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The Importance of Authenticity in Creating Effective Dealership Commercials and Video Content with Nick Williams

  • November 15, 2023
20 min read
The Importance of Authenticity in Creating Effective Dealership Commercials and Video Content with Nick Williams

Ilana Shabtay
VP of Marketing, Fullpath

Nick Williams
Digital Marketing Director, Banister Nissan of Chesapeake

Nick Williams is the Digital Marketing Director at Banister Nissan of Chesapeake. He has been in the automotive industry for years, specializing in social media management and video production. He has filmed and produced over 50 TV commercials and now manages marketing and advertising for three dealerships. 

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • How Nick found his place in the automotive industry 
  • The creative process that goes into creating relatable and successful commercials for a dealership
  • How leveraging your dealership culture in your content creation can drive success
  • The importance of tracking performance and understanding which platforms are working for your dealership
  • Nick’s predictions for how AI will impact automotive down the road. 

In this episode…

Authenticity is the key to creating successful dealership videos and commercials in the age of social media.

The old ‘pounding the pavement’ style of commercials where dealers push specific models, sales, or a list of financing options, are no longer finding the success they once had. Modern viewers and shoppers demand higher levels of authenticity, connection, and relatability from their content and from their retailers. 

Instead of focusing on the specifics, try thinking outside the box and focusing on your dealership – the relationships you have built, your standing in your community, and your internal dealership culture. When you create content that is authentically “you,” your dealership’s audience can feel it and will be more likely to connect with it and follow through on your messaging. 

In the latest episode of Inside Auto, Nick Williams, Digital Marketing Director at Banister Automotive, shares with Ilana Shabtay how he has harnessed the special personas around him at his dealership and their community relationships to produce effective content that connects with his audience and drives them to take action. 

Resources Mentioned: 

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Fullpath (formerly AutoLeadStar).

Fullpath is the automotive industry’s leading customer data and experience platform (CDXP).

Fullpath enables dealers to turn their first-party data into lifelong customers by unifying siloed data sources and leveraging that data to create exceptional, hyper-personalized customer experiences.

To learn more, visit

Episode Transcript:

Ilana Shabtay (00:45.982)

Ilana Shabtai here, host of Inside Auto podcast, where we interview top dealers, GMs, marketers, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders in and out of the automotive industry. But before we introduce today’s guests, this episode is sponsored by Fullpath is the automotive industry’s leading customer data and experience platform, CDXP. Fullpath enables dealers to turn their first party data into lifelong customers by unifying silo data sources and leveraging that data to create exceptional,

To learn more, visit Today, we’re welcoming Nick Williams to the podcast. Hi, Nick, how are you? I’m doing well. Thanks for joining us. Also, on such short notice, we’re so excited to have you here. Nick is the Digital Marketing Director at Bannerster Nissan. He’s been in the automotive industry for years with a specialty in social media management and video production. He’s filmed and produced over 50 TV commercials and now manages marketing and advertising for three dealerships, two Nissans and a four dealer located in the DC area, although he has spent some time in Virginia Beach as well. So again, looking forward to having this conversation with you and getting to know a little bit more about your specialty and what you do for dealerships.

Nick Williams (02:02.536)

Absolutely. Thank you. Thank you very much for having me on this podcast. I think this is a very great platform that you have here. And I was intrigued from the invite, so I don’t really get too many invites on podcasts. So I thought this was pretty cool. But and I’m a podcast watcher, so I watch a lot of different podcasts. So, yeah, definitely. Yeah, so I appreciate you for inviting me today.

Ilana Shabtay (02:16.578)

That’s awesome. Well, now you get to be on one. That’s great. Yeah, I’m excited for this conversation, of course. Thank you for accepting the invite. And let’s start with how you got into automotive. Everyone has a really unique story of how they get into automotive. What made you stumble inside into this industry?

Nick Williams (02:36.252)

I don’t know if my story is too unique, but I could say this much. How I got into the automotive industry is, well, it’s really as simple as this. The owner, Dan Banister and his best friend from college, they both went to UNC Charlotte together, played basketball together, and they actually happened to go to the same church as my parents down here in Chesapeake, Virginia. And I actually came to Virginia after high school actually from Raleigh, North Carolina. And I came to Virginia to attend Norfolk State University. So when we started going to the same church, my family goes to, Dan Banister’s best friend is actually a very, very welcoming kind guy. And he knows my parents, he knew me very well, and he just kind of knew a little bit about me. And every Sunday we would talk. But just one particular Sunday, he just asked a little bit more about what I do, and just what my interests were.

