Automotive Advertising Agencies Should Attend the 2010 NADA Convention to Listen and Learn

Automotive advertising agencies have been forced to take on additional responsibilities in today’s troubled economy. As the President of national network of independent affiliated automotive advertising agencies and the host of an auto industry social networking resource portal I recently promoted the 2010 NADA Convention on my blog talk radio show as a real world venue similar to the online resources that I rely on to listen and learn and contribute to so I can presume to teach.

I consider the NADA convention as a must attend event for automotive advertising agencies, auto dealers, auto industry vendors and decision makers that regularly tune in to listen and learn from the auto industry experts regularly featured on various online resources. The NADA Convention is the real world version of online social networking communities focused on sharing best practices for the auto industry and a perfect platform to make new friends and connect with old ones in both the real and the virtual world.

The NADA Convention is a means to stay ahead of the competition by learning about the new Internet technologies and applications being introduced by the vendors and speakers that will be featured at the convention. The 2010 NADA Convention is being held in Orlando, Florida this February 12th. through February 15th., 2010 at the Orlando Convention Center. Additional information on the convention is available at their site — NADA.Org — and their online pre-registration savings of $50 -$75 has been extended to January 27th., 2010. I strongly advise anyone seeking to survive in today’s consolidating auto industry to register before the deadline to take advantage of the discount with the confidence that your investment of your time and money will provide a R.O.I. that can’t be duplicated by any online auto industry-centric venue; including my own.

My affiliated agencies are connected by a proprietary online communication/distribution system I developed in December of 2001. I designed the operating system that links this national network of independent businesses as a means to leverage the resources of the participating automotive advertising agencies, production partners and select vendors to allow them to compete with national automotive advertising agencies. The resulting savings in fixed and semi-variable expenses coupled with access to a wide variety of production and creative resources for the member agencies was made possible through their use of several online technologies that were developed to support the growing World Wide Web.

I reference this history as evidence that I have practiced what I now preach. These same technologies must be applied to the internal processes of auto dealerships to allow them to survive in a consolidating auto industry. The combination of the resulting efficiencies realized in technology enhanced selling systems in brick and mortar auto dealerships integrated with their online showrooms, and the newly developing applications being applied by automotive advertising agencies to promote their auto dealer clients on the Internet, is the key to profitability today and survival tomorrow.

The NADA Convention allows auto industry vendors to present new cutting edge applications to auto dealers and automotive advertising agencies who are anxious to gain an advantage over the competition. More importantly, in a consolidating auto industry auto dealers must sell more for less to satisfy budget conscious and better educated online car buyers and the technology being applied to sell vehicles on the Internet Super Highway is the way to do it in a scalable and cost effective manner!

The blog talk radio station featured on my portal is another example of how a new technology platform can enhance the reach and performance of an automotive advertising agency in today’s Internet driven marketplace. I use various blog talk radio shows as an online communication system for my network to share best practices and new vendor applications with site visitors surfing the web to get the inside story on the auto industry. In addition, my shows attract new vendors anxious to tell their story to the decision makers who follow me on the World Wide Web which allows me to review cutting edge automotive advertising applications before competing agencies know that they exist.

Several vendor clients of mine were discovered during their online reviews and most of them will be represented at the NADA Convention. Why? Because the NADA Convention is the perfect real world venue to launch new products and services and this year is no exception.

Automotive advertising agencies know that they must apply cutting edge automotive advertising technologies to their online marketing plans that integrate with proven selling processes in their auto dealer clients’ real and virtual world showrooms but they don’t know where to find them. Online automotive advertising focused social networking sites provide an excellent filter to find the newest and the best but the NADA Convention is the place to see them all in one place and one time in an environment where the decision makers from both the automotive advertising agency and the vendor can sit across the table and work out the best deal for both. After all, what are friends for!

Automotive Advertising Agencies Must Use Yesterday’s Knowledge & Tomorrow’s Technology to Survive

Automotive advertising agencies who expect to be here tomorrow must apply tomorrow’s technology today or they will follow their shuttered auto dealer clients into the ranks of the unemployed. The consolidation of the auto industry is a necessary reaction to a shrinking economy and the proof of two basic rules of business — supply must follow demand and survival of the fittest insures that it will. The secret to survival for automotive advertising agencies and their auto dealer clients in a challenging market is to offer more for less and the technology being designed to improve sales processes on the Internet provide efficiencies that will determine the winners and the losers.

