Autosphere conducts an exclusive interview with David McClean, Director of Marketing Services, Canadian International AutoShow about the upcoming 2022 event in Toronto which will run from February 11-20.
After a one-year hiatus, the Canadian International AutoShow is back for 2022, taking place once more at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.
The largest consumer show of its kind in Canada, CIAS is likely to set the stage for future events in this country and will incorporate new elements not previously seen, including a greater emphasis on creating a true, brand immersive experience for attendees.
To find out more details, Autosphere interviewed David McClean, Director of Marketing Services for CIAS.
Logistics of CIAS 2022
Autosphere: Currently, what is the plan for CIAS 2022 in terms of logistics?
David McClean: In terms of logistics, one of the biggest questions is, how do you go about putting on an event where you’ve had 350,000 people attend in previous years?
What I can tell you at this point is that we know there is a great appetite from our audience for another AutoShow and certainly people missed the 2021 event and are looking forward to 2022.
By the same token, we have to do everything we can to use best practices to follow government protocols for major live events.
Additionally, we need to make sure that people working at the AutoShow and those people attending the event feel safe and can operate in an environment where they can experience the same sort of excitement and enthusiasm we’ve had in the past.
We don’t want to see them just getting a token element of that AutoShow experience.
Has the show team discussed the concept of a hybrid where the physical and virtual elements are combined to ensure maximum exposure of the event?
DM: Right now, we’re in an era where we’ve got the opportunity to utilize these virtual platforms.
As you know, last year for 2021, we were planning on building out our proprietary virtual platform for the AutoShow, but I think we’re just a little bit ahead of the industry.
We didn’t quite give them enough time to absorb the idea and to build up the creative content that was commensurate with their brand. As a result, many OEMs decided that it wasn’t the most opportune time for them to participate. And of course, they’re all very guarded when it comes to how they present their brand, and rightly so.
It was for that reason, we didn’t really get any traction for that concept. As it stands right now, we have got this technology within our stable and are can build a virtual component for the AutoShow. Additionally, we know that as things have opened up, we also now have the ability to put on a physical event. The requirements have changed.
They went from being able to have 1000 people, to have 13,500 between the north and south buildings of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, to the show completely open at full capacity.
In order to make it effective, however, we need to ensure that the 2022 event is commensurate with the brand of the AutoShow, as people have a certain expectation when they attend this event. As we move forward, into 2023 and beyond we will incorporate new technologies–including integrating both a virtual and physical platform.
I think that incorporating these elements serves a much greater business purpose for OEMs, particularly if they understand that by investing all of this money into a particular event, they can reach a much greater audience.
Attendee requirements and protocols
What will be the requirements for attendees in terms of registering, tickets and of course COVID-19 screening?
DM: We’ll be following the same practice as entities like Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, where every ticket has to have a name to it.
The plan is to make it very seamless to enter the show. We’re also exploring other options such as time ticketing–so let’s say you wanted to come within a specific period–say 6.00 pm on a Tuesday evening.
We’ll create incentives for those specific time tickets but if you commit to that, you’ll have to abide by the terms of the agreement and the period when that ticket will be valid. So, we’re looking at things like time ticketing, but most importantly, whether you are attending the Metro Toronto Convention Centre as a visitor to the show or are working there, even during construction and teardown, everybody will have to be double vaccinated. That’s going to be a requirement for the event.
Although the COVID-19 case numbers are still relatively high in Ontario, we still have a few months to go and we’re confident that the period between now and February will provide people with the opportunity to feel comfortable about attending the show.
Also, for monitoring, all tickets will be electronic and have a name affixed to them, to ensure safety and that everybody entering the event is fully vaccinated.
Will CIAS 2022 be a new experience?
How will the physical format next year differ from years past, for example, is it planned to have the show open for 10 consecutive days?
DM: We are going to have a full event.
That said and being completely upfront, we will be facing a situation where some OEMs won’t be able to participate in 2022. There have been a lot of business challenges to tackle over the last 18 months and for many OEMs, a big one at present is the ability to have products available due to the semiconductor chip shortage.