At the time I was just finishing, you know, hanging up my basketball shoes. I played basketball like pretty much my whole life. I was an athlete my whole life. So I was starting to really get into what I was really interested in. And that was video production and social media management. So when I told my, which is now my mentor kind of, but he still definitely is one of our vice presidents for Banister Automotive. He asked me to come into the dealership and he kind of realized himself that there was a lane in the dealership that wasn’t filled at all yet and we didn’t have anybody in that lane as far as managing social media, creating content, just simply just digital advertising in-house. You know a lot of dealerships work with a lot of different third-party

Ilana Shabtay (03:56.962)

That’s amazing.

Nick Williams (04:24.062)

and hundreds of thousands of miles away from them because they’re big conglomerates. So this was an opportunity for myself to, you know, and the dealership as well here to have an in-house digital marketer and content creator, social media management. And, you know, once I got my foot in the door, it kind of went from me only managing a social media for a top number one dealership to now I’m just managing the complete digital marketing advertising.

I have you know all the third parties under my belt I’m managing the performance of the third parties like car gurus auto list and you know the hundreds of different ones that’s out there in the industry that we are signed up with and You know video production I’ve created and produced you know over 45 to 50 video Video ads for TV and social media since I began in 2000 early 2000s 2016

So now that I’m in the position where I have the automotive industry, I’m full fledged into the automotive industry, it’s just funny now looking back because I had no real intentions at no point. I wanted to go to the NBA, so I never really thought about any time I was going to go work for a dealership. And it kind of just started early as far as video production is kind of my 1A, and that high school, basketball, I played basketball and football. So it began, a really small part of it began there to when I started to really get deeper and deeper into video production, editing, graphic design. I attended Norfolk State as a graphic design major. So now it’s kind of like a nice, you know, full circle moment.

Ilana Shabtay (06:11.014)

So first of all, I have to say, the automotive industry is so community oriented, so I love that that’s how you actually fell into the job, just by being part of a community, knowing this man who was super welcoming at church, who was able to introduce you to this, and look where you’ve come. I mean, that’s incredible.

Nick Williams (06:28.384)

It was definitely one of those, it wasn’t about what I knew at all whatsoever. It was definitely who I knew.

Ilana Shabtay (06:34.434)

But it’s great, but also even so, I mean, the fact that you have a specific niche or interest in something already means that you’re gonna be motivated to make it work. So, and I mean, you did, right? You came from social media management to overseeing the entire digital marketing strategy for three stores, which is incredible. And I’d love to know a little bit more about how, well, first I’d like to know a little bit more about video production in general, and maybe you can share with us one of the funniest or one of the coolest TV commercials you did for a dealership, just because I’m interested in that to know how creative you can actually get. And then sort of how you tie that into the overall strategy, right? So like do you incorporate those videos on the website and your ads? I just want to know a little bit more about that. Now that you oversee all of digital marketing, it’s kind of nice that you can take your specialty, which is video production, and have it throughout the entire funnel.

Nick Williams (07:27.16)

Right, absolutely. I would say, you know, that was a good question, a little bit loaded, but it’s all right. What I would say is that, yeah, video production wise, it’s been quite a journey because I’ve created all kinds of different formats of video. So, you know, you have your videos, that’s for TikTok, Instagram, and social media. Then you have your, you know, very high quality video productions that you would put on TV or YouTube pre-roll. And, you know, luckily for me, Dan of Banister Automotive, he’s a local celebrity. And in the early 2000s, he had a very high profile for radio ads and quirky commercials. So I kind of took a new school spin, grabbed him with kind of a new school spin, and put a little bit more of his personality. Because he’s Dan Banister, but his name in the industry is Dan the Man. And the reason why he has that nickname is because before he was an owner, he used to make a lot of things happen. That was just his commercial nickname that the community gave him because he would have just make things happen, make deals happen. And he held on to that reputation for years. Like I’m talking over 15 years. So the community here knows him as Dan the Man. Like everybody knows him as that. And I was able to take a really funny kind of spin to a commercial where I think the one I can mention now is that if you can imagine I had him in his office and he was like, all right, guys, what are we going to do to get some more car sales? And he’s looking at himself in front of him, he was like, well, what about free car wash? Yeah, yeah, it’s cutting back. He’s like, what about free car washes? And he was like, we already do that. What about free state inspections? And you know, what about, you know, he was kind of like going back and forth with himself. And it was kind of like a, he’s like, all right, all right, that’s enough, that’s enough ideas. How about, you know, banister rewards? I think I can’t remember what he said, you know, how about no payments until summer? I think it was something like that. And that probably was the most, at that time, that was, you know, quite a few years ago, it was, if you could imagine, it was like three, clones in him so and he’s a very tall guy so it’s kind of unique he’s like six foot six and he’s a dealer owner

