CAMPAIGNS: Philly auto exhibit attracts crowds by highlighting style

PR team: Auto Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia (Philadelphia) and Tattar Richards-DBC (Horsham, PA) Campaign: Philadelphia International Auto Show 2003 Time frame: December 2002 - January 2003 Budget: $60,000

PR team: Auto Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia (Philadelphia) and Tattar Richards-DBC (Horsham, PA) Campaign: Philadelphia International Auto Show 2003 Time frame: December 2002 - January 2003 Budget: $60,000

In 2002, the Philadelphia International Auto Show earned massive local press attention and drew more than 200,000 people to the city's convention center to check out more than 700 vehicles. From a publicity perspective, it was a big success. But that didn't stop the PR team of the Auto Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia and its agency, Tattar Richards-DBC, from setting their sights even higher in 2003. In agency president Scott Tattar's words, the big challenges were "keeping it fresh and not resting on our laurels." Strategy At the outset, the goals were clear: maintain attendance levels and increase coverage so more attendees could find out about the show through news reports. "The focus is always about getting as many people in the Philadelphia Convention Center as possible," Tattar says. "It's all about the numbers. That's how we're measured." In order to craft a messaging strategy for the media, the agency turned to the show's main attraction: the cars. "Last year, so many new cars, whether it was a Kia or a Cadillac, were all about style," Tattar says. "All of a sudden, just because you only had $8,000 or $10,000 to spend on a car, it didn't mean you had to sacrifice style. This was a big movement on the part of the manufacturers." Tattar Richards adopted this for the show's theme, training its spokesman to focus on the manufacturers' emphasis on style. Tactics Much of the execution came down to a media relations effort that resulted in exposure in the city's two daily newspapers and on local TV news. The PR team coordinated events like the pre-show media day, a remote-control car race, and Mayor John Street driving in the first car. The show also had a partnership with the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority, which addressed transportation issues and parking concerns. And part of the PR effort was designed to highlight the relationship between the Auto Dealers Association and the CARing for Kids program, which raises funds to support the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. One of the biggest tactical challenges was responding to what could have been a major distraction from the auto show: football. The show was bookended by a pair of Philadelphia Eagles playoff games, both of which were played at home. The auto show had to "ride the green wave," said Kevin Mazzucola, executive director of the Auto Dealers Association. That meant livening up already-planned visits by the players, showing the games on large-screen televisions in the convention center, and even getting the manufacturers to show them on their plasma displays. The show's organizers served stadium fare, and the Eagles' fight song was played often. "We can handle one game - we're at that stature," Mazzucola says. "But two home playoff games makes a lot more work and adds a lot of uniqueness to the show." Results Because of an onslaught of press attention, the numbers game worked out in Tattar Richards' favor. The publicity effort landed 247 print media hits and 117 broadcast hits, both increases from the previous year. With a market-research study, the agency had proof that the increased media exposure had a direct effect on attendance. Almost 77% of those polled said they saw or heard a news report on the show; 42% said they were aware of the CARing for Kids program; and 87% said the show helped influence their automobile-buying decisions. Future The campaign's success resulted in a three-year contract for Tattar Richards-DBC. The 2004 show took place earlier this month. "It's a fluid event," Tattar says. "The cars are different, the people are different, and the issues are different with regard to other news we're trying to counter."

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