NADA kicked off winning campaign

Donna Harris covers automotive retailing for Automotive News
Several years ago, the National Automobile Dealers Association developed a series of public service announcements that ran during National Football League games.

The PSAs were the result of NADA’s clever negotiations with the NFL that landed it $5 million worth of free commercial time to compensate for moving its 2002 convention date up a week. The NFL had to bump the date of Super Bowl XXXVI from Jan. 27 to Feb. 3 because it canceled a week of games after the Sept. 11 tragedies and had to make good on the lost commercial time.

While the idea behind the campaign was a good one, the TV spots themselves were way less than stellar. They reinforced the negative stereotypes people have had about fast-talking, high-pressure car salespeople.

But NADA has come a long way since then. During the Great Recession, it ran a new series of PSAs to urge people to buy new vehicles. The message was disarming because it came through cute little kids.

I’ve got to hand it to NADA. It made use of a tactic that always worked for McDonald’s with its kids’ “Happy Meals.” And here it is: If you reach out to the children, the parents will follow -- and they’ll bring their wallets.

Though it fumbled the ball with the campaign of several years ago, this one was a winner.