Ilana Shabtay (09:32.674)

Does he play basketball? Yeah, okay, good. Wow.

Nick Williams (09:34.52)

Well, he did. He did play basketball for UNC Charlotte in the late 80s, and he played overseas some. And that’s also, you know, the kind of the correlation we have to like him and his best friend played basketball together. And his best friend that brought me on, he’s also from Raleigh, North Carolina. So when we started talking, it was like, oh, you’re from Raleigh, too. I know you’re, you know, the I know the dad of the guy that you play with in high school. And so it went from a really, you know, professional conversation to now. Like, oh, it’s like almost kind of like somebody I already always known for years so um yeah it’s a very kind of if you’ve seen Dan Banister in person you know six foot six uh you know yeah Dan the man like you know so it’s it was easy for me to like kind of put his character on screen because people love his kids they watch his kids grow up in the TV commercials his kids are just as tall as him so I’m using you. The script that you did, just so that we don’t lose the point there, is actually genius for that video because you also were able to point on all the value props that the Banister team already does. Meaning when he’s like saying, oh we already do that, we already do that, that in and of itself is like the value prop. And then he comes up with something new like, that’s genius. Great job. That’s awesome. But that’s cool. So sorry, I didn’t mean to cut you off. 

That was a perfect segue. That was good. Yeah, so it makes it easy for me to be able to do something outside the box type of commercials because he’s a very unique guy. And it’s easier when I do stuff with him versus just filming the product. Because I think about social media, it’s like content is content. So it’s not like, you don’t have to pound the pavement so much on what you’re trying to sell. If you just show personality in the dealership, and if I had to give somebody advice that’s doing social media in an automotive, your culture, you know, because that’s that helps way more when pounding the pavement and somebody’s timelines on like this car that’s this amount of money and you know, I’m financing percentages and I mean, that’s cool and all you want to get that sales message out but is it content is content especially on platforms like tik tok that has the most users in the world right now. So it helps a lot with sales. Yeah, it helps a lot with sales when you don’t focus too much on the sales, you know.

Ilana Shabtay (11:46.75)

Like you just want it to be super relatable.

No, I had someone on this podcast, Russ, who went totally viral on TikTok. He’s a car sales guy and he has sold cars from TikTok because his videos, it’s all cynical stuff. I mean, some of it’s like, you know, a little bit educational, but it’s all cynical, making fun of the dealership, making fun of people coming in. And he has people coming in. His content isn’t like, wow, look at this new Ford F-150 and here’s the interior and here are the features. You could get that content and that content is important, but it’s more his personality, just like you’re saying.

Just make the content relatable and people will come to your brand. You have Dan the man working for your brand, so that’s amazing. You can just use that in all your content. That’s great. And then when it comes to the shift that you made overseeing all of digital advertising, are you seeing anything that you think would be super challenging or different in the next, I don’t know, six months, 12 months? Do you see any trends or anything that might shift in your marketing strategy based on what’s going on in, I don’t know, the economy, at the dealership, in your community, etc.?

Nick Williams (12:58.124)

Well, it’s one thing that’s always been very challenging, is trying to figure out what is it that’s making a dealership successful. Because we have so many different things going on. We’re on TV. We have radio ads and things like that. It’s hard to track. Especially when you have mixed in, you have these different third parties that’s pushing so many leads every month to you. Sometimes it’s just hard to gauge exactly what is it that’s the pure reason why you sold X amount of cars. One of the challenges, but I could see going forward as artificial intelligence becomes very much more prominent in Google search, paid search, social media.

