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Danya Solomon

If you’re a car enthusiast who loves a particular auto brand, then Danya Solomon wants to hear from you. Solomon, 30, from the San Francisco Bay Area, styles herself as a “people detective” for car companies.

She tracks down drivers for so-called “docu-mercial” advertising campaigns for major companies, including Toyota and Ford, in what she sees as a growing trend toward automakers using real drivers to advertise their products.

“Basically our job is go out into a city -- any city -- and find the demographic that the company is looking for. We need to find all walks of life who drive these different products and interview them. Our job is to get to know their life stories.”

Those stories become the national advertising campaigns on TV, in print and on the Internet.

Solomon works mainly with production companies that have been contracted by large clients or by advertising agencies. It’s a rigorous, non-stop lifestyle that has her crisscrossing the nation in search of enthusiasts.

“On the job we don’t stop for public holidays, storms or even tornados. We’ll be out there in parking lots in storms or blistering heat asking people to come talk to us. While it’s great to work for big clients, we work for the love of what we do.”

She uses car fan Web sites and club meets to track down potential interviewees, and relies on word of mouth from local enthusiasts and contacts, but some of her methods for finding the right people are “secret.”

Solomon’s first job entailed finding someone “young, good-looking and single” who lived in California’s Napa wine region. Tooling about in wine country gave her a certain enthusiasm for the job and she now runs her own L.A.-based casting company in a “growing niche” in the auto advertising market.

It’s not all smooth sailing, though. One time in rural Georgia working on a Ford truck campaign, an interviewee dropped out at the last moment. Solomon desperately needed to find a driver of a large 2500 or 3500 Super Duty truck, so she headed to where she thought her target demographic would most likely hang out: A pool hall.

“We’d lost a huge piece of our shoot, but I said there’s no point in giving up. Driving home I saw all these trucks opposite a dive bar. I veer off, jump out of the car, and inside there are like 50 of these big burly drivers. I walk in, make an announcement and that’s how I found a truck driver. A lovely man who turned out perfect for us.”

Solomon worked on Ford’s “swap-your-ride” campaign that involved not only finding a Ford enthusiast but one willing to play a trick on their spouse or partner by swapping their vehicle for a week’s test-drive of a Ford product without their prior knowledge. She says the element of surprise required establishing a large degree of trust with her subjects.

For Toyota, she had to find loyal drivers that were willing to tell how their vehicle fit into their lives. One story was about a California family who had passed down a Camry from several generations of children, taking some of the kids from their first day of school to the prom. “In that job they had to trust us,” she says, “Because they don’t know who we are. It takes a lot of trust for people to be that open with us.”

Sona Iliffe-Moon, marketing communications supervisor at Toyota, says this “Auto-Biography” campaign on national TV, on the web and on Facebook, was successful and “met our expectation on the high end.“

“Two themes that were genuine and resonated were the ‘first time buyer’ theme for Corolla and the ‘family pass-along’ theme with Camry,” she said. “It’s worth noting that 80 percent of the Toyotas sold in America over the past 20 years are still on the road today.”

Solomon says talking to drivers around the States in both urban and rural settings has given her some surprising insights into the tricky business of car-buyer demographics.

“Sometimes demographics we're given don't actually fit what we've found. We found that larger SUV’s that are sometimes marketed toward the younger demographic are actually coveted by older families.

“I would love to put together my real-world findings and present it as demographics to the car companies themselves. There’s no better way to find out about demographics than going out into the field.”


