The Automotive World As We Know It: Cameron McNaughton, MullenLowe LA

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Cameron McNaughton
Managing Director MullenLowe LA

What’s your opinion on the current state of automotive advertising?

Every so often someone does a nice ad.  What’s missing are genuine ideas that can build a brand and create leverage long term. There are precious few clearly understood automotive brands and because we have a more diverse set of marketing tools than ever at our disposal, it’s become that much harder to deliver a consistent message.  Consistent messaging is essential to building brand leverage.


With the shift to electric, the growth of sharing economy, increased focus on climate concerns, and a variety of other changes, what should be the first thing on the mind of auto marketers today?

As marketers I think we’re always going to be concerned with the latest product innovations that reflect the changing sensibilities and needs of our customers. These innovations however are short lived advantages, the competition always catches up. In an industry where the differences between products have become less distinct, it has never been more critical for a company to speak from a solid brand platform. Marketers should be working hard to establish their brand’s point of view to create long term leverage.


Tech companies have been eyeing the automotive sector for some time, how much of a threat do you think they present to the status quo?

I think this question is really about “autonomous” cars and companies like Waymo.  Autonomous driving is a game changer and as such, a threat to the automotive world as we know it today. That said, it’s not about tech companies threatening the traditional automotive manufacturers, they are all working on autonomous technologies. While autonomous driving will be a game changer, it’s important to realize that we are decades away from it being in widespread use.


An increasing number of people are finding that owning a car is no longer a necessity for them. With an increasing number of services and alternatives available, how can traditional car manufacturers win these people back?

I don’t think manufacturers should spend a great deal of time worrying about people who have opted out of car ownership.  If a consumer has decided that it makes more sense to use Uber, car sharing or a Bird for their transportation needs, they have decided that it is less expensive and more convenient to operate that way.  Cars will continue to get more and more expensive as new safety, and environmental technologies are required, and it will be difficult if not impossible to make car ownerships costs work for these folks.  The manufacturers should absolutely figure out how to make their products as attractive as possible to Uber/Lyft drivers and car sharing companies.


As the industry continues to evolve, are there any business sectors you think auto marketers should look to for inspiration?

I would pay attention to Amazon.  Amazon is singlehandedly changing the way people buy things. Amazon has changed the face of retail. When I can get on an app, order what I need and have it delivered the next day, why do I have to buy a car the same way my grandfather did?


What excites you most when you think of the automotive industry’s future?

The pace of technological change has been extraordinary the last 10-15 years and I think that will accelerate.  It will be fascinating to watch the industry’s products evolve. I think the retail experience must change and it will. All of this change will be driven by a generation of buyers whose expectations have been shaped by experiences that weren’t possible 10 years ago.  The industry must respond and it will be a sea change in the way we do business.


Do you have a favorite automotive campaign of all time?

If I had to choose my favorite “campaign” it would be the work for Mercedes-Benz over the last 50 years. While tag lines have changed from the 70s’ “Engineered like no other car in the world” to today’s “The best or nothing,” the brand has never lost its way.  It has always been a company dedicated to designing and engineering the best cars in the world. The company and its agencies have never lost sight of that core value. That red thread throughout the brand’s history has made it the most powerful brand in the industry.