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Two new spots for the AutoTrader.ca website show how easy it is to get rid of a car that no longer suits you. (Trader Corp./Trader Corp.)
Two new spots for the AutoTrader.ca website show how easy it is to get rid of a car that no longer suits you. (Trader Corp./Trader Corp.)

AutoTrader.ca campaign aims to drive digital traffic Add to ...

It’s the classic tale of star-crossed lovers: an environmentalist and the owner of a tricked-out Hummer.

But a new ad campaign for AutoTrader.ca delivers the message that, thanks to the Internet, it’s easy to rid yourself of a used car – whether it’s for love or money.

The ads are also the product of a recent corporate breakup. They represent the first marketing effort for Trader Corp. as it steps out of the shadow of embattled Yellow Pages publisher Yellow Media Inc. Struggling to rid itself of debt, Montreal-based Yellow Media sold its Trader asset last year for $708-million to London-based private equity firm Apax Partners. It’s the first such campaign for AutoTrader.ca and AutoHebdo.net, the French-language version of the automotive classified advertising website, since the deal closed in July.

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Furthermore, under Yellow Media, Trader’s marketing had been thin for the past few years. New president Sebastian Baldwin, appointed last year, is now faced with the challenge of revitalizing a sleepy brand.

“Over the last three years, it’s been pretty silent in the market. The brand awareness was higher for our [print]magazines than it was for online, even though we’re [primarily]an online business,” Mr. Baldwin said.

In order to kick off its new marketing plans under different ownership, last week the company publicly named DDB Canada its advertising agency of record, and announced OMD Canada would be its media agency of record, responsible for planning and buying space on television and in other media.

The strategy revolves around emphasizing the digital identity of the company, and its website redesign.

“The mandate is really to revive the brand. It was becoming less relevant, some of the perceptions of the brand was the old-school look and the publishing side of it – the book,” said Michael Davidson, senior vice-president and business unit director with DDB Canada. “But their business is really in the digital age, and the competition is certainly in that area … It’s a brand that’s been totally undersupported in all ways.”

Competitors have been more aggressive. Free classified advertising site Kijiji, for example, has been airing television spots recently that specifically tout its automotive listings.

For consumers not to think of Trader Corp. as an online service is a problem, because its business model depends on Web traffic. More than 70 per cent of the company’s revenue now comes from digital sources, according to Mr. Baldwin. Like other classified websites such as Craigslist or Kijiji, AutoTrader allows private, individual sellers to post ads for free, and buyers to search the total database for free. Trader makes money because of the traffic that generates, which attracts automotive dealers, who pay to post ads. Trader is now running business-to-business campaigns as well, targeting those dealers.

The campaign has now launched with two national television spots as well as online advertising. The ads will continue to run for the rest of the year.

Mr. Baldwin, who ran the mobile side of the AutoTrader business that Apax also owns in the U.K., is also expanding the company’s mobile presence, launching an application for mobile devices last month. Marketing around the mobile tools will launch in the coming months, and the company expects that eventually 15 to 20 per cent of the service’s traffic will come through mobile.

“They need to be seen as really relevant,” DDB Canada’s Mr. Davidson said. “You’re going to see a brand that’s going to change over the next two or three years.”

Follow on Twitter: @susinsky

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