Subaru Canada turns on national digital signage network in dealerships

October 13, 2011 by Dave Haynes

I just leased a Subaru Forester (quite a revelation – a crossover vehicle with no blind spots!) and I did notice, off at the service counter, a digital signage network of some kind running content.

It looked reasonably good (though cinema format video in 16:9 screens). But the process of leasing the vehicle and driving off the lot was so miraculously quick I never really had time to give it more than a glance.

Turns out, it is part of a national network called Subaru.TV.

Subaru Canada has deployed a customer-facing network across its national dealer group, putting in Sharp screens, Dell boxes and Scala software, as spec’d out by a Vancouver integrator, 10net Managed Solutions.

Subaru.TV, says the Japanese automaker, is a collection of content developed or carefully selected by Subaru Canada to improve the brand identity and shopping experience while explaining the many products and services provided. This endeavor ensures that customers will be engaged and entertained rather than distracted by the random content and competitor advertising available on regular television.

While many individual dealers or dealer groups have some form of digital signage in place, Subaru is among the first manufacturers in Canada to pioneer digital signage on a national level and has spent the past year sourcing or developing enough 1080p high-definition content to make this experience unique.

The rollout started in May and includes dealers in both English and French parts of the country. In a nice twist, dealers that run a particular service department software package (Aristo) can display the status of vehicles for people waiting for oil changes and other maintenance.

Two-thirds of the 80-plus dealer rollout is already completed.

“We didn’t want this to be another boring menu-board style deployment cycling through advertising specials and promotions,” said George Hamin, Director of eBusiness and Information Systems. “We wanted to make this seem like network television… just without the competitor advertising.”

With this in mind, Subaru is in discussions to secure nationally syndicated content like news and sports.

One word on that last bit about content: NO!!!

Selling and reinforcing the sex appeal and excitement of new vehicles, or the durability and safety. As boring as service department specials may be, I’d have them on there and just spend the money to make them look good and fit with the high production value creative.

I would not — no way, no how — put news and sports on there, or weather (which you just know is being considered). That stuff is extraneous and pointless in a car dealership. The screens should be there to help sell cars and all the extra stuff, like services and warranties, that make real money for the car guys.

Happy to see a big automaker putting in the dollars and making some good first steps. Now all they have to do is resist the temptation to feed the content beast with useless programming.


  1. Guy Tonti says:

    As someone focused on the auto dealership opportunities for signage, I appreciate you mentioning what looks to be a successful implementation for our industry.

    I would like to frame your last comments in the context that a dealership is not a single sign/location. A given dealership can have up to 12 different channels, each with its own purpose, customer segment, dwell time, etc.

    The customer watching a sign in the showroom is a potential sale of a new car, the customer watching the sign in the service bay or parts desk is a potential upsale, providing non-auto information to them does miss the mark.

    However, the person waiting in the lounge is a different market, needing to be entertained (so they forget they are their for 90 minutes :-). Including entertainment and current news info with auto education and branding of manufacturer/dealership is appropriate, but not heavy selling (they already have their checkbook out).

    My point is locations with multiple signs need to be considered differently, with unique content, playlists and intent. The new technologies for efficient content creation and management, coupled with the ubiquitous internet and inexpensive players are making this more financially viable.

  2. Dave Haynes says:

    Thanks Guy

    I thoroughly agree about tuning the content to the zone, though I think in the waiting area the best thing a dealer can do these days is make wifi available and a remote control so people can do as they want. I agree, that’s not a heavy sell area.

  3. George Hamin says:

    First of all, I want to welcome Dave to the Subaru family. I am sure that your Forester will bring you many years of driving confidence and safety.

    Secondly, I want to apologize for the state of the screens when you visited our dealership (cinema format in 16:9 screens). I absolutely agree that it is our job to “…spend the money to make them look good and fit with the high production value creative…” and if you return today, you should see new content which was specifically shot with HD cameras rotated 90 degrees to fit the orientation of these screens. In addition, we have created split-screen templates with other useful content (e.g. RSS feeds) for those times when we have to rely on cinema format content.

    I was surprised and relieved to read Dave’s comments regarding syndicated content, since getting national content in English & French has been remarkably challenging. Unfortunately, I think I am still going to have to do it for the channel being shown in the waiting lounge, because the alternative will be dealers defecting back to cable. Other than the dreaded competitor advertising, you will never get two customers to agree on the same channel and are missing a soft-sell opportunity to further reinforce the brand (e.g. activities and sponsorships you are involved in) and make them aware of other services they may not be aware of (e.g. extended warranty).

    As for Guy’s comments…while having 12 channels sounds nice, right now we are having enough fun creating/buying/borrowing enough content for 4 channels (2 English and 2 French).

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