Industry Events

2009 JD Power Automotive Internet Roundtable Review – Red Rock, Vegas

JDPARoundtable09Vegas, Social Media, JD Power Stats, OEM representation, professional atmosphere, and excellent networking opportunities were the highlights of 2009’s #JDPAIRT << click for Twitter conversations.

I must state that I’m writing the rest of this from a dealer’s stand-point (mine in particular), so this might not be the same perspective an OEM or vendor would have…

With the economy being what it is, representation by the dealer body was low. This was no surprise, but the sad part was it didn’t set the stage for great debate on the dealer’s behalf. A few of us tried to push things through twitter, but I think we just disturbed people. So when you have a bunch of vendors and manufacturers, many have a tendency to play things safe. There were a few people who pushed the envelope on stage (Larry Bruce from Reynolds & Reynolds and David Metter from MileOne), but these were few and far between…I’ll write a bit about what they did a little further in.Due to my flight schedule I virtually missed the entire first day, and arrived just in time for the cocktail hour. I heard I only missed one good session though. The beginning of the second day started with Jim Farley of Ford who gave an incredible presentation of what Ford is doing in the digital space. I was very impressed!

I may not have these numbers perfectly correct, but from the graph Farley showed, this looks like Ford’s media buy:  50% TV, 25% Digital, 15% Experimental, and 10% paper/magazines. He also said that

all of Ford’s advertising is now derived from things learned in social media and they encourage all departments to participate and learn. He also stated that social media is such a strong influence on Ford that it actually plays a huge role in product and aftermarket development.

Their advertising strategy is simply to “get people talking about us, not us talking about us.” He made me wish, more than ever, that we carried Ford.

Social Media Panel

After Farley Ralph Paglia, Jared Hamilton, Eric Miltsch, Christopher Barger, and Tom Chisholm’s panel (pictured) was on social media. They each did a great job on explaining the fundamentals of how a business should approach these different communication pieces. I got to spend some time talking to Eric Miltsch and if you’re not watching what he is doing at Auction Direct you should! You can view the slideshow from their presentation here – thanks Mary! Ralph has also posted about his experience on the panel on ADM.

As for some debate…

  1. Larry Bruce from Reynolds & Reynolds brought up the age-old argument that a dealership should not move onto the next big thing until they’ve got the basics covered. I agree with that argument on some levels, but he got a little extreme with it, and obviously hasn’t thought about things from the perspective of pushing the core through new dealership processes that I proposed last week. I at least applaud Larry for stirring up some debate!
  2. There was a lot of talk about the buying funnel through Tier 1,2, & 3 advertising. I think everyone agreed that Tier 1 should be done by OEM’s and Tier 3 should be done by dealers, but what about Tier 2? Tier 2 is regional dealership/OEM advertising done through ad agencies that is usually paid for on dealer invoices. The argument for Tier 2 was not very strong. However, I think some of the ad agencies who handle Tier 2 stuff, like Pivec/Pivnet, do a lot to push dealers and OEM’s. Is there a value in that alone? There is definitely a lot more to debate on this subject.
  3. David Metter did a great job of not only entertaining the audience in a panel about what Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 advertising should be doing, but he also got some good digs in on OEM digital advertising policies toward dealers. He made quite a few points that had me saying AMEN and wishing that VW, Honda, MINI, Scion, GM, and Cobalt were in the room. I can’t quote David exactly, but here are two things he said in a nutshell:

Why do OEM’s approve almost all traditional co-op, while asking us to do more digital, but give us such a hard time approving the digital?

I don’t want my dealership website to look like my manufacturer’s website.

AMEN brother!

I had some great conversations outside of the conference, and that is more what attending these things is all about.  Overall, I found this JD Power Automotive Internet Roundtable to be a graduation to Internet 201, but nothing that really pushed the envelope. Would I call it a waste of my boss’ money? – No, I got a few nuggets and ideas to make some money with. Am I going to think twice about attending next year – yes.  I want more debate!  As Shaun Raines noted in the #JDPAIRT twitter stream, too many of the panelists and moderators had business ties.

Screen shot 2009-10-19 at 11.20.58 PM


As more is written on the event, I’ll try to keep posting links here:

Gary May’s take on his week in Vegas
Jay Friedman’s account of JD Power << good listing of stats from the conference
JD Power’s Own Review by Amit Aggarwal

Who knew an argument with Jeff Kershner, in 2005, would lead to Alex becoming a partner with him on DealerRefresh. Where will the next argument take ...

