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 adapting to different stages of the pandemic

“It’s probably the biggest shift in marketing I’ve ever made in my career in such a short amount of time… We were able to react quickly, but we continue to react because things are changing so quickly.” – Rhind

“[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 how soon to expect car sales to recover

“We’re pretty optimistic that things will rebound quickly, seeing what happened in China… With some optimism, that could happen here as well. The key, of course, is… how quickly people are able to get back to work. And that’s still not totally clear from a Canadian perspective.” – Rhind

“There are probably a lot of OEMs sitting with a ton of 2019 model year vehicles that they’re going to try to unload… And then you get into an incentive war. And it’s one of those things that, from our brand standpoint, we have to stay away from.” – Lalka

“There’s a certain amount of pent-up demand as well… We’re going to see [sales] settle down again [after an initial rebound]…” – Hamilton