Integrating proven real world automotive advertising best practices with maturing virtual world selling processes that rely on developing technology on the Internet allows forward thinking automotive advertising agencies to blur the line between the real world of brick and mortar auto dealerships and the new virtual showrooms being built on the Internet Super Highway. Automotive advertising 101 teaches that you must go where your customers are if you want to reach them and with 93% of car shoppers confirming that they start their car buying process on the Internet that part of the marketing and sales process is easy. The hard part that automotive advertising agencies must recognize is that the one constant that has survived on the World Wide Web is human nature. Customers empowered by the easy access of information on the Internet are no longer dependent on auto dealerships — real or virtual — to determine what vehicle they will purchase and who they will buy it from. Online shoppers are looking for a new or used vehicle, not an auto dealership, and automotive advertising agencies need to convert from push/pull advertising methods to pull/push techniques preferred by an educated consumer.

Of course there is no need to throw the baby out with the bath water! Automotive advertising agencies must use conventional wisdoms built on the stable foundation of human nature supported by the efficiencies offered by new automotive advertising applications designed to crash through the glass wall of the Internet to preserve both market share and profits for their auto dealer clients. The easiest way to satisfy the customer and the auto dealer — in that order — is to give the customers what they want, when they want it — which is immediately — and to do it in such a way that the customers feel that they are buying a vehicle vs. being sold one. That is where the use of new automotive advertising technology and the related improved selling processes come in.

Giving the customers what they want — which is a vehicle not an auto dealership — suggests that automotive advertising agencies must promote individual vehicles on the Internet, not their auto dealer clients. While this may seem counter intuitive to old school car guys who presume that they must sell themselves before they can sell their vehicles, it is in keeping with equally established wisdom that suggest that automotive advertising doesn’t sell cars it just attracts customers who want to buy one. Simply put, the best advertising message in the world has no value if no one sees it and since customers are searching the web for individual vehicles that is the bait that will have them bite the hook that has the auto dealer on the other end of the line.

It is an accepted fact that cars sell cars and brick and mortar auto dealerships have gravitated to car rows or auto malls to take advantage of the attraction of having as many vehicles as possible in one location to draw real world car shoppers to their individual facilities. The leveraged advertising of multiple competing dealerships and the added value and convenience of one stop shopping for comparable makes and models at one central location is a value for consumers that has survived on the Internet Super Highway. Established third party inventory based websites have a proven place in today’s online automotive advertising plans. Most auto dealerships already rely on the leverage of their collected inventories of literally millions of vehicles from thousands of auto dealerships to attract online new and used vehicle shoppers. The search engine optimization, S.E.O., realized by these third party sites coupled with their localized search engine marketing, S.E.M., investments drawn from the collected revenues of the auto dealer clients that participate in these communal sites provide a competitive advantage that no individual dealer or even a large dealer group can compete with. New technologies being applied to this established business model promise an even better return on investment, R.O.I., for the auto dealers that participate.

ronsmap is a game changing online car buying/selling site for both consumers and dealers that exemplifies the value of improving technologies in existing Internet based marketing platforms. It makes car buying fast, comprehensive, transparent and live. What makes it unique is their new technology that gives consumers unparalleled buying and negotiating power over the car buying/selling processes including the opportunity to accommodate For Sale By Owner listings. Their unique value for dealers is that it provides them with an unprecedented level of sales intelligence on consumer leads, and it enables automotive advertising agencies to promote and engage consumers via social networks.

With existing search engine filters and third party websites online shoppers have to scroll through lists of hundreds of vehicles while clicking and drilling down on each site since not all vehicles for sale are aggregated on any one exit on the Internet Super Highway. Auto dealers that pay the most are typically promoted in the top listings limiting honest competitive comparisons and auto dealers are often non-responsive to general inquiry leads sourced from these lead resellers. Auto Dealers are equally challenged by existing marketing platforms that do not provide visibility or insights into consumer’s other vehicles of interest discovered during their online shopping trips and their communications are often mid sales cycle starting long after the initial research by the consumer has been completed. The R.O.I. for auto dealers for leads purchased from multiple third party providers are reduced by duplications and smaller dealers not willing or able to pay for a premium position can’t compete equally with the larger advertisers on these sites.