I would say we’re going to start getting to a point very soon that in the market we’ll be able to really have a true measurement of where success comes from. Because I think right now it’s hard to gauge for dealers because as long as a dealer, you know, from a dealer standpoint, if you’re selling 180 cars, you’re going to ask where it’s coming from, but you’re happy about what’s going on. You’re not, you know, it’s when things are going rough is when you start to be like, all right, so what’s this provider doing? What are they doing for us?

How well is this performing? Or, well, is this not working? I think soon we’re going to be able to get a real, true, clear path. And some of these providers might be in trouble in the future, because we’re going to start to see that. They’ve been selling our data anyway to maybe allowing consumers to see different content of our dealership that they might have already seen anyway, but they’re charging us for it. So what I see in the future is that…

Ilana Shabtay (14:33.13)

Right, right, of course. Keeping your vendors accountable, yeah, 100%, yeah.

Nick Williams (14:37.384)

Yeah, right. And then, you know, that’s one of my major things. I’m always holding these different third parties accountable because I’m going back to the owner and to the GMs, like, hey, like we’re spending this amount of money on these different providers, but they’re not, I don’t see that any proof that it’s working or maybe we are spending that too little here. You need to spend more, you know, that’s a really big challenge because these third parties are, you know, they’re always the best. Like, they’re always the best. We’re the best third party. We’re driving the most traffic. But, you know,

It’s gonna start, I feel like in the future, it’s gonna start to change, where we’re gonna be able to start to see a clear, then the road’s gonna get less misty, and we’re gonna be able to see a clear path of what’s really drawing in flow room traffic, phone calls. It’s not gonna be so skewed anymore, so I agree with that and I think on top of that there will probably be more consolidation. So when you have so many different vendors for every single lane it’s so hard because you’re basically, you know, you have one, it’s very hard to see what’s actually influencing when there’s more consolidation and more platforms you’re able to then see more data, it’s cleaner, it’s easier to track. So I think you’ll maybe see more of that too. So keep your vendors accountable and I think you made a really good point with we don’t really care if we were selling 180 cars a month.

Ilana Shabtay (15:53.584)

We’re not asking what’s going on, but you know what? Even when times are good and even when you’re successful, see where those sales are coming from so that when it is bad, you could say, oh, hey, let’s double down on the vendor or the software that’s actually working for us so that we can make sure, you know, we’re investing in something that will bring us results when we actually need it. So it’s just a good reminder to keep tabs on the data even when times are good.

Nick Williams (16:13.996)

1000% absolutely.

Right, right, absolutely. Because we’re going into the holiday season, and everybody wants to have a big Black Friday, a big holiday season. And this is the time when a lot of dealers spend a lot of money to try to dump money to see what they can get in return. But I think in the future, AI is being utilized in so many different ways. I think there’s some pros and cons to it. But I’m a believer in AI, because I think that the artificial intelligence, I use it for myself sometimes for certain things. But I think it’s only improving. So that’s the point of AI. It’s continuing to improve.

Ilana Shabtay (16:53.038)

I think it’s only improving and I think that there’s no way to avoid it anyway. Meaning if it’s coming out and your dealership is going to be competing with someone who is implementing AI, you’ve got to be on the AI train as well because no human can work at the same speed or efficiency as AI. So I think good predictions. Basically we’re looking at lots of AI, lots of data, and just keeping us accountable on our toes. Amazing, amazing interview. Thank you so much, Nick, for joining us. Want to add before we sign off here?

Nick Williams (17:25.1)

Um, no, I just appreciate you for inviting me on this podcast. I think this is really cool. Um, you know, I’m looking at some of the other podcasts. You do a really great job. So I’m just happy to be a part of this episode. I’m right. I might not be too more interesting as much as interesting as your other, uh, you know, guests. Yeah, but, uh, yeah, absolutely.

Ilana Shabtay (17:41.364)

Thanks. No, you’re right up there. It’s amazing and we love having it. I love it. Also, you have a really special niche. You have a niche for video production, which is really cool. I like having people come on with all different types of talent. So thanks again for joining. I hope I get to meet you actually in person. Maybe I can come visit the store at some point. That would be great.

Nick Williams (17:56.46)

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I’ll be here or just, you know, just let me know.

Ilana Shabtay (18:00.198)

Okay, sounds good. Nick, thank you so much again. And for those of you who like this episode, it’s Inside Auto Podcast. You can find us on Apple, Spotify. These are all your favorite channels. So tune in. Thanks again, Nick.

Nick Williams (18:12.632)

Thank you. Take it easy.

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