And because they don’t have the product right now, that in turn impacts their budgets for next year. What we do know, is that we are going to be putting on a major automotive event and we are working with all manufacturers to entice them to participate so we have a great turnout at CIAS for 2022.
We’re going to create a great automotive experience for consumers, and it will be different than in the past because the plan is to make the show more of an experiential marketing platform rather than a static one.
It has to be about more than just people coming to the show and looking at a car that’s sitting on the carpet. We need to allow manufacturers the opportunity to engage with consumers by expanding their brand voice.
What we mean by that is that it’s not only about the product the consumer is buying, but the brand they’re investing in.
OEM commitment for CIAS 2022
If applicable, have any OEMs already firmed up their support for CIAS 2022?
DM: Right now, we’re at around the 70% mark in terms of commitment. I don’t want to say yet who has committed and who hasn’t because it is an ongoing process.
What I can say, is that there is no less committed to the 2022 event than in the past. We’re not looking to cut corners with this next event, and it will be a statement to demonstrate that CIAS is back and that we are as big as we’ve ever been.
It’s going to be an automotive spectacle, and as we move forward into 2023 there will be some new ideas and concepts that we will implement. I think it’s also important to stress that if you miss the 2022 show, it is never coming back. The AutoShow is a once-a-year opportunity to experience the industry in all of its diversity.
Additionally, two years is a long time in our industry, and I think you’re going to see a big change in the way in which auto manufacturers present themselves. There are new technologies and tools out there and even those that did exist two years ago have changed significantly since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Social media is a good example.
With that in mind, it’s important to understand what we did in 2019 and 2020 and then what we’re planning in 2022 because social media can be a huge benefit, or it can be a major drawback depending on how it’s used.
So, we have to be very strategic about things like that. Looking at the market over the last two years allows us to see how much things have changed, not just because of the pandemic, but how consumer behaviour and media practices have altered, as well as that of our OEM partners.
Ultimately, we have to stay focused on what we intend to deliver and that is the total automotive experience.
Virtual and entertaining experiences
Are there some unique and entertaining experiences the team is looking to put in place, perhaps based on past plans regarding a virtual experience?
DM: I think one thing that’s going to be most evident is the proliferation of electric vehicles.
There’s no question they’re going to be more electric vehicles on display at CIAS than ever before. Not only do we have an expanded product range from traditional OEMs in the Canadian market, but we also have new manufacturers coming into the country, including those from countries such as Vietnam and China.
We’ve got around six or seven new manufacturers that are looking to display products and introduce their brand for the first time to Canadian automotive consumers and enthusiasts.
CIAS 2022 and post-pandemic events
As Canada’s largest consumer event, how do you think CIAS 2022 can perhaps set the stage for future consumer events in this country?
DM: I think it all revolves around the way we look at our business model as well as redefining what it actually is. In the past, we’ve looked at CIAS as basically hosting an automobile show.
Now, we really have to think of it as an automotive event. An event that attracts and excites so many people that the core players in the automotive industry want to be part of it.
So, from our perspective, I think it is a slight paradigm shift. We’ve always committed to the excitement and delivery of a unique experience for consumers. But now I think we have to think bigger and we have to think broader in terms of what the automotive industry really represents.
It’s not just about cars anymore, it’s about mobility. From a presentation standpoint, we, therefore, need to think dynamic, not static. And there will be those that say, well how are you going to do that in Toronto, in February?
The answer is, we’ve got plans regarding that dynamic display and we know manufacturers can commit to the utilization of multimedia since there are all kinds of new technologies available today that weren’t available two years ago.
As a result, we’re going to be able to immerse consumers within the brand experience like never before.
DM: We’re excited.
It’s up to us now to bring automotive content that’s available globally to the city of Toronto and present it in an exciting, dynamic format. The OEMs know that we have not just a large and passionate automobile market here in Southern Ontario but also a strong show-going culture.
People here like to experience the auto industry through a physical event. And that was made clear to us over the last year, following our 2020 event that we were lucky to get in. People have been asking us for the last year and a half about when we were going to be back and once the lines were drawn, there was no further discussion needed.
We’re extremely excited, as we hope consumers are, to experience the auto industry via an automotive extravaganza attended by more than 300,000 people.