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Including NADA 2011 in San Francisco, I have now attended 15 NADA Conventions... Just thinking about that piece of trivia makes my feet sore! The 2011 NADA Convention (in my opinion) is best described as the first "Post Recession Traumatic Disorder" recovery event. Although, there is still a lot of pain out there amongst suppliers, dealers and others who are part of the NADA Convention ecosystem.
For those of us in the world of Automotive Digital Marketing, we have been spared a lot of the pain and suffering caused by the Great Recession of 2007-2010 because there was continued growth during the Recession for digital marketing focused businesses. But, while I was watching the great people at Dealer.com winding down from 4 days of celebrating their success with clients and friends, I looked over at the company next to the Dealer.com exhibit that was selling dealership event spotlights and flashy point of sale merchandising equipment... They were not a happy team and looked like they had just been through Grant Cardone's "You Can't Handle The Truth" meeting.
The fact is that over 2,000 dealers closed shop from 2008 to 2010 and none of them shut down after paying all their bills! Many of the auto industry's suppliers and vendors who are the ones to fund most of the best events and activities at NADA Conventions have had a tough few years recently... This must be factored into evaluating NADA 2011 for those of us who have been to enough NADA Conventions to have a valid experience base with which to compare this year's event to previous years. After all, anybody who attended Sean Stapleton's Who's Calling Parties in San Francisco, Las Vegas and New Orleans a few years ago will tell you that nothing at NADA 2011 even remotely approached those events... I would love to see Sean put on his party hat again at some point with the backing of the VinSolutions team.
The NADA Convention is big enough that everyone who attended may have had a different experience and perspective on that experience... Personally, I lasted only a few minutes at many of the receptions i attended, sometimes the posturing and inane commentary of the crowd gets to be a bit much. Although most of my time at NADA 2011 was spent in private meetings, interviews and presenting Tier 10 Marketing's program to selected dealer groups, I found the smaller, more intimate get togethers with dealers, friends, allies and industry wonks to be far more enjoyable this year than I ever previously appreciated.
Owen Moon's observations in another ADM Forum post on NADA 2011 are interesting, especially the part about getting kicked out of a booth! After I spent about an hour hanging out at the Dealer.com exhibit and watching their crew getting choreographed to perform a music video shot to the tune of Michael Jackson's Thriller (lots of fun), I went around taking photographs... As I was leaving the North Hall, a vendor came running out to me and was quite upset "Why are you taking photos of my booth?" he asked... I was taking photos of the entire convention hall, so I responded that I was being like a tourist and taking photos for my blog (I gave him the ADM URL). He asked me to delete my images, and I simply laughed and said "No". Just then, Gary May was walking up to me from the opposite direction, with his arms held out wide saying something like "You wanna piece of me?" and the upset vendor turned and went back into his cave...
Even though NADA 2011 was my 15th NADA Convention, those 15 years of convention attendance have not been sequential, I missed a few years in the 90's, but I have been to every one since 2001. I do not recall any previous NADA Conventions with more surly or less hospitable vendors. On the other hand, now that I am no longer associated with a big DMS provider, maybe what I am seeing is how many of these suppliers REALLY are, and not seeing how they treat either a dealer, or somebody from Reynolds or ADP, with whom they need to be able to access their systems for data. I'd be interested in hearing other observations or theories as well...
BTW... I was VERY impressed with Jerry Thibeau's Phone-up Ninjas products and services, as well as the Ford Motor Company exhibit, especially around accessory Point-Of-Sale display fixtures and signage. The 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 on display did get my heart pumping faster (or maybe that was the staircase). And, I think I now have a far better appreciation for the success of the Dealer.com team... They seem to have enough fun working together that it carries over into a higher quality of service and products being delivered to their dealer clients.