Great summary...appreciate the mention. Great seeing you as well.

Farley's presentation was incredible; one theme that rang out to me on a consistent basis was the need to connect to our customers on a new emotional level - one that provides the customer the ability to customize an element of their experience.

(and this can apply to the consumer from the retail level all the way up to the OEM level)

Great to see everyone and finally meet so many of the people I've connected with online over the years.

Oh yea, Alex - my mess of a last name has 5 consonants in a row...Miltsch.
Sorry about that Eric. I am going to have to add your last name to spell check - lol. You're a Miltsch again.
  • L
    Larry Bruce
  • October 20, 2009
Alex thanks for your comment and applause. I try to take off my vendor hat at every one of these events I am asked to speak at. You're right I had not read your post; New Dealership Processes until just now.

Very interesting to choose to break something forcing a new way of doing things, I absolutely agree with it. This concept is crystallized for me in Seth Godin’s book All Marketers Are Liars. It’s a great read.

You're also right that I go to the extreme with it. As dealers we think in extremes and I wanted the dealers in the audience to take at least that away from this panel. The more time I spend analyzing the TX. Direct Auto sales model the more I realize that many of the things we do in our dealerships are distractions and by focusing with intensity on the fundamentals we will get much farther than trying to be first in the next big thing (the silver bullet)

These fundamentals being:

1. A human optimized main random access website, focus on the user everything else will take care of itself – Google

2. Proper online merchandising of your inventory, the right pictures the right way (taken by you not some disinterested 3rd party)

3. Vehicle listing strategy, Paid sites &amp; free sites

4. Pricing strategy, not the cheapest just competitive and priced to turn not for max gross (a hard one for a dealer to grasp)

5. PPC straegy for conquest customers

6. Finally a conversion focused strategy using microsites and conversion paths for all of the above

If a dealer can get these things dialed in then they can move on to the longtail and advanced elements of online marketing like social media if you don't have this foundation then the longtail isn’t sustainable.

Hope that makes sense and again thanks
Good review Alex, and well appreciated. We carry 15 brands, but not Ford, and I have to commend Ford for its efforts and success in the last 18 months as they entered the downturn in our industry and have done quite well compared to most other brands. And I agree completely with your 2 quotes regarding coop and digital advertising approval, and especially have your own website looking different than your OEM and your same brand competitors in town (Cobalt and GM sites!!!). Speaking of which, with the rollout of Google "Caffeine", duplicate content looks to be penalized, and template websites that cannot be customized for each individual market would appear to have some trouble in front of them...
<b>Larry</b> - thank you for the response! I certainly appreciate and agree with your perspective. You're absolutely right for the majority of the dealers out there, and I must admit that we're guilty of not doing some of the things you referenced as well as I would like. On DealerRefresh, and at conferences especially, I like to play the wildcard to spark some debate. My posting about moving forward without building some foundation first is certainly a metaphor for a building that is going to topple over. However, that metaphor doesn't work the same way in dealership process today.

From my own personal experiences I have seen where moving forward is fixing the core. Somehow, installing the furniture before the concrete slab is laid is actually improving the quality of the concrete!

This is a recent realization for me, but the more I think about it the more I'm realizing it is the truth. There is one key point I didn't make in that article, and that is <b>I monitor what our employees are doing across a wide breadth of mediums.</b> Without doing that I could never connect these dots and help people recognize the areas they're doing well in for the benefit of the areas they're struggling in.

<b>Kevin</b> - I'm glad you pointed out Google Caffeine. Jeff or I need to write about that one. I've been doing a lot of comparisons on and am finding some holes in our current strategy if this truly is the future of organic Google search results.
  • L
    Larry Bruce
  • October 20, 2009
Kevin / Alex @scottmonty (Scott Monty) Global Digital Communications Manager with Ford did an outstanding presentation on Ford's digital initiatives you can get his presentation @ it worth looking at
  • J
    John Scott
  • October 20, 2009
I saw an interview over the weekend from Blogworld expo, which was apparently happening at the same time, and same city as JD Power round table.

I saw a bunch of videos, but one had a couple of FORD guys talking about the results they're getting from a campaign where they gave some FIESTAS to I think a 100? or so people so they could demo it and blog about it with no restrictions. Apparently they've had a huge response.

