When Hyundai Canada stopped running national advertisements in Ron Kaban’s community newspaper about five years ago, he immediately felt the impact on his rural dealership.
“My sales slipped,” said the dealer principal at Yorkton Hyundai, located about 300 kilometres southeast of Saskatoon in a city with a population of about 20,000. “I could tell because people would come in and say, ‘How come I haven’t seen your ads in the newspaper?’”
Kaban decided to run his own dealership ads in the local paper, Yorkton This Week.
“In a small market, people still read their local papers,” he said. “They don’t have Facebook, and they aren’t at the beck and call of their smartphones.”
That’s unlike in Vancouver, where his brother manages a dealership, and almost all of its advertising is done online through Facebook, Google and other digital platforms.
Kaban also keeps track of what his customers are listening to on the radio when they drive into the dealership for service, and said about 60 per cent have it tuned to a local station. He also said many farmers listen to local radio while in their tractors and combines, in part for the farm reports.
“You want to be on the radio here” to advertise, Kaban said.
And while his ad strategy might seem a decade behind that of other markets, “I’m OK with that,” Kaban said.
He’s confident that his customers are still getting their information from local radio and newspapers.
Kaban has maintained his traditional media budget but has increased overall spending to include some social media, in particular Facebook advertising.
Kaban’s strategy is similar to that of many small dealerships across Canada that still rely on traditional media to sell vehicles, unlike their big-city peers.
The approach is supported by a recent study from Totem Research, commissioned by AdCanada Media Inc. Totem found that traditional media is still a mainstay in smaller communities, especially where the Internet service might not be as reliable or speedy as in larger centres.
The survey, released in January, says about a third of respondents — which encompassed 900 people in Prairie-province communities with populations of less than 100,000 — either had no Internet, used dial-up or relied on a mobile phone or satellite connection. About half of the respondents also said their Internet connection affected their social media and online-research activities.
“In small towns, things are different,” said Jeff Beardsworth, CEO and advertising director at AdCanada Media, the marketing arm for community newspapers in the Prairies. “People can’t do things the same way they do with a wired, high-speed Internet connection.”
The AdCanada survey also asked specifically about automotive ads. It found that 27 per cent of respondents who see an auto ad in a community newspaper would be inspired to either visit a store in person or online or to seek more information, vs. nine per cent who saw an ad on social media and nine per cent who saw one on a random website.
SLIGHTED BY CITY STRATEGY
The results suggest dealerships in smaller cities and towns should have a different marketing plan than those in larger communities, Beardsworth said. He thinks this isn’t always happening amid the ongoing industry consolidation, overseen by big-city auto groups that tend to embrace more digital marketing.
“Decisions are being made by people in larger markets who don’t relate to those in smaller markets the way these dealers do,” Beardsworth said.
A Hyundai Canada spokeswoman wrote in an email that the company hasn’t withdrawn completely from community newspaper advertising and is constantly reviewing “the optimal media channels and strategies” to reach customers. She also noted “a steady decline in consumer consumption of newspapers and a significant increase in consumer attention on online sources. Hyundai has kept pace with this trend.”
Traditional media ads are still important for Ledingham ChevroletBuick-GMC in Steinbach, Man., about 60 kilometres southeast of Winnipeg. But social media is taking up a bigger part of its budget each year, said Dealer Principal Kent Ledingham.
The decision is partly a result of his dealership’s proximity to Winnipeg, where some competition exists and where online advertising is more prevalent.
What Ledingham likes about digital media is the metrics that measure engagement with the ads.
“That’s the nice thing about online. You can track the results. Whereas with traditional media ... it’s more anecdotal.”
The dealership also focused more on its digital ad platforms, such as Facebook and Google, in the spring, when people were stuck at home and spending more time online because of the pandemic-related closures.
And while General Motors recently said it would pause advertising on Facebook to push for action on hate content on the social media platform — as many other bigname brands also pledged — Ledingham has continued alongside his local competitors.
“If I’m not there, and all the other dealers are, I’m at a disadvantage. As a smaller guy, you’re always up against the bigger guys and the bigger budgets.”
In the meantime, Ledingham plans to stick with traditional media for the foreseeable future. Local radio is good for keeping his company’s name out in the community, he said, while the local weekly paper, The Carillon, is still read by many in the region.
Ledingham’s company stopped doing the print ads during the pandemic to save money but plans to restart in the fall.
“It’s still the go-to for people to get their weekly news,” he said.