My, how times have changed. The auto show, a crucial marketing platform traditionally all about spectacle, has completed its shift to a more strategic position within the brand marketing ecosystem, further reinforcing its role as a powerful driver of sales. Nowhere is that more clear than here at the LA Auto Show, which kicked off with its industry press days today.

Specifically there’s a palpable shift from spectacle to dialogue and the technology that makes that possible. That doesn’t mean the show isn’t fun and a great form of “consumer-tainment” for everyone from buyers to industry press– it is!

Only now, just as carmakers are shifting towards a more instrumented, intelligent, and environmentally-connected car, their marketing teams are using social and digital extensions to personalize and deepen the experience. Announcements about third-party car apps that send customized vehicle status reports to your smart phone are neatly complemented by interactive touchscreens and rich media content. This is sparking conversation online, supported and advanced by teams dedicated to creating, nurturing and responding to customer content and experience.

The auto show is still a place that venerates the product and all that makes it special, like great design, new technology and the still-relevant lifestyle promise that car ownership fulfills.

But there’s something important – at turns both subtle and overt – going on here that distills down to one thing: more than ever auto shows mean business, and every tool at auto marketers’ disposal is being put to use within this platform to connect 1:1 with buyers, drive purchase and use analytics to bring unheard-of responsiveness and value-add to this creatively-driven platform.