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For the past several years, car makers have been seeking newer, lighter materials to meet design and engineering challenges within automotive applications. As the agency of record for the Steel Market Development Institute, Franco helped reshape the image of steel as a lightweighting design solution.

North American International Auto Show

Franco began with a brand development strategy, followed by an integrated campaign to promote steel. As part of the strategy, we managed SMDI’s exhibition as a premier sponsor for the North American International Auto Show for several years.

We worked with SMDI’s automotive market to negotiate a premier sponsorship package for the North American International Auto Show, worked with exhibit production partners to create a casual space for automotive designers, engineers and the media to mingle with SMDI executives and explore the advantages of automotive steel use at the show. The exhibit space featured several body-in-white and car cutaway structures, each with an interactive application we designed and programmed.  We placed monitors around the exhibit space rotating consumer testimonial videos we developed, as well as infographics to promote steel advantages. Additionally, we managed various event details including dinners, transportation and hotel blocks for board members, promotional items, graphics, video editing and on-site support.


We secured regional and national advertising including a mix of print, billboard, radio, digital and transit advertising to complement SMDI’s premier the North American International Auto Show sponsorship. The creative reflected a specialized campaign we developed for SMDI, featuring six personas, or audiences, that have a vested interest in automotive steel use.

This regional advertising generated more than 11 million impressions for SMDI’s “Steel Matters” branding and helped to increase traffic to the website by more than 129 percent during auto show month (as compared to the same month in the previous year).

Public Relations

On-site, SMDI and Franco staff engaged with more than 5,000 national and international media by securing a prime exhibit location directly in front of the Media Center. We coordinated a press conference for SMDI, which announced the “Men and Women of Steel Awards” to be awarded at the show each year, as well as arranged media interviews with executives with regional, national and industry publications. We also secured a speaking opportunity for a member executive at the Automotive News World Congress.

The successful campaign for steel has evolved into an ongoing national integrated communications program that is making a strong impact on the perception of steel in automotive applications.