ronsmap is a new technology driven Internet solution scheduled to launch at the 2010 NADA Convention in Orlando, Florida. They provide the leverage of multiple inventories posted on a unique map-like internal search engine driven by consumer preferences on a local level that places all vehicles that fit the consumer’s search criteria on the same page with no prejudice to premium positions purchased by the dealers. Their proprietary application provides a level playing field for auto dealers while offering consumers one stop shopping across multiple brands, models and dealerships with the added value of comparisons to For Sale By Owner listings.

ronsmap also accommodates today’s consumer preference for pull/push marketing by integrating a unique social networking application into their platform. Marketing to consumers in social networks requires resources, tools and skill sets to compliment and supplement auto dealer’s existing online selling efforts. ronsmap provides all of these elements in a cost effective, scalable manner while delivering consolidated market intelligence not currently offered through other resources.

Their vBack application enables auto dealers to multiply leads by leveraging the word of mouth, W.O.M., phenomenon associated with viral messages distributed through social networking. This proprietary process embeds a social media engine directly within the vehicles posted on their community site as well as on the auto dealers individual websites. It extends the auto dealers reach, promotes confidence for consumers through their solicited comments from their online friends in response to their request for feedback on their intended purchase and it drives more consumers to the auto dealers websites.

Another unique value added feature provided by the new technologies implemented by ronsmap is exemplified by their SellersVantage application. It allows auto dealers to communicate with online consumers in real time early in the decision cycle. It offers auto dealers a comparative view of what other vehicles and feature/benefits the consumer is looking for, market availability to determine if they have the only vehicle that fits the consumer’s stated needs and comparative pricing analytics to know how they rank in the market before they start negotiations to improve closing ratios and preserve profit.

The Intelli-Leads offered by their applications are very robust leads that go way beyond the typical customer name, email address, contact information and questions about the vehicle that they are interested in. They include market intelligence, comparative intelligence, social demographic and social profile intelligence that define the prospect and that allows the dealer to insure that their first offer in the online negotiation process is competitive while preserving gross profit.

Technology as applied to enhanced marketing platforms like ronsmap addresses the new opportunities for auto dealers to improve their R.O.I. from third party lead providers and inventory based websites but it doesn’t reflect the equally valued benefits being offered to improve their R.O.I. from their individual S.E.O. efforts and improved conversion rates from their own websites. Once again, conventional wisdoms must be applied by automotive advertising agencies to provide more for less for their auto dealer clients by recognizing the need to establish brand identity and top of the mind awareness for long term dealer recognition in the market tempered with the need to increase sales and profits today so the auto dealer — and their automotive advertising agency — can survive until tomorrow.

Since consumers are looking for vehicles on the Internet vs. auto dealers it is only logical that the auto dealers should post their vehicles online individually. The trick is to get a single vehicle to stand out from the traffic on the Internet Super Highway. Once again, technology has provided the solution.

Video has surfaced as the media of choice for today’s consumers who grew up watching T.V. and who have applied their preference for Video to their attraction to Internet channels like You Tube and all things video. The search engines role on the newly emerging World Wide Web is to facilitate the consumer’s online search by giving them what they want and since consumers have selected video as their media of choice search engines like Google have decided to give it to them.

The algorithms that drive Google have been adjusted to provide a weighted value to video, a fact that has not escaped automotive advertising agencies responsible for improving the S.E.O. for their auto dealer clients. Video presentations have shown up on auto dealers websites with file names that integrate key word phrases to match the auto dealers websites chosen online identity along with similar embedded meta tags and they are even being pushed onto the search engines through You Tube with their own URL’s to extend the SEO of the auto dealers virtual showrooms. The value of this enhanced S.E.O. solution is that all of these postings are sourced back to the auto dealers websites which supports the automotive advertising agencies desire to build dealer branding and top of the mind awareness. The ability to take this exposure to the next level is realized by applying the same philosophy of extending the dealers online exposure to their individual vehicles since, after all, that is what the online customer is searching for.

