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How to Kick Auto Show Activations Into Gear

April 19, 2018 | B2C, Brand Environment

Auto Show Activations Provide Attendees with a Glimpse of the Latest and Greatest Vehicle Models.

Auto show activations, have captivated consumers for over a century, providing attendees with a glimpse of the latest and greatest vehicle models, offering up interactive demos and often fueling the experience with cutting-edge technology. Indeed, auto shows are a breed of events that, like a fine wine, seem to get better with age. The competition is fierce, but savvy automakers are finding clever ways to cut through the clutter. Whether you’re an auto brand, or simply looking for new ways to energize your next event, consider the following four tips for kicking auto show activations into gear.

Bring on the Drama
Auto brands love to rev up attendees with big reveals, so adding some extra drama to your activation is an effective way to capitalize on that approach. Nissan proved as much at the New York International Auto Show, where it brought its collaboration with Lucasfilm and the “Star Wars” franchise to life.

To help promote “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” the brand, naturally, showcased the Nissan Rogue SUV, and shone a spotlight on its Nissan Rogue: Rogue One Star Wars Limited Edition full-size production vehicle. But the real showstopper was an inflatable Death Star that could be found hovering over Nissan’s booth, drawing in attendees from all corners of the event. The drama continued with a VR experience that placed participants in a battlefield from the film where they could explore Nissan technology. A digital mirror experience that turned attendees into Stormtroopers or Nissan Rogue-inspired robots didn’t hurt, either. Talk about auto show activations!

Engage the Senses
You can talk until you’re blue in the face about all the great features available in your brand’s vehicles, but only an immersive experience can give consumers a realistic sense of how those amenities come to life—and multisensory experiences are about as immersive as it gets. Chevy embraced the strategy at this year’s North American International Auto Show, where it invited attendees to participate in its Virtual Dynamics Lab 4-D Experience inside a 4D theater. The VR-fueled engagement placed participants in the passenger seat of various Chevrolet vehicles undergoing analysis. The experience offered a 360-degree look at the testing grounds, and took attendees through some of the brand’s most rigorous testing processes. Thanks to haptic technology built into their seats, participants felt every last bump, twist and turn—and if they ever questioned the reliability of Chevy vehicles in extreme conditions, you can bet the 4D experience quickly changed their minds.

Tell a Story
Subaru has billed its roomy new SUV as the go-to vehicle for pet parents who need the extra space to squeeze in their four-legged friends. At the Los Angeles Auto Show, the brand energized that message in a live setting with a storyline surrounding the “Barkleys,” a family of eight Golden Retrievers living in the fictional town, “Subaruville.” The experience took up the entire floor of a parking garage located outside the auto show, and included an introduction by Tom Doll, president and coo of Subaru of America, who portrayed a resident of Subaruville house-sitting for the Barkleys while they were on, what else, a road trip (nice touch). Puppies and a solid storytelling strategy that drove home brand messaging? Now that’s a win-win.

Reimagine the Traditional Ride and Drive
Jeep owners are renowned for their love of the great outdoors, especially when it comes to taking their beloved vehicles off-road. So what better way to engage potential customers than through an obstacle course that simulates that experience? For years, the brand’s Camp Jeep experience has done exactly that, attracting auto show attendees to its outdoor track, where they encounter rough terrain and steep inclines through a hair-raising ride and drive experience in one of a variety of trail-rated Jeep models. The brand knew a traditional ride and drive wouldn’t do for the adventure-seeking target it aims to attract, and with years of successful Camp Jeep events under its belt, Jeep’s strategy is clearly paying dividends.

Auto show activations have always been hot, but over the last year, automotive event marketers have been on fire, introducing new ways to experience their vehicles and brands, and offering up tech-powered interactives that attract attendees to their booths—and keep them there. And that’s the level of engagement that should get every event marketer’s motor runnin’.


Check out brand activations designed and produced by Sparks here.

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Being a digital producer allows me to bring all kinds of products to life, some just happen to be fast and furious.

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