If you are in the business of selling cars, how would you do it?

Place an advertisement in the newspaper? Hold a car show? Hire a car ambassador to help you to sell it? How about doing all three at one go and more?

This was what Singapore Press Holdings’ print classified did when it held its Cars@Expo on July 6, 2014, which saw record turnout and sales for all exhibitors who part in the event.

The SPH unit — which runs classified ads in its flagship English newspaper, The Straits Times, and Chinese daily LianHe Zaobao — is home to thriving marketplaces such as travel, cars, jobs, and real estate.

People will flock to a car show if it is exciting and there are good buys. This was what we set out to deliver.

So instead of just having race queens, which are often associated with car show, we came up with the idea of having a pageant to search for a car ambassador. We want to look for more than just a pretty face. We want someone who is witty, savvy, and knows cars because she will become the face of our car marketplace long after the event is over.

To draw the right candidates, we offered attractive prizes worth more than US$50,000 – comprising three scholarships in management, jewelry design, and professional make-up courses. The prize was sponsored by regular education advertisers as they, too, wanted to take part in a meaningful pageant that would groom the winner.


More than 70 women applied in just a week, including former beauty queens, models, banking and media professionals, as well as business executives with master’s degrees.

The title eventually went to a 25-year-old graduate in accounting and finance from the Singapore Management University. 

To make it exciting, we laced our print advertisements with Augmented Reality.  We took the opportunity to launch the Classified Augmented Reality app, aptly named CAR. So those who scan our pages can see a 3D sports car drifting on the newspaper and also access exclusive content on our pageant.

So how did the event go? More than US$20 million in sales were reported, with record turnout that caused a massive six-hour traffic jam at the expo.

Owner of Richburg Motors, Jacky Wong, who booked in sales of more than US$600,000 in one day, said: “The Cars@Expo definitely had a ‘wow’ factor, and it stood out from other shows which we took part in the past.”

Our entire campaign was done in the newspaper. This shows that the newspaper is still a force to be reckoned with if we know how to maximise its potential. We didn’t do different things. We just did the same things differently.

The Straits Times Classified App can be downloaded free from the Apple Appstore and Google Play.