SiSTeR Technologies is an automotive advertising vendor using proprietary cutting edge technologies that has introduced an automated video production platform called VideoCarLot with associated applications including vShock and VidBrid. They are able to convert the still pictures already posted on the dealers websites into professionally produced videos using human voice and existing video footage with integrated search words, meta tags and individual URLs. These finished productions are then placed onto the auto dealers own websites to increase their highly prized and search engine favored video content plus they are individually pushed through their dedicated API with You Tube to post each vehicle to all linked third party advertisers and to the search engines directly onto the You Tube channel. Since You Tube is a growing search engine second only to their parent company Google the enhanced S.E.O. to the dealer is obvious. More importantly, it allows the auto dealer to present their vehicles to online consumers vs. their auto dealerships while anchoring the associated lead back to the sourcing dealer. Once again, technology has provided a win-win scenario placing the consumer’s interests ahead of the auto dealer’s while satisfying the needs of both.

The automotive advertising agencies of today that apply the cutting edge automotive advertising technologies of tomorrow are guaranteed a seat at the table in the future. Today’s justified consolidation in the auto industry has opened problems for many and solutions for the few that are determined to survive. Just as the forest fire burns the trees to allow for new growth, the key for automotive advertising agencies to survive to grow another day lies in the automotive advertising technologies and applications that they use today.

How to Protect Your Electronics From Electrical Surge Events

1.0 INTRODUCTION

In this modern world, we have become very dependent upon our electronic gadgets. We use personal computers to work, communicate with friends, family members or business associates.

We often times store valuable files (such as financial documents, memos, reports, *.mp3 files, and now we also store important personal pictures) onto the Hard Drives of our Computers.

We use the following electronic systems to entertain, educate, enlighten and comfort us.

  • DVD Players
  • HDTVs (e.g., LCD and Plasma)
  • Video Recording Equipment (for those of you upload your videos on to YouTube)
  • Gaming Systems (e.g., Nintendo, Wii, X-Box, etc.)
  • Central Air Conditioning System, Heat Pumps
  • Microwave Ovens

These and other electronics gadgets require a significant investment to obtain in the first place; and are very expensive to repair and/or replace.

And yet, amazingly, we do very little to protect our electronics from damage or attempt to make them last (and serve us) longer.

This article is one of a series of three (3) articles that discusses how to protect your electronics against the following destructive mechanisms that shorten its operating life.

Heat
Electrical Surge/Spike Events, and
Electrical Noise

In this particular article, we are going to talk about “Electrical Surge/Spike Events”.

In particular, we are going to discuss the following topics associated with “Electrical Surge/Spike Events”.

What are Electrical Surge/Spike Events and How are they generated?

How do you protect your electronics from Electrical Surge/Spike Events?

What are some guidelines that you should use when selecting a Surge Protector?

2.0 WHAT ARE ELECTRICAL SURGE/SPIKE EVENTS?

Electrical Surge/Spike events are typically defined as a “large current/voltage transients that occurs in an electrical signal or the power-line”.

Surge events typically last for a few microseconds and are then gone. Similarly, spike events will typically last for a few nanoseconds and are then gone.

NOTES:

a. 1 microsecond = 1 millionth of a second, and
b. 1 nanosecond = 1 billionth of a second.

Both electrical surge and spike events can cause considerable damage to any electronic systems that are electrically connected to these power-line or signal-lines that are carrying this transient current and voltage.

For a typical person that lives in a home and own some consumer electronics, electrical surge/spike events can fall into one of two categories.

External Surge/Spike Events, and
Internal Surge/Spike Events

I will briefly define each of these types of Surge/Spike events below.

2.1 EXTERNAL ELECTRICAL SURGE/SPIKE EVENTS

External Surge/Spike events are called “External” because they occur “External” to (or outside of) your home.

External Surge/Spike events typically originate from one of two sources.

Lightning Strikes (during an Electrical/Thunderstorm), and
Switching events within the Electrical Grid

External Surge/Spike events tend to be very large and damaging (especially if they originate from lightning strikes).

If these external surge/spike events were to enter your home (via the main power line and through the circuit breaker panel), they will destroy pretty much any piece of electronics that is connected to an electrical outlet in your home.

NOTE: These pieces of electronics do not need to be powered on to be destroyed.

They only need to be plugged into an outlet in your home at the time when this catastrophic electrical surge/spike event occurs.

Fortunately, the External Electrical Surge/Spike events do not occur very often (e.g., a few times a year depending upon what part of the world you live in).

