The Unobvious Ones is a monthly look at movers and shakers who fly below the radar in the Canadian auto industry.
EXPERIENTIAL EVENTS PUT DRIVERS IN THE LAP OF LUXURY
When it comes to prestige vehicles, automakers and dealers need to sell the ownership experience. For that, they turn to Larry Futers, president of 7 Communications in Oakville, Ont., 40 kilometres west of downtown Toronto.
“We’re a lifestyle and branding agency,” said Futers, 50, whose company has 20 employees.
“For some automakers, we’ll do experiential services, such as product test drives and launches. For dealer groups, we provide suites of services, including public relations, media buying and digital and creative advertising.”
His client list includes Lamborghini and HarleyDavidson and he has represented BMW for almost a decade.
“That experiential work wasn’t happening during the beginning of [COVID-19],” Futers said. “But we’re seeing a monumental swing back to it as more clients want to create human connections with the products they produce.”
Futers joined Volvo Car Canada in 1997 and was responsible for customer service and after-sales marketing across the country. He then worked at the automaker’s U.S. office in New Jersey for a year but returned to Canada to lead Volvo’s national marketing.
Seeking a change, Futers joined Mitsubishi Motors of Canada in 2006 to oversee product and pricing. During his time there, sales more than doubled. In 2008, he left to join an advertising agency.
He launched 7 Communications a year later, in the midst of the Great Recession that followed the financial crisis.
“If we could build the business coming out of a global meltdown, I felt we could be successful anytime,” Futers said. “Our first clients were dealer groups and they introduced us to the automakers.
“We focus on luxury because these clients think about how they can differentiate themselves. Each has a different ‘brand eco,’ and our job is to properly communicate that to the target audience.”
VIRTUAL REACH TO KEEP CUSTOMERS ENGAGED
Online advertising has become a top priority for automakers. At Volvo Car Canada, Aleiza Alerta is focused on the brand’s digital media campaigns connecting with customers.
“I have to understand media trends and look at the performance of past campaigns,” said Alerta, social media and customer relationship manager. “I plan a calendar each month for the content we’ll post on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.”
Alerta creates some of the content and an agency produces the rest. She also provides Volvo retailers support that includes workshops designed to help them create content for their social media channels.
Other duties include sending customers emails reminding them to bring their vehicles in for servicing, and notifying them when their leases are about to end.
Alerta, 40, studied creative advertising at Seneca College in Toronto and in 2002 joined an ad agency.
“I was working on media planning and buying the placement for ads.
“I was fascinated by the analytics and all you could learn from a digital-media campaign. Social media was just starting up.”
Alerta worked at a number of agencies and then in 2019 at the Toronto office of LinkedIn, the business-focused social network.
“I did that for about a year, and then the opportunity came up at Volvo,” she said. “I’ve always had an affinity for the brand. My dad taught me how to drive [in] a Volvo.”
Her experience in advertising helps Alerta understand trends.
“I can address the things our customers are looking for in social media. It helps me be more reactive and create content that resonates.”
Alerta began her job remotely because of COVID-19 and has yet to work inside Volvo’s office in Richmond Hill, 35 kilometres north of downtown Toronto.
“I work at home but still feel that sense of community. Every week the company hosts an online fika, a Swedish-style coffee break, so I get to know my colleagues.”