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  • 69 Comments
      • 4 Months Ago
      I am a 56 year old grndmother raising a grandson who is 13 years old by herself. I needed a suv that I could depend on, good mileage, and big enough to be comfortable for my grandson to sleep when going places,and to haul small things in with no problem. I decided on a 2010 Chevtolet Equinox, and I dearly love my choice (and so does my grandson) It is so comfrtable as I have a sciatic nerve twisted in my back. I have had Chevrolet camaro, monte carlo, thunderbird, Pontiac grand prix, Ford contour, Ford escort, Dodge Ram truck, Dodge Diplomat, Chevrolet Impala, AND there is no comparison to my Equinox. If you want a poular crossover, a comfortable ride, beautiful choice of colors, and a car that does everything but drive for you, get yourself a Chevrolet Equinox, you will not be sorry.
      abcmodelntalent
      • 4 Months Ago
      Hey Danya, Corvette Bert in Bend ,Oregon is well known for driving his 55 and 56 vette and helping others restore their older vettes. His business is called "old farts auto parts" He is afraid of the newer cars, because he doesn't know how to fix them if needed due to modern day technology.
      mkirs60646
      • 4 Months Ago
      kok
      pgoldcoast
      • 4 Months Ago
      Volkwagen owner since 1985, starting with a Rabbit, then a Golf, then a Passat. I'm on my second Passat --love it's 4-cylinder turbo, manual 5-speed power!! I am an older woman who loves to drive fast. Husband also owns a VW GTI.
      • 4 Months Ago
      31 year old married mom of 2 north of the Philadelphia area who LOVES my Buick Enclave! So much better than your typical soccer mom van! My husband owns a funeral home and drives mostly buicks so I never thought they could actually make a crossover that I LOVE showing off and couldn't wait to drive! My husband surprised me with it in the driveway for my 30th birthday and I couldn't be happier!
      • 4 Months Ago
      I have a Toyota Avalon that I think is the best car for me. I drive grandchildren and I wanted a safe, comfortable car and this is ********** been easy to manuver and responds fast if an emergency happens. It has been inexpensive to care for and I'd buy another in a heartbeat. I love it!
      • 4 Months Ago
      Hi Danya! just wanted to let you know I LOVE MY SUV!!!!!!! We own a 2004 Infiniti QX56. After doing research online for the perfect truck for my growing family and still elegant in style, WE FOUND IT!. After loooking at over 200 different Infiniti SUV's, we purchased this gorgeous vehicle. My husband, (fiance at the time), decided to change the look of the SUV by upgrading to chrome wheels and totally chromed it out the rest of the truck!!!! It's so versatile, When i drive it, it looks girly and when my husband drives it looks like a "Man Vehicle". With all the features, I would never give it up. Maybe even buy another...hhhmmmm... LOL
      • 4 Months Ago
      I love my Ford FOCUS WAGON by the way! Hauled kids and a great dane in it the other day!
      • 4 Months Ago
      Hey Danya! My family of five has owned Ford Vehicles for years and about to purchase the new Explorer as soon as it's out! We've been waiting for it! You need a family who needs the space and "uses" their car, then we are the family! Three kids, Soccer Mom, Baseball Mom, Football Mom, Karate Family - that is us! Call me!!!
      KAREN
      • 4 Months Ago
      WHY DON'T YOU FIND GOOD PEOPLE , THAT NEED THE MONEY , TO BE ABLE TO MAKE A SMALL DREAM OR TWO COME TRUE ?? ....FIND PEOPLE THAT ARE CONVINCING, HAPPY LOOKING & SOUND VERY SINCERE, AND AT THE SAME TIME , DO NOT GET TO DO MUCH, BECAUSE THEY LIVE CHECK TO CHECK, OR THEY ARE A FAMILY OF 4 THAT IF THEY WERE ABLE TO DO THE COMMERICAL, THEY MAY BE ABLE TO GET A NEW CAR, OR NEWER CAR ,FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THEIR LIFE , BECAUSE OF THE MONEY FROM THE COMMERCIAL .....OR DO SOMETHING SPECIAL , THAT THEY CANNOT NORMALLY DO, LIKE BE ABLE TO FLY TO SEE THIR FAMILY FOR THE HOLIDAYS.....FIND SOMEONE WHO WOULD TRULY APPRECIATE THE MONEY THEY GET FROM THE COMMERCIAL & REALLY NEEDS THE MONEY----BUT---AT THE SAME TIME , A FAMILY THAT SEEM LIKE A TYPCIAL , HAPPY LOOKING , AND CONVINCING FAMILY .....I AM SURE IF YOU CANT FIND ONE -- I KNOW OF ONE .....1-413-205-8798.....AND I WILL TELL YOU WHO WOULD BE PERFECT FOR YOUR COMMERICAL .....
      • 4 Months Ago
      Since 1995 we have purchased we have purchased 11 Hyundais. (all new) Each car was an outstanding value, was virtually trouble free & we would not consider buying any other make. So far my husband, late father, myself and my son have owned 6 Sonatas, 1 Tiburon,and 4 Elantras. The cars are a great value, and the dealers were a pleasure to visit. WE drive alot and can honestly state the Hyundais are so much better than the new Fords, Chevy's and Oldsmobiles we had formerly owned.
      • 4 Months Ago
      Great job Danya- what a rewarding job you must have!! I THINK THE ADVERTISING COMPANIES ALWAYS FORGET ABOUT A BIG DEMOGRAPHIC OUT THERE... THE SINGLE FULL TIME WORKING MOM'S WITH YOUNG CHILDREN!! I'm a single full time working mom of two young children who drives a Ford Escape and love it. (I bought it 2 weeks after my 1st son was born) 7 years ago!!! It makes me feel safe in the rain and snow and with Ford it helps me feel secure I won't be left on the side of the road with any mechanical issues. I've had a Ford Mustang (my teens) a Ford Escape (college years) and now the Escape (Single mommy hood) Ford has fit all my needs!! Thanks!! I think often
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