Exclusive: AOL Canada jumpstarts AutoBlog Canada campaign

November 23, 2011  |  Alicia Androich  |  Comments

Sid Lee, Karim Zariffa build rust-bucket typeface for revamped site

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.

But, if you’re AOL Canada, when life gives you lemons (of the automotive variety), you make a 30 by 20 billboard installation constructed entirely of recycled auto parts.

The installation, recently constructed in downtown Toronto, features car-part letters that spell out “Finding original stories in every car,” the tagline for AutoBlog Canada’s recently revamped website.

AOL Canada partnered with Sid Lee‘s Toronto office for the installation (as well as a broader awareness campaign) to create buzz around the redesign of AutoBlog Canada and catch the eye of passersby.

In a market where most people use search engines to find product information and a lot of competing sites aggregate pre-existing content, Dave Roberts, creative director at Sid Lee Toronto, said AutoBlog is unique in that it uses its own editors and writers to create original car stories for car enthusiasts and info seekers.

“The differentiator of the site is all-around original content,” said Paul Cramp, AOL Canada’s general manager, male audience, who is in charge of AutoBlog Canada. “The focus of the site is around industry news and reviews.”

The U.S. version of the site underwent a revamp earlier this year, and the Canadian team was able to capitalize on audience testing its American counterpart had done to ensure the site was meeting consumer needs.

The revamp involves new navigation with more consistent social networking integration throughout the site, said Cramp. Now users have different options of accessing content, whether it be a traditional blog view or through a video or picture view. “It’s more personally customized access to content,” he said.

While Roberts said AutoBlog’s target was previously 18 – 35 and mostly male-skewed car enthusiasts, the goal of this new campaign is to broaden the appeal of the site.

“We wanted to position them as the creators of car original stories,” he said. Impressed by the site’s interesting headlines, such as “Do you think you’re a better driver than Mr. Bean?” Roberts said his team created headlines themselves out of used car parts to drive people from the headlines to the actual articles.

Building an out-of-home display out of car parts was quite a feat. Roberts said the production of the billboard, which weighs roughly 2,000 pounds, involved engineers surveying the building that housed it to ensure it would support the extra weight. “It was a pretty technical endeavor,” he said.

The car parts are real, salvaged from Montreal scrap yards near the studio of Karim Zariffa, the typographer and graphic designer that created the car-part font. The font will be used on other communications in the campaign, said Roberts, including web banners.

Sid Lee also shot a making-of video about the billboard’s construction. The video will be featured on AutoBlog Canada as well as in AOL’s IAB Portrait homepage takeover on AOL.ca and HuffingtonPost.ca on Nov. 30. AOL Canada is also running a 15-second pre-roll on AOL properties Advertising.com and 5min video network. The video is running on other Canadian digital sites as well, including Rogers Media and Shaw.

The out-of-home component of the campaign runs for 15 weeks until late February. The online component runs for six weeks until Dec. 25. PHD Toronto was the media partner.

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