Did you hear any mention of that at JD?

Here are some results from oct 2nd,
- 4.3 million YouTube (YouTube) views thus far
- 500,000+ Flickr (Flickr) views
- 3 million+ Twitter impression
- 50,000 interested potential customers, 97% of which don’t own a Ford currently.

That was a big portion of Farley's presentation - The Fiesta campaign was a massive undertaking.

I followed several of the participants on twitter...brilliant campaign as it created a massive folloing of people who wanted to become drivers and those who simply want to see the drivers' exploits.

I remember someone asking at JD Power if these participants' experiences were genuine? I can't see how they couldn't have been more genuine.

Drivers we tasked with specific activities on top of their daily usage...the reactions I saw seemed to nothing but genuine.

Simple premise: Let the consumer customize their experience.
  • R
  • October 20, 2009
The Ford Fiesta Movement appears to be a brilliant campaign. What a great way to kick off the new 2011 Fiesta.
Thanks for the constructive critique. We did feel a lack of dealer participation. But we understant their stress.

A couple of quick points,not to defend, but explain:
- There was ground breaking info in our opening presentation. Watch that video
- Yes,we needed more dealers. We tried. Based on dealer feedback from last year, we elminated the dealer-track breakouts. They told us they wanted to be with the OEMs.

Would like to hear more thoughts on how to improve the conference:

Gene Cameron
[email protected]
Having recently attended the JD Power Conference as a panelist, I was very concerned and highly upset about the session on OEM Website Strategies, present and Future.
This panel was moderated (dominated) by and it's clients

Aside from completely ignoring the creditability and class that this event has been built on over the years (I have spoken or been on a panel every year), my problem with the panel moderated and dominated by and it’s clients…is that much of the information was very incomplete and did NOT represent any other successful strategies and ideas that are taking place as we speak.

Our success with Mazda as the exclusive web provider has produced very custom websites for the dealer, while still maintaining the brand equity Mazda requires. Dealers have been extremely happy and dealers that don’t want to participate, don’t have to. Novel.

This was a perfect example of how the OEM HAS taken the dealers life into account when developing their web strategy; A very hot point for the dealers on stage with good reason. This would have made the discussion so much more relevant and accurate

Moreover, and Dealerskins are 2 of 4 preferred web developers for Nissan. Nissan’s philosophy is to give dealers a choice of four companies that have proven they can build compliant websites, and also offer national incentive and sales event updates across multiple vendors. A CRUCIAL point that would have completely changed the course of that conversation and encouraged dealers that there CAN be a positive OEM/Dealer website initiative that can please everyone…a point that would have been FAR better to end that discussion on.

Being a much larger data set, and a far better web strategy, why was Nissan not the panelist??? Because they use more than just for their strategy? Of course, this would have blown’s sales pitch of only using one provider to have the best solution. It’s not true.

Frankly, the Subaru web initiative is one of the smallest (with only about 100 dealers participating) and has statistically NOT been one of the more successful. (We have multi-line dealers with Nissan, Mazda and Subaru and their Subaru site ironically performs the worst!)

It should Never have been the ONLY example of OEM website strategies on that panel. Mainly because has other OEM relationships that are NOT exclusive that would have made far better examples.

There should never have been ALL clients of the moderator’s company on that panel. That defeats the whole purpose of these panels and destroys the opportunity to give the listeners the most accurate, most intelligent, most diverse, and most comprehensive information available. Instead they left with the understanding the is the only company that has this “website thing” figured out.

In the years past, Kevin Root from Cobalt and I were that same panel to give at least two opinions from the web builder’s side. It was much more valuable and informative to listeners. This year NO other web developers were given a chance to represent their successful strategies with much larger and more successful OEMs. I’m just extremely disappointed and frankly offended that this was allowed to occur.

You do not realize how competitive and difficult the web dev space is.

In the wake of the current economic disaster in our industry, NO company can afford to have their main competitor handed such a falsly acredited competitive advantage of this magnitude.

The worst part ultimately…the dealers were not given the proper information in which to make important business decisions for their livelihoods and THAT should be the only reason why any of us are in this business…the dealers pay all of us….they deserve accurate, non biased, multi-channeled, verifiable, statistically valid information.

Thank you for this post. As someone we all respect in our space, I appreciate your comments and thank you for taking the time to speak with Dean and I today.

