Putting bums in trucks, one hootenanny at a time: Thomas Flood, communications planner, Dentsu Canada, Toronto

Over the past few months, strategy reached out to media vets in a search for the best next-gen media minds - those who are setting new standards in strategy and tactics. This is the final installment of our two-part series featuring the players that media shops singled out as ones to watch. Check out what they've been up to.

Claim to fame

Thomas Flood has gained a rep among his colleagues and clients for strategic skills, attention to detail and intellectual curiosity about the ever-changing mediascape. One of his key claims to fame involved the launch of the Toyota Tundra, one of biggest in the brand’s history. He managed a multimedia strategy that included 18 TV spots, dozens of print executions and non-standard online units spanning a three-phase launch. The results speak for themselves: In 2007, sales of the Toyota Tundra were up 400% from the previous year.

The online campaign was challenging, as the big strategy had to be conveyed through what is inherently a small media channel. Therefore, custom over-the-page ad units were created and negotiated with sites, coupled with targeted and custom-created placements.

The efforts yielded strong interaction rates and drove significant user traffic to the Tundra microsite.

The TV buys targeted male outdoor enthusiasts through Wild TV, FISH TV and Facts of Fishing. These programs provided exposure through brand sell spots, as well as product placement aimed at giving further cred to the Tundra. Sports fans were also captured via sponsorships of NASCAR racing and NHL hockey.

On the print campaign, Flood focused on where the majority of sales would be found: farming/agriculture and construction. Using titles such as On-Site, Western Producer, Better Farming and Canadian Contractor, they achieved cost-efficient impact.

But it was the grassroots plan that Flood is most proud of – introducing Toyota Tundra to historically domestic purchasers at bums-in-seats’ opportunities across the country. Research and focus groups showed that the Tundra was low on purchase intent and opinion in the large pickup segment, particularly against domestics. Flood’s strategy was to get the truck crowd into the Tundra to show off the power and capabilities – an experience that would allow it to go head-to-head with the domestics and change the perception of Toyota’s trucks.

What better place to find domestic truck owners than at agricultural and trade shows? Tundra had a significant presence at the Canadian Western Agribition as the official vehicle sponsor, with a test track to give the consumer a chance to feel the Tundra in action. Tundra was also the official sponsor of the Sportsmen’s Shows in Montreal and Quebec City in February and March, with a test track in Quebec City. To target the key Western truck markets, a program with the Calgary Saddledome was developed that included rink boards, video screens, LED rings and a display of the Tundra with interactive and video elements. Other Western events on the Tundra circuit were Construct Canada and the B.C. Home and Garden Show.

Where Flood came from…

Flood’s background definitely isn’t the standard media CV (if there is one). He attended Sheridan College for Human Resource Management, then went on to study at the Harris Institute for the Arts, an audio production school. He also spent two years working as an event/production coordinator with Paquin Entertainment and a year and a half with an Canada 1 Sales and Marketing, an event management, social marketing and merchandising company. He joined Dentsu in 2006 as a communications coordinator and was promoted to communications planner.

Are advertisers giving enough attention to the media side of things and keeping pace with opportunities?

‘I think more attention is being paid to the role of media than in the past. However, on the media side, clients must realize that consumers are used to seeing messaging in traditional media, so when you bring the brands to them in relevant and unexpected places, the message becomes further embedded in their lifestyle.

‘Most people working in media will concur that it is surprising to still see some hesitation towards online advertising. The apprehension seems to be dissipating a bit, but not nearly as fast as it should. Lose the perception that you can only layer alternative media options on top of a heavy traditional plan.’