February 25, 2021
By Kate Spatafora
Jason Barrie joined Digital Air Strike (DAS) after 15 years of F&I, auto tech, and retail experience. P&A spoke with Barrie about the road that led him to DAS, how real-world experience is the ultimate tool, and what he hopes to achieve in his latest endeavor.
How did you get started in the world of automotive, specifically automotive technology?
Barrie: I started with Dealertrack in 2005 focusing on marketing. I always had a passion for the automotive industry and ecommerce technology. I started my career in the late ‘90s as the dot-com boom transformed the economy, all while consumers started shifting how they made purchases. During that time, I developed an absolute passion for the potential of the internet, and what better industry to live out that passion through than the automotive industry.
Your career path has led you to a few different marketing positions. Overall, how have marketing tactics evolved as the industry becomes more digitally focused?
Barrie: Data, data, and more data has transformed how dealers market and sell. With the proliferation of technology providing greater buying transparency for consumers and efficiencies for dealers, access to data has never been more prevalent for all stakeholders. Twenty years ago, dealers needed a PhD to drag data out of the DMS (dealer management system). Now, with the vast array of technologies available to dealers, there’s an expectation that managers and GMs are making smart decisions — marketing included — across their business, supported with data-driven insights.
It has been invigorating to see how dealers have evolved their marketing strategies to be more effective to get the attention of consumers, differentiate from the herd, and drive sale and service opportunities more efficiently and profitably through the funnel. There’s no excuse for “spray and pray” tactics anymore. Whether that’s driving awareness through advertising channels, engaging more effectively with consumers while they are in the sales journey, or communicating during the ownership cycle to drive fixed operations profitability, there is no longer any excuses for mass marketing.
What did your time at Dealertrack and Cox Automotive teach you, and are there lessons you have carried with you to future endeavors?
Barrie: Both Dealertack and Cox had tremendously successful cultures that consistently focused on a client-first mentality. I remember when I first started at Dealertrack, a senior leader at the company challenged me to spend at least one hour a day speaking with dealers. That leader knew I never had my tie cut, and for all of the great experiences I had in marketing and ecommerce, I was missing a key piece of the puzzle to be successful in the automotive industry: Truly understanding what it takes to sell a car. That leader’s direction sticks with me today as my career has evolved and made joining Digital Air Strike a natural next step as DAS has a “clients win” mission, mentality, and culture.
Can you tell us about your role at Carmatic?
Barrie: Carmatic is an amazing technology company. We combined the power of technology and a concierge model to sell vehicles. We partnered with top dealer groups and dealer principals from across the country to deliver a top-notch car-buying experience. For the first time in my career, I was on the front lines with my team selling and marketing direct to consumers. Although we didn’t wear ties, I felt the exhilaration of selling and exceeding customers’ expectations every day.
What led you to Digital Air Strike?
Barrie: At Digital Air Strike, we pride ourselves on not just selling software, but on building relationships. That investment means a lot to me, as it is how we will continue to provide value to our clients. Over the last 10 years, I have observed Digital Air Strike growing their roots as a technology company. They were the first player to enable dealers to harness the power of social media platforms, and they got it from the beginning.
At Dealertrack, I worked with Alexi Venneri, who is the co-founder and CEO of Digital Air Strike. Alexi, her leadership team, and the company’s board have well-rounded backgrounds along with a successful track record in growing technology companies, dealership groups, and other businesses outside of the auto industry. Most importantly, they have a relentless passion to deliver results for dealers all while challenging themselves to evolve and stay ahead of trends.
What do you hope to achieve in your new role at Digital Air Strike?
Barrie: Digital Air Strike has been known as a leader in helping dealers maximize their consumer engagement through social media marketing, reputation management, and optimized lead response. Today, through our team and technology, Digital Air Strike influences more than 35% of all vehicle purchases in the U.S. In 2021 and 2022, we will focus on leveraging our leadership position and expertise on expanding our technology to continue to create a better experience for dealerships and customers. We support dealers increasing their awareness among their targeted audiences, engaging more effectively with customers and garnering a more loyal customer base through our technology and services.
Is there anything on the horizon for Digital Air Strike in 2021?
Barrie: We have identified market opportunities that we believe will be transformative for dealers. The special finance market and new inventory merchandising solutions, along with some interesting virtual retailing technology, are all on the horizon for Digital Air Strike. I look forward to sharing those details with you very soon.
What do you think Digital Air Strike may teach you throughout these endeavors?
Barrie: My 11- and 14-year-old daughters can more skillfully navigate TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram better than most car dealers. What does that tell you? Today’s consumer, and tomorrow’s consumer, are embracing communication platforms and technologies to get an upper hand. I have been so impressed with the team at Digital Air Strike in their ability to identify new trends, embrace change, develop technologies and provide education to dealers as these trends continue to evolve. Every day I learn. I embrace the challenges our industry will face in the future and continue to leverage those learnings to deliver for our partners and dealer clients. And maybe I’ll have my tie cut after I post my first TikTok.