It’s unfortunate that you feel the way you do about the panel hosted. When you do a panel, you don’t really have much choice as to what it’s about. We were asked by JD power to cover website programs specifically. All the content on our panel was shown to JD Power and approved for the show. We had panelists from three of our clients and also a representative from Group One who is not a client.

We did in fact cover most models in place today. It seems as though you were more upset with JD Power than with as we discussed today on the phone…. We did cover most models in existence today with illustrations and slides showing the setups etc. Perhaps we can work together on future panels with JD Power to make sure your voice is heard.

I wanted to point out one of your comments….

“The Subaru Rep even admits that these OEM website mandates are done because "most dealers don't know what they are doing on-line", thus the need to provide websites to these dealers. So they are honest in saying they are catering to the lowest common denominator on their dealer body. What about the dealers who do know what they are doing on-line? I guess I give a lot more credit to dealers these days, the ones I work with are excellent at their Internet strategies.”

I believe you’re missing the point here…

First of all we have all 500+ Subaru dealerships on our program. Not the 100 mentioned. (Thank you for clarifying on ADM)

Secondly, I cannot speak for Subaru, but I believe that Subaru understands that there is a hybrid model that works well for them. The dealers that do have excellent internet departments have all of the tools at their disposal to really blow it out with their websites, but as you mentioned…this isn’t a forum for pitching products… I can personally point you to some real success stories with measureable metrics if you want to give me a call. Are there some dealers that don’t participate and don’t work on their websites?…. Sure, that happens with every program and it’s an unfortunate realty in our space. Subaru is savvy to realize that it’s about creating a strategy that increases the effectiveness of their entire brand as a whole. In fact, this year Subaru has been the only manufacturer to continue to grow sales and their websites are globally generating 2-3x the lead volume nationally than they were with their previous provider. They also recently had their first sales volume win over Mazda and VW. Subaru might be a smaller company, but they sure know what they’re doing to bring the entire brand forward and their success is undeniable.

“Subaru should Never have been the ONLY example of OEM website strategies on that panel. Mainly because has other OEM relationships that are NOT exclusive that would have made far better examples.”

In regards to this statement… Jason, we asked other manufacturers that we do not have exclusives with to participate and they either declined or backed out at the last minute.

“There should never have been ALL clients of the moderator’s company on that panel. That defeats the whole purpose of these panels and destroys the opportunity to give the listeners the most accurate, most intelligent, most diverse, and most comprehensive information available.”

This statement is not accurate… Yes, we had 3 of our clients on the panel, but not all. Group One is not a client.

All in all, our feedback from the panel was great. The dealers engaged in some real conversations about what models work best from them. DeLu from Subaru did a great job taking some heat form the guys on the panel and made some incredible points himself that the dealers up.

I disagree that dealers were not given the proper information… They were exposed to four large dealer groups that have had exposure to every program under the sun and they gave their non-biased opinion on all of them. The point of the whole conversation was to point out that although some strides have been made to bridge the gap between dealers and OEMs when it comes to website programs, there is still a long way to go.

I think only by working together and keeping the conversations respectful and progressive can we find our way to a solution. There has to be a solution that both dealers and manufacturers can agree on. Until that time, both our companies should continue to work towards that goal together productively in the same space.

I agree…. Sales pitches leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth at these shows, but our panel was not a sales pitch. JD Power is primarily a Tier 1-2 event and getting OEMs talking about programs is a good thing for every vendor in our space.

Thanks again for your comments and we look forward to working with you as we discussed.
In regards to Shaun Raines comments about conference moderators stacking the deck with their own clients as panelists... I agree that this can lead to bias and reduces the value of the panel session. So I want to applaud Mary Butler from Razorfish. Despite the fact that in some areas, many people would look at ADP and Razorfish and conclude that the two companies compete with each other, Mary contacted me and asked me to be on her panel session. Additionally, despite the fact that Ford is a big Razorfish client, she reached out and recruited Chris Barger from GM to be on her panel session. When I asked her about this issue before #JDPAIRT Mary explained that her objective was to have an objective and unbiased roster of panel members that would deliver the most useful session possible.

I have to admit to also stacking the deck with clients when I have had the opportunity, so I really admire Mary Butler's integrity in ensuring that none of her direct clients were on her Social Media Marketing panel at #JDPAIRT... I believe this is the type of objective integrity that Shaune Raines was lamenting the lack of.