2.2 INTERNAL ELECTRICAL SURGE/SPIKE EVENTS

Internal Surge/Spike Events (as the name implies) are generated “internal” (or within your home).

Internal Surges/Spike events typically occur whenever the motor or an appliance (such as an Air Conditioner or the Refrigerator turns ON or OFF).

Internal Surge/Spike events tend to be much smaller than External Surge/Spike events.

However, Internal Surge/Spike events occur much more often than do External Surge/Spike events (several times a day).

Over time, these smaller (though more frequent) internal surge/spike events will do damage to your electronics as well.

Each time a motor of an appliance (such as an Air Conditioner or a Refrigerator) requires surge current (for it to turn on), or anytime the magnetic field (within the motor of an appliance collapses) whenever it is turned OFF, a damaging surge or spike is generated and can propagate throughout some of the power supply lines in your home.

Internal surge events will shorten the operating life of any electronic gadget that is plugged into an electrical outlet in your home.

NOTE: The electronics gadget does not need to be powered ON for it to sustain some damage from these internal surge/spike events.

3.0 HOW TO PROTECT YOUR ELECTRONICS FROM ELECTRICAL SURGE/SPIKE EVENTS

One of the most common ways of protecting many of your electronics from damage (due to electrical surge/spike events) is through the use of “power strips” that contain “surge protection” circuitry within them.

Many power strips have surge protection built in, and in most cases, these types of power strips are clearly marked to reflect this.

CAUTION:

There are some power strips that do not provide surge protection for your electronics.

Often times, people will still (incorrectly) refer to these products as “surge protectors”.

If you are looking to purchase a Power strip that contains “Surge Protection” circuitry, make sure that the labeling (on the box that you have in your hands) clearly indicates “Surge protection” or something like that.

If you cannot quickly find those words on the box, then I recommend that you put that Power-Strip box back on the shelf and go find a Power-Strip that has “Surge Protection” clearly marked on it.

3.1 HOW DO SURGE PROTECTORS WORK?

Surge Protector circuitry typically works by having devices (like an MOV – Metal Oxide Varistor) that “sits” between the “power-line” path and electrical ground within the power strip.

Many Surge Protectors will have several of these MOV devices in order to make them more robust.

Under normal operation, these MOV devices will do nothing at all and do not affect the operation of your appliances or electronic systems.

For you electrical engineers out there, I will tell you that these MOV devices presents a very high impedance between the “power-line” and “electrical ground”.

If a surge event occurs such that the “power-line voltage” exceeds a certain “threshold” voltage level, then the MOV devices will start to conduct current (and will then present a very low impedance path) between the “power-line” and “electrical ground”.

At this point, all of this excessive energy (from the electrical surge event) will be “routed” through the MOV devices (to electrical ground) and will be diverted away from your valuable electronics.

Once the “power-line voltage” returns to a normal level, the MOV devices will then return to their “high-impedance” state and will cease to conduct current between the power-line and electrical ground.

3.2 SHOULD YOU USE SURGE PROTECTORS FOR EVERY ELECTRONIC SYSTEM/ELECTRICAL APPLIANCE IN THE HOME?

In general, you should use surge protectors on all sensitive electronics that you would like to keep and use for some period of time.

If you have Surge Protectors for each of your sensitive electronics, then they will do a very good job protecting your electronics, for the duration that they (the Surge Protectors) function.

3.3 WHAT ARE SOME THINGS THAT I SHOULD LOOK FOR WHEN SHOPPING AROUND FOR SURGE PROTECTORS IN MY HOME?

In general, you should look for the following parameters/metrics whenever you are shopping around for Surge Protectors.

Clamping/Let-Through Voltage
Joules Rating
Response Time (if available)

I will explain each of these items below.

3.3.1 Clamping Voltage:

The “Clamping Voltage” level is also (often times) referred to as the “Let-Through Voltage” level.

Basically, this is the voltage level that will cause the MOVs (inside the Surge Protect system/Power-Strip) to conduct electrical current between the “power-line” and Electrical Ground.

At this voltage level, the Surge Protector will start to shunt the destructive electrical energy (from an incoming surge event) to Electrical Ground and will divert it away from your valuable electronics.

