Digital Transformation ANA Brand Strategy

What does the future of marketing innovation entail? ANA asks AutoNation

January 12, 2023 | 8 min read

Bill Duggan, group executive vice-president at the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), quizzes Meghan Haslemann, AutoNation's vice-president of customer marketing, on how the brand is innovating the customer journey, key predictions for the future of data-driven marketing and the value of inclusivity in marketing.

Person riding car up an arrow illustration

AutoNation's Meghan Haslemann endorses the value of identity-based marketing / Adobe Stock

Bill Duggan, ANA: AutoNation is obsessed with optimizing the customer journey via data. How are you organized internally to do that? And do you have an external partner that has a role?

Meghan Haslemann, AutoNation: My team in marketing owns and is responsible for our customer data warehouse in partnership with our technology team and agency, Epsilon.

The customer profiles that live in that customer database are the source of truth for our customers throughout the organization. These profiles are used not only in marketing, but also by our corporate operations, business intelligence and in our stores. The marketing team that owns the customer database is also responsible for all customer communications so the series of messages that our customers receive is coordinated and specifically follows our AutoNation customer journey.

BD: What’s ‘new’ in data? In other words, what are you doing now that perhaps you weren’t doing a year ago?

MH: We are working on real-time customer identification to use in marketing efforts and in our stores.

Once we can recognize our customers, we can activate the next action through content, an offer or messaging across channels to deliver meaningful personalized messaging.

Linking online and offline identities in real time allows us to make better decisions on who to target, the best type of message, and channel while optimizing our budget. Associates in our stores get a 360-degree view of our customers so they can also understand what our customers are currently driving and the vehicles they are searching for, to better assist them with their purchase and enhancing the customer experience.

BD: ANA named “inclusion” its 2022 Marketing Word of the Year. What’s your perspective on that – either overall, or for your business specifically?

MH: A quote in the ANA's report on the word of the year was, “Diversity is having a seat at the table. Inclusion is having a voice.” At AutoNation, this is part of our culture from how we hire, to how our campaigns are conceived and ultimately deployed.

Our associates across the country and [the folks] in our marketing department are representatives of our customers. We, in turn, create campaigns that are personalized for our customers. We represent over 30 brands and not every customer wants or needs the same model, service, engine type or price. We want our advertising to be relevant and ultimately build loyalty.

BD: Pick one: audio, connected TV (CTV), gaming, retail media networks, direct mail. What excites you and why?

MH: CTV excites me the most for two reasons: targeting and attribution.

Using our data we can target high value audiences with our first-party data or data modelled for audiences that are in market and understand who we are reaching at an individual level as well as limiting the overlap with our other digital channels. We have tools that we use to easily customize the content to our audience demographic – truck buyers, parents, EV enthusiasts.

Regarding attribution, with connected individuals we are able to see insights and assign some attribution towards the path to purchase that has been unavailable on traditional over-the-air TV. This helps us become better with targeting, content, spend and deployment.

Suggested newsletters for you

Daily Briefing


Catch up on the most important stories of the day, curated by our editorial team.

Ads of the Week


See the best ads of the last week - all in one place.

The Drum Insider

Once a month

Learn how to pitch to our editors and get published on The Drum.

BD: What do you view as the biggest challenges facing the media industry today?

MH: Balancing providing relevant content for our customers and prospects while protecting and complying with privacy regulations is a challenge. I want our customers to trust our brand and know that their privacy preferences are respected.

My expectation is that new privacy regulations will come out or new interpretations of existing laws will be in place. We are working to ensure our systems and platforms are compliant while being transparent with our customers about how we adhere to their preferences and implement security measures to protect their data. We believe standards must be consistent so there is not a litany of legislation that we must try to navigate.

BD: What are your go-to social media platforms for business, and for personal use?

MH: I use LinkedIn for business – I keep up with my network, trends in the industry and am always looking for interesting people to follow. I used to use Twitter for industry news and happenings, but my account was recently permanently suspended (I promise I never insulted Elon!). Since I no longer have Twitter for personal or business use, I just stick to cute dog posts on Instagram and get my industry news from consuming podcasts.

BD: What are you watching right now?

MH: I’m watching Succession right now. The characters and writing are surprising in a dark comedic way – I can’t believe I didn’t start this sooner. I’ll be all caught up for the new season in 2023 though!

BD: What are you driving now and why?

MH: I’m driving an Audi RS5 – it is fast and efficient while looking and sounding great. I’ve got my eye on a few EVs as well, so we will see what the future holds.

For more, sign up for The Drum’s daily US newsletter here.

Digital Transformation ANA Brand Strategy

More from Digital Transformation

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +