The Unobvious Ones is a monthly look at movers and shakers who fly below the radar in the Canadian auto industry.
AN ONLINE FOCUS TO HELP DEALERS IN CRISIS
The news came in just three weeks before the Trillium Automotive Dealers Association’s (TADA) annual Automotive Conference and Expo in April: Because of COVID-19, Ontario ordered nonessential services closed and the event was cancelled.
“It usually brings in 750 attendees,butwehadtolisten to health officials, and it’s postponed until September,” said Conte, the association’s conference and event coordinator.
TADA represents about 1,100 new-vehicle dealers in Ontario.
“We had our speakers booked, our hotels, our venues. But everyone was so accommodating, and we took it day by day.”
Conte switched to working on webinars for members. “We’re looking at what dealers will appreciate right now when they can’t operate as usual. We need to pivot in terms of how we’re helping the dealers, whether it’s content for crisis management, or what resources they’ll need to come out of this and still have a strong store.”
Although the September conference date remains on the table, Conte is also exploring virtual-event platforms in case physical distancing measures are still in place at that time.
Conte, 30, plans all of the association’s events, which also include a digital marketing conference, golf tournaments and at February’s Canadian International AutoShow (CIAS) in Toronto, an inaugural event to introduce women to jobs in the industry.
“Every [attendee] had to bring one person from outside the field, and it was a fun night of networking.”
Conte studied corporate communications at Toronto’s York University and was fascinated by the way automotive companies developed their branding and partnerships. Her first job was events coordinator for CIAS.
“I helped plan the features, coordinating the rooms, the food and beverage. I was there for two years, and the [Trillium] association saw me and asked me to come in.
“I like to work hard...I love being organized, building relationships and managing partnerships and having good relationships with our vendors and dealers. I don’t like working from home because I don’t have the [marketing] team around me, but we’re working together to help the auto industry as a whole.”
SPECIAL DELIVERY FOR DOCTORS AND NURSES
Many people have personal protective equipment (PPE) to donate for medical personnel, but hospitals don’t want them coming in. Aleksandra Bulat, manager of Experiential and Partnerships for Jaguar Land Rover Canada, volunteered to make the hand-off happen.
Connecting to donors through www.theppedrive.com and using company vehicles, Bulat and two employees from the automaker’s advertising agency made 80 trips and delivered almost 25,000 items to Toronto’s Michael Garron Hospital.
“I’m working from home, and I went three or four times a week, depending on my schedule. I had my own PPE, I was the only one driving my vehicle and it got wiped down after each shift.”
Bulat, 38, calls her job “the best in the company.” She works on all customer-facing events, including auto shows, track days and the Land Rover Experience in Montebello, Quebec.
“I take into account the vehicles we’re launching and imagine what the program will look like. I work with event companies at the location, and I go on site and make sure it’s going as it should be. Then we work with another company to track the metrics.”
After studying psychology at the University of Toronto and her first job as an executive assistant, she joined an advertising agency that had Ford as a customer.
“I worked on their sales and service campaigns in digital marketing, and then I ended up moving into the events program. I worked on a Ford event with 16,000 participants.
“Someone recommended me to Jaguar Land Rover, and they took a chance on me to do an auto show. It was so complicated, so much information. They gave me a four-month contract and I think it’s working out, because nine years later I’m still doing auto shows and events. My job is basically watching people experience our vehicles and have smiles on their faces.”
DRIVEWAY GLAMOUR SHOTS FOR CHILDREN STUCK INDOORS
The COVID-19 pandemic is hard enough on youngsters who can only play in their yards, but children with compromised immune systems can’t enjoy outdoor activities. One photo at a time, Lucas Scarfone is helping make their time indoors a little easier.
The 30-year-old freelance photographer, based in Hamilton, Ont., usually works with BMW, General Motors, Porsche and Volvo, photographing their driving events and supplying photos to their public relations teams for social media.
But with events at a standstill, Scarfone decided to help the Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada with its Play From Home campaign, which supplies crafts and games to children who must stay indoors. He contacted exotic and classic car owners, offering to take photos for a donation.
“I got involved with Starlight because they run an event every year in Toronto called Drive 4 Smiles, where people show up with their cars and take disabled children [for rides]. I met a lot of these guys, so I reached out to them. The owner leaves the car in the driveway, all set up, and I show up and take some pictures. I don’t see anybody or touch anything, and I email them a link to the pictures.” Within two weeks, Scarfone raised almost $9,000.
Self-taught in photography, Scarfone learned the business side through a government-sponsored program while still in school and launched his career. He began working with automakers in 2016.
Five years ago, with publisher Sean Patrick, Scarfone founded Autostrada, a magazine for enthusiasts.
“My mom’s an artist, so maybe that’s where I get some of the artistic eye. I love being around the cars and to marry that passion with photography, and I hope the passion shines through in my finished product.”