OMVIC takes car buyers to school

The consumer protection board is hoping to help consumers see issues before they buy in an 80s sitcom-themed campaign.

What’s the “OMVIC Academy?” It’s a Saved by the Bell-style ad campaign by the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council to drive awareness about consumer protection.

Led by “Professor Omvic,” the campaign features five videos, complete with canned laughter. They feature mock exercises and lectures about the potential pitfalls of car-buying consumers should keep a look out for: all-in price advertising, negative equity, buying from a registered dealer, buying from a private seller and “curbsiders” (scammers who don’t have a registered title for a vehicle they are selling).

However, the jokey messaging belies OMVIC’s sober mandate.

“We are a law enforcement agency,” says Terry O’Keefe, the organization’s director of communications and education. “People can be put in prison because of charges that we lay.”

OMVIC both administers and enforces the Motor Vehicle Dealers’ Act and Consumer Protection Act in Ontario. The lighthearted campaign was geared to its key constituents – first time car buyers and new Canadians – in order to prevent issues from happening before the vehicle purchase is made and complaints are levied against unscrupulous sellers/dealers.

Consumer protection is not just about enforcement, says O’Keefe. “Awareness and education is a key focus.”

O’Keefe says OMVIC was particularly interested in increasing awareness about “all-in” price advertising, as many consumers are still unaware that car dealer advertisements must include all fees and charges, despite being the law in Ontario since 2010.

Historically, OMVIC’s campaigns have had more of a “regulator voice,” and a “more serious message,” O’Keefe says, but adds that is not an effective way to reach all consumers. With the new campaign, OMVIC is hoping to attract a younger audience with “uniqueness, fun and creativity.” The agency is reaching out to schools for civics classes, and met with Young Drivers of Canada during the initial creative stage with hopes of getting the Canadian Automobile Association on board as well.

OMVIC launched the campaign at February’s Canadian International Autoshow in Toronto, where a sponsored area featured a seating area, new car buying guides and informative touch screens, in addition to showing the spots. The videos, developed by agency Tag, have now been made  available online and on social media.