Canadian Tire – FRAM FreshBreeze In-Cabin Air Filters

Events, Seasonal and Short-Term (BRONZE)

Client Credits: Canadian Tire Corp.
Allan MacDonald, COO & Senior Vice President – Automotive Division
J.J. Hochrein – AVP, Strategic Marketing
Chris Lee, Strategic Marketing Manager – Automotive
Derek Welosky – Strategic Marketing Specialist - Automotive

Agency Credits: TAXI Canada Ltd.
Darren Clarke, Executive Creative Director
Lesley Rivard, Group Account Director
Cynthia Heyd, VP, Integrated Production
Irfan Khan, Creative Director
Tom Greco, Senior Writer
Colin Brown, Senior Art Director
Megan Flett, Producer
Trevor Byrne, Account Director
Michael Strasser, Account Supervisor
Alex Gadois, Creative Director, TAXI Montreal
Tanya Henri, Writer TAXI Montreal
Anick Rozon, Producer TAXI Montreal
Carol Nantel, Account Services TAXI Montreal
Andrew Tziatis, Associate Account Director, Mediacom
Niraj Sinha, Director, Maple Diversity

Total 1788 Words


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):October 5–December 31, 2012
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: October 5–November 1, 2012
Base Period as a Benchmark: October–December 2011

a) Overall Assessment

Executive Summary

Canadian Tire has been bringing Canadians interesting and innovative products for the last 90 years. They understand how to cater to the specific needs of Canadians and are quite adept at modelling and forecasting. In turn, this has made them incredibly proficient at bringing a product to market with the right tactics to support strong sales. However, in the case of the FRAM FreshBreeze in-cabin air filter, an anomaly arose that exceeded all expectations, and did so by breaking communication conventions for a very conventional product, and demonstrated that the advertising alone was the sole factor that drove business results.

Automotive in-cabin air filters aren’t the most exciting product that marketers and advertisers dream about working on, or for that matter, a subject that most consumers remotely care about. From the onset of the project, we had our work cut out for us. By tapping into the valuable insight that mom makes all the right choices to keep her family healthy and safe everywhere except the car, we crafted a compelling story to tell Canadians about the importance of the product and saw sales increase 148% year over year.

Overall Assessment


To set up this case you must first know the general purpose of the product, as it’s completely obscure, yet simple: when a vehicle draws air into the cabin (where you and your family sit), it passes through an internal heating/cooling system. The only barrier between the smoggy, dusty, smelly air outside is a thin filter; hence the name “in-cabin air filter.” It’s what keeps the air inside your car clean and smelling fresh.

The in-cabin air filter has always been an up-sell item offered at service centres when changing oil or traditional engine air filters. Canadian Tire has always sold the FRAM FreshBreeze in-cabin air filter, however, it, along with all other in-cabin air filters, have never been the focus of advertising or up-selling in the auto service department. The focus had always been placed on the top-selling items like engine air filters and oil filters, which were purchased mainly by male do-it-yourself gurus who treated their car like a member of the family, and service technicians looking for parts to fill their work orders.

With a solid insight on the purchase influence women have when making automotive buying decisions, and the propensity to go the extra mile to keep their family safe and healthy, we saw this as an opportunity to expose this female target to an easy- to- replace product they may have never known existed.

The business strategy was simple: increase in-cabin air filter sales and grow the overall category.  

We targeted moms in both TV and print, using unconventional publications like Today’s Parent and Chatelaine to spread our message. This was a new strategy for Canadian Tire; targeting moms in automotive advertising was not commonplace, but one that made complete sense given our unique insight about the concerns moms have for the health of their family. 

b) Resulting Business Objectives

Increase FRAM FreshBreeze in-cabin air filter and overall in-cabin air filter category by 30% year over year.

c) Annual Media Budget
$1 - $2 million

d) Geographic Area

a) Analysis and Insight

In this category, we see plenty of do-it-yourself video content focused on a “gear-head” male audience adept at replacing and maintaining their vehicles, articles in the “Wheels” sections of national papers, and sections of Popular Mechanics educating eager enthusiasts on the merits of replacing their in-cabin air filters. This reveals that a certain target already seeks out this type of information and knows these types of maintenance jobs need to be done.

What Canadian Tire wanted to do was to bring in-cabin air filters to a new audience with the goal of uncovering untapped sales potential and to reinforce their position as the authority in automotive knowledge. That goal led us to a segment that the automotive category doesn’t traditionally target – moms.

In simple terms, moms don’t wake up every morning thinking about their in-cabin air filters; in fact, they’re unlikely to know they even exist. They are however, thinking about their family’s overall health and safety. In this case, having concern for health and safety wasn’t enough. We knew that, to reach our goal, we needed moms to realize just how unhealthy their car could be. But how? 

Answering this question led us to a statistic from the Car Care Council, which stated that with an old in-cabin air filter, the air inside your car could be up to six times dirtier than the air outside. We knew that leveraging this insight would be vital to connecting with moms.

