Where There Is Change, There Is Opportunity: John Wells, President, RAPP Los Angeles & Dallas

by Dasha Ovsyannikova
RAPP Worldwide
Marketing/Creative Services
New York, United States
See Profile

John Wells
President, RAPP LA/Dallas RAPP

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

It feels, a bit, as if different brands and marketers are all continuing to play the same game. There is a lot of good marketing and advertising happening, but you don’t see a ton if differentiation across the vertical.  It’s always easy to say, “We need more innovation or disruption in our industry, in general,” but, as it relates to automotive advertising, I feel there has been a lot of similarity – sameness of messaging – for quite some time.


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?

The consumer.  Front and center – always.  What do consumers value?  How are consumer behaviors and attitudes changing?  How are consumers going to view not only vehicle companies, but mobility, in the future?  Where there is change, there is opportunity.  Understanding where automotive companies fit in the lives of the consumer is important.  How are automotive companies building for the future to develop better vehicles and services for the consumer?


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?

Right now, everything is a threat to the status quo.  Across all industries – this isn’t exclusive to automotive.  Companies that are relying on how things are today, or how things have always been, will be in trouble.  Certainly, taking into consideration companies or services, like Uber and Fair –  the way in which people view cars, and how consumers buy cars, is evolving.  So it’s important for automotive companies to find opportunities in this evolving marketplace.  What’s more, technology is changing the way people get around – and changing the features  vehicles have to offer. This evolution is moving quickly and needs to be taken into consideration.


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?

While the relationship between cars and people is evolving, there is still an inherent need to be mobile.  I believe the freedom that cars provide is still a human need, and won’t be fading any time soon.  Automotive brands can get in front of this, and make sure they’re moving with the pace of change, by developing products and services that enable easy, affordable car ownership.  This can help with consumers’ perception of needs, cost and “hassle to own.”  There is also a personal aspect to car ownership – an intangible relationship between people and their cars, that seems to have gotten lost in today’s world.  A car, has been, and can be, an important part of people’s lives.  This is something automotive brands should own, more outright.


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

I think there are bits and pieces of inspiration across many sectors, that the automotive industry should look to.  As I see it – the customer experience, of buying a car, has long been a pain point for consumers.  How companies like Zappos and Amazon are relentless in their pursuit of the best customer experiences is always something to watch.  Also, the car experience doesn’t end with the purchase; there is continued service and maintenance that is required, which is another reason to think about how the relationship between consumers and the brand can be improved.


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

The industry is going to evolve into more than vehicles – more than how we know of it, today.  It will be more than autonomous-driving cars and alternative fuel.  While those advances are exciting, and I am fascinated to see where they go, the future will be broader and will focus on mobility and how the industry can enable it.  The company that has a clear definition of mobility and company purpose will win in the long term.  There are many layers to mobility – and understanding the role the automotive industry (and companies) can play in the lives of consumers is truly exciting.


Do you have a favorite automotive campaign of all time?

This may seem like a cliché or the obvious answer; but I still believe the DDB VW “Think Small” campaign is a good as it gets.  It was counter-to-convention and didn’t just impact automotive advertising.  It impacted and changed marketing, overall.