Event Innovators 2014: Lisa Kaz & Terri Toennies

The president and executive vice president of ANSA Productions—the team behind the Los Angeles Auto Show—reimagined a century-old establishment.

By Alesandra Dubin June 17, 2014, 7:00 AM EDT

Lisa Kaz & Terri Toennies, president & executive vice president, ANSA Productions

Photos: Courtesy of LA Auto Show

Innovative leaders recognize the importance of reinvention for even the most established event, and last year the organizers behind the Los Angeles Auto Show, which dates back to 1907, knew it was time to shake things up.

At the helm of the auto show is Lisa Kaz, president of the event and of ANSA Productions, the company that produces it, and Terri Toennies, the show’s new general manager and ANSA Productions executive vice president.

Kaz joined the show in 1987 and in October 2012 brought aboard Toennies. Seeing the need for format shifts to increase networking opportunities, attract sponsors, and grow the audience, the all-female team completely revamped the event’s press days.

“It was time to reinvent it in step with the dramatically changing industry.”

The duo expanded the preview days from two to three, and major automaker announcements on the first day, now known as the “Connected Car Expo,” focused on the convergence of cars and technology. A Pandora-hosted party kept guests at the Los Angeles Convention Center rather than out at manufacturers’ parties.

Other changes included replacing the staid keynote speech with a festive party for car enthusiasts.

As a result, the press audience grew from 12,750 to more than 16,000. The event also saw a 20 percent increase in news coverage, totaling 2.41 billion impressions. Public days soared, too, attracting nearly a million visitors, a 12 percent jump over 2012.

“The show has been a valuable marketing tool for more than 100 years, but it was time to reinvent it in step with the dramatically changing industry,” Kaz says. “[It’s] a dynamic environment, with more networking events, that connects the entire industry ecosystem, and at the same time delivering a more exciting public experience that reflects how brands are engaging with today’s consumer.”

Toennies adds: “Adding this trade component focused on the convergence of technology and automobiles to a traditional press day format changed the entire dynamic. With a full day of thought leadership conferences plus additional networking events, suddenly new business relationships were being facilitated.”

Kaz acknowledges that “cutting through the clutter of our media-rich world is increasingly difficult.” But, “Establishing personal and trusted relationships and being exposed to the latest information and insights needs to happen face-to-face. Automakers know that great live experiences cannot be replaced when it comes to shaping brand perception with [impassioned attendees who are their sphere’s] influencers.”

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