With strong statistical insight and product attributes that specifically cater to health-conscious, family-minded moms, the approach became clear – show mom just how dirty the air in their family car could be and give her a simple solution to change that: the FRAM FreshBreeze in-cabin air filter. 

b) Communication Strategy

Our challenge was to create advertising that communicated a very specific automotive solution in a way that opened the eyes of our target to a product they most likely never knew existed. Since we were speaking to moms, this had to be done without too many technical details or complex language about installation that only an auto enthusiast would enjoy, or understand.

Our strategy was twofold: appeal to mom's emotions vs. dad's desire for technical superiority and make it visceral. The idea wasn't to fearmonger but we needed to bring the dirty air to the forefront of mom’s attention. She had to gasp or cringe at the thought of the dirt and grime. If it didn't make her immediately question what was currently in her car, we weren't doing our job.

a) Media Used

1 x :30 TV  (English & French)

1 x FP & 1/3 Page Magazine (English, French, Traditional Chinese & Simplified Chinese)

1 x Digital Magazine (English & French) 

b) Creative Discussion

For TV, the subject matter lent itself quite well for a demonstration (Exhibit 1), which we felt would resonate well with our target audience. The concept was quite simple: show how dirty your in-cabin air filter can get. The problem was that most approaches to this type of creative would go straight to the classic infomercial, as it’s easy to do. 

The key to our approach was our understanding of the target, and a clever way to speak to her was through a bit of comic relief. A dirty filter in some clean water can be pretty boring; so we introduced our Canadian Tire spokesperson as the automotive authority Canadian Tire is known to be. He delivers our fairly lengthy, mandatory product description while subtly questioning dad’s knowledge of cars. We didn’t want to make dad out to be a monster, but still wanted to give mom enough reason to be disappointed in him for not knowing what the family had been breathing in all along. The bottom line was that the family was being put as risk.

In print (Exhibit 2-3), we targeted the same moms as we did in TV, but we wanted to leave a bit more to the imagination. Our magazine ad focuses on the typical first-person perspective of a driver or passenger. On the ad, the user is encouraged to pull and peel a tab over an image of a dirty vent revealing a message alluding to the quality of air your family may be breathing. This helps to disgust the reader after seeing the microbes, dust, dirt, and pollen that they’re probably breathing in without a new in-cabin air filter. 





c) Media Discussion

The media buy was straightforward and included TV and magazine. However, the target was quite non-traditional. We specifically bought against moms, which in the automotive category is not the norm. For TV, we hit specialty channels we knew moms would be more likely to view, and magazines were directed straight at moms in Today’s Parent and Chatelaine (both English and French) as well as placements in heavily read GTA Chinese publications.

TV Air Dates:

October 5–November 1, 2012

Print Issues:

October and November issues of Today’s Parent and Chatelaine (English and French)

October issues of Sing Tao, Ming Pao, Da Zhong Bao, Canadian City Post (Traditional and Simplified Chinese)

a) Sales/Share Results

Business results for this campaign came in quickly and were extremely straightforward.

Canadian Tire’s business objective for the campaign was set at 30% growth in the category year over year. The Q4 sales results were up 148% year over year.

The 2012 Q4 sales of in-cabin air filters set an all-time category record at Canadian Tire and uncovered an extremely valuable and profitable piece of business that would be targeted in ongoing seasonal advertising.

Month-by-month sales of the in-cabin air filters for the advertising period had increased (2011 vs. 2012): October up 178%, November up 168%, and December up 95%. This wasn’t just a one-off result based on the slow year 2011, it stacked up against the same period two years prior (2010 vs. 2012) with an overall Q4 increase of 292%

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

a) General Discussion

Tracking data (via Ipsos) helped to back the success and effectiveness of our television campaign to educate consumers on the in-cabin air filter product, but more importantly link the Canadian Tire brand to the piece of advertising. We saw a brand link ratio of 69%, which was 11% over the norm. This also helped to further command Canadian Tire’s objective to be seen as having “good automotive advice” (which is a fundamental KPI, based on internal Canadian Tire insight research).

This is a product story versus a category story. To contextualize this, a reference is given below to compare the product growth versus a similar product in its category:

Within the air filter category at Canadian Tire, traditional engine air filter sales over the same period have historically dwarfed in-cabin air filter sales. In October 2010, in-cabin air filter sales were only 10% of October 2010 engine air filter sales and only 17% of October 2011 engine air filter sales. Where the margin makes a dramatic shift is in our advertised period of 2012, when in-cabin air filter sales jumped to hit 40% of engine air filter sales.

The tremendous sales increase in our advertisement period in 2012 demonstrated a strong consumer understanding of the advertised message (to protect their family and the air inside their vehicle), but also proved that our insight into the strongly female-based advertising target was a bull’s eye. 

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:

On par with any/all automotive efforts by Canadian Tire. 


No unusual pricing to be noted. 

Distribution Changes:

None to be noted, as the product was an existing widely distributed SKU.

Unusual Promotional Activity:

A $3 discount coupon was present in magazines, but only saw redemption rates of 0.01% and were not a contributing factor to the sales increase during this period. 

Other Potential Causes:

No other potential causes to be noted.