In search for new hires, Suburban Collection takes to TV

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The Suburban Collection, a group of 34 Michigan dealerships owned by Lithia Motors Inc., for the first time is using TV commercials to look for employees.

The recruitment campaign, which began in October and features ads on broadcast and streaming TV and social media, is already helping Suburban’s hiring efforts in this tight labor market, a Suburban executive said.

Suburban has not run recruitment advertising like it before, and it’s also the first consistent campaign of that nature for Lithia, executives said.

Hiring is “a challenge for everybody in the industry,” said Tom Dobry, vice president of marketing for Lithia, which acquired Suburban last April. “We’re still losing a lot of front-line people to other industries. As other industries promise higher wages, we’ve got to compete with that. I would say [for] all of our stores, I think finding good people in every department is an ongoing challenge.”

The Suburban ads aim to appeal to those looking for a new career. In the initial 30-second spot, a Suburban Collection spokesman addresses viewers directly and briefly explains why those looking for a job should consider the dealership group.

Ron MacEachern, group general manager for the Suburban platform, declined to say how much Suburban has spent on the campaign but described it as “a very significant number.” Around 25 percent of Suburban’s advertising is recruitment-focused at the moment, he said.

At a corporate level, Medford, Ore.-based Lithia, the second-largest dealership group in the country, actively recruits online through job-posting websites such as Indeed, Dobry said. The company also is trying to drive people to lithiacareers.com.

“But then our platforms, our stores, are free to augment that,” Dobry said. “They do a variety of things whether it’s advertising for job fairs or running more local advertising. And so Suburban just kind of took that up a notch with their brand campaign.”

Suburban followed up on its initial ad with two spots in mid-November and mid-December, MacEachern said. In those ads, employees describe why they work for the dealership group. MacEachern is one of the featured employees, and he notes in the spot that he answered an ad for Suburban 31 years ago. The commercials direct viewers to www.worksuburban.com.

As of last week, Suburban had 156 open jobs, and Suburban leaders so far are pleased with the campaign’s results, MacEachern said. “The amount of applications that we got has increased significantly,” he said. “I’m going to say fivefold here within the last 30 days.”

Suburban intends to continue to build its brand through advertising similar to the recruitment campaign and will seek other ways to connect with people, MacEachern said.

“It’s not just about coming up with a good marketing campaign,” MacEachern said. “I think it’s also about making sure that you’re walking the talk and you’re able to offer a great environment for people to work in and then, secondarily, to make sure that you’ve got the upward mobility to provide those folks that want to take on more responsibility as time goes on.”

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