As I mentioned before, the MOVs will continue to shunt electrical current (from the power line) to Ground for the duration that the “Power-Line Voltage exceeds this “Clamping” or “Let-Through” Voltage level.

In general, the lower the “Clamping” or “Let Through” Voltage level the better the protection for your electronics.

Typical values for “Clamping” or “Let Through” voltage level are 330V, 400V, or 500V.

For 120V AC applications, I recommend that you use a Surge Protector with a Clamping Voltage level of 330V.

3.3.2 The Joules Rating

The “Joules” Rating for a Surge Protector will typically define the cumulative amount of energy that it (the Surge Protector) can absorb (throughout its operating life-time) without failing.

In general, the higher the number, the longer the Surge Protector will last and continue to protect your electronics.

Good Surge Protectors are ones that have a “Joules Rating” of 1000J or better.

NOTE: The “Joule” Rating does not reflect the total amount of electrical energy that the Surge Protector will shunt (to Electrical Ground) before failing.

The “Joule” Rating reflects the amount of energy that the components (mostly the MOVs) within the Surge Protector can absorb without failing.

In most cases, whenever an MOV shunts excessive voltage and current to ground (during a Surge Event), it (the MOV) is only absorbing a fraction of this energy.

Most of this energy is “being dumped” to Electrical Ground.

If your Surge Protector is properly installed, then for every joule absorbed by the components (inside the Surge Protector) another 4 to 30 joules was harmlessly shunted from the Power-line to Electrical Ground.

However, each time your Surge Protector responds to a surge event, the MOV devices do absorb some energy, and the cumulative amount of energy that these devices have absorbed moves closer and closer to the “Joules Rating” number and “failure”.

3.3.3 Response Time

Surge Protectors do not respond immediately to Surge Events.

There is a slight delay (or response time) before they respond.

The longer this response time, the longer your electronics sits exposed to the incoming surge event. Fortunately, most surge events do not happen immediately either. Most surge events take several microseconds before they reach their peak voltage.

By that time, most Surge Protection schemes (especially those using MOVs) will “kick in” within nanoseconds after the voltage level has exceeded the “Let Through” Voltage.

3.4 DO SURGE PROTECTORS LAST FOREVER?

Just like the smell of a brand new car, Surge Protectors do not last forever.

As these MOVs respond to Surge Events and “shunt electrical energy to ground” over time, they absorb some of that energy.

This process causes “degradation” and “wear and tear” on the MOV devices (and in-turn) on the Surge Protectors as a whole.

Eventually these MOVs will fail in one of two ways.

a. The MOVs will fail to the point that they will no longer shunt excessive electrical energy to ground. In this case, the MOVs (are said to fail in an “Open” state).

Whenever this occurs, all of your precious electronics that is “downstream” from your Surge Protector are now “officially” un-protected and are now vulnerable to the next surge event that comes around.

b. At least one MOV device will fail into a “Short Circuited” Mode. In this case, the MOVs may (though rarely) fail in the “Short Circuit” state.

Whenever this happens, the “failed” MOV device would continue to conduct high currents (from the Power-line to Electrical Ground) even when the power-line voltage is less than the “Let Through” voltage.

This type of failure mode could be very dangerous.

Fortunately, most Surge Protectors will typically have a fuse that will “blow” and will turn OFF the Surge Protector entirely, rather than risk catching on fire.

The main message here is this. Internal Surge Events occur many times throughout the day.

As these events occur, and as your Surge Protectors continue to function and shunt the excessive electrical energy to ground, these Surge Protectors eventually wear out and will need to be replaced.

SOME GUIDELINES ON WHEN TO REPLACE SURGE PROTECTORS:

You should replace your Surge Protectors under the following conditions.

1. Whenever the Green “Protected” Light (on the Surge Protector itself) goes OUT.

2. If you’ve owned your Surge Protector for more than 3 years.

NOTE: Having the Green Light ON is encouraging but is not a guarantee of adequate protection for the next surge events.

Replacing your Surge Protectors every three years is a good practice to keep your electronics protected.

4.0 OTHER ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES

In this article we have discussed one of the three main enemies of electronics and how they shorten the operating life of electronics and cost you money.

Other articles in this series are listed below.

How to Protect Your Electronics from Heat, and
How to Protect Your Electronics from Electrical Noise