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Auto Show:  2011 Chicago Auto Show

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February 2011 author photo


February 14, 2011

In an unusual move, organizers of the Chicago Auto Show designated the second and final press day as a social media day, giving carmakers the chance to show off their social networking skills.

Hyundai brought in 300 of its local online fans, along with 70 area members of its online focus group. The company then invited them to compete in a social media scavenger hunt on the show floor to try and win an iPad and other prizes. One of the tasks was to get a photo of themselves with a map of the show.

The Chicago show runs about neck-and-neck with New York for consumer attendance, both attracting more than a million people. “Chicago is a consumer show,” said Dan Bedore, Hyundai’s national manager of public relations who oversees social media. “So why not be social?”

Kia partnered with four local CBS radio stations for a karaoke promotion. People are invited to sing karaoke in an area of the Kia stand. A video of their performance is then posted on, where the public can vote for their favorites. Prizes include tickets to a Chicago Bulls basketball game and Kia is advertising this promotion on the radio stations.

Kia has also teamed up with NBC and Spanish-language Telemundo television to win a dream vacation in support of the Forte model. Michael Sprague, vice president of marketing at Kia, told that these kinds of auto show activities “engage people on the floor who otherwise might not consider a Kia. Hopefully they will then go see the Forte and Soul, and our other models.”

Thirty fans of Audi came to the show’s second press day – the result of signing a petition on Facebook last summer to bring Europe’s TT RS model to the United States. Although most of the group came from the Chicago area, one paid his own way from Texas to see the car in person.

Doug Clark, Audi of America’s general manager of customer strategy and engagement, told “We know not everyone can be here.” So a few days before, Audi asked people on its Facebook page for their questions regarding the car. On that same page, Audi will soon post videos of Mark Fruechtnicht, product manager of the TT line, answering those questions. “We love engaging people online,” said Clark.

Over at Toyota, attendees are being asked to help pick the right word for “Prius Goes Plural.” People can vote on a giant video touch screen or at kiosks around the stand for either Priuses, Prii, Prius, or Prium. Toyota started the polling at the Detroit auto show and also on its Facebook page. The count so far favors Prii, which has attracted half the votes, with Priuses tallying 24 percent, Prium at 11 percent and Prius at just five percent. The winning “Prius Plural” word will be announced at the Chicago auto show on February 20.

Toyota also is offering show-goers the chance to make their own Prius television commercial. The company hired George P. Johnson, an experiential marketing firm, to give people a choice of several scripts that they will read from a teleprompter. The “stars” get a copy of their Prius commercial on a CD, but can also opt to have it posted on Toyota’s Facebook page.

The company has been doing these “commercials” at auto shows for several years and changes the models, depending on launch schedules. In Detroit, Toyota had nearly 1,000 consumer commercials for the Prius.

JEAN HALLIDAYis a seasoned journalist with the nation's longest consecutive run covering auto advertising. Her years in the trenches include stints at Automotive News, Adweek and Advertising Age. The native New Yorker now lives outside the Motor City. You can read Jean's blog at

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