted content with the hashtag for a 24-hour takeover on Twitter. To interact with young consumers, Jaguar collaborated with influencer Zach King on Twitter and Vine to create two 15-second videos featuring the XE. The company also placed sponsored content on Instagram and Facebook, encouraging followers to share their Jaguar experiences with the hashtag on the platforms.
Within one day of the campaign, Jaguar’s homepage takeovers received over 460 million digital media impressions. This exceeded the campaign team’s impression goal by nearly 100 million.
Best Campaign For a Dealer Group: Goodby Silverstein & Partners, Doner, Society and Mosaic for Chrysler Pacifica
Chrysler officially introduced the brand’s adorable, pint-sized product specialists, the PacifiKids, through a digital and social campaign that featured actress Brooklyn Decker (Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie”) and included this inaugural video on Facebook.
The agencies created a dealer experience around the Pacifica designed to entertain kids while the parents shop. The Pacifikids campaign featured kids taking over a Chrysler dealership and running it for the day, surprising consumers who visited Victorville Motors in California.
It was business as usual at the dealership except that, as 12 families came in to shop for an all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, they were greeted by the PacifiKids instead of the dealership’s adult workforce. With no adults in sight, the PacifiKids — Izzy, Milesand Harper — along with their staff of eight (ages 8 to 13) greeted unsuspecting minivan shoppers and took them through the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica. The reaction of consumers was filmed and is available on Chrysler’s YouTube channel.
In addition to the digital and social campaign, the PacifiKids also made special appearances at family events across the country last summer telling people why the all-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is the ultimate family vehicle. Dealer TV spots like this one supported the effort.
Through these efforts and others, Chrysler saw a five-fold increase in online inquiries and stellar sales.
The jury for the editorially selected awards consisted of Ian Beavis, chief strategy officer, AMCI Global; Tanya Gazdik, editor, Marketing: Automotive, MediaPost; Michelle Krebs, executive analyst, Autotrader; Barbara Lippert, MediaPost columnist, MediaPost.com, and Scotty Reiss, founder, SheBuysCars.com.