The Doctor Is Very Much In

Doctors are generally considered trustworthy, and even when one desires a “second opinion” prior to a medical procedure that simply means asking another doctor’s advice. It is no surprise then that those concerned about automotive issues might want to turn to a “car doctor.”

This is why Horsham, Pennsylvania-based Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care, has introduced a new animated character – dubbed fittingly enough, the Transmission Physician. The blonde, ponytailed, auto expert is a specialist in transmission technology and repair; and in a series of new videos, she explores topics such as checking the automatic transmission fluid (ATF), offers explanations on why transmissions are so expensive and educates viewers on the process of how the transmission works.

The videos are available online at the Cottman website and its YouTube channel.

Cottman’s Cast of Characters
The Transmission Physician is actually the second signature character Cottman has introduced and follows on the success of its popular Cottman Man, a lovable character who has also hosted his own blog and taken on a fresh look in a series of animated online shorts.

One reason for making the Transmission Physician a female was to boost the representation of women as experts in the auto care industry, a place where they see major gaps in gender roles. Likewise, Cottman sees this as an opportunity to remind its loyal and new customers it is a trusted provider of automotive services for any and every driver – male and female.

“The Transmission Physician is there to educate the consumer, but it is also a way to honor those women who have worked in the industry, including the female franchisees,” said Derik Beck, vice president of Digital Marketing for Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care. “We’re proud to recognize the role of women in building and growing the automotive aftermarket service repair industry. We’ve always put an immense value on the diversity of our franchisees, and greater representation is a key component to our success.”

The Transmission Physician began her rotation online in January in short-form video – usually under two minutes – where she touches on various topics. In one video, for example, she explains why transmission repairs are so expensive.

“Today’s transmissions can consist of thousands of individual parts,” explained the voiceover as viewers can literally see the various parts she describes. Even those who aren’t familiar with the undersides of vehicles are provided with a detailed yet concise and colorful explanation on the topic.

“The videos are embedded on YouTube as well as on our corporate and franchise websites,” Beck said. “We’re also sharing the videos on social channels including Facebook. It is everywhere we can reach the consumer.”

Online Star
The Transmission Physician videos were produced by Los Angeles-based Aureate Films, a shop that has been in the business of making live action and animated short form videos for about three years. The production studio has also created videos for other corporate clients including Humana Health Care.

Cottman turned to Aureate Films for its experience in knowing how to hit the right notes and producing videos that would entertain as well as inform.

“Length has a lot to do with consumer attention span,” said Kristopher Wile, executive producer and director at Aureate Films. “You have to make sure the content is palatable, but cost is also driven by run time of the video.”

Even today, when animated films are produced on a computer using software rather than being hand drawn by animators, the longer the product, the higher the costs. Fortunately, the software used today to create the videos can handle the basic animation issues, but Aureate Films did have to deal with other issues most entertainment productions can be less concerned with — namely the accuracy of a vehicle’s transmission.

The workings of a car are hardly shown in animated films apart from wheels spinning, but as the character literally goes under the vehicle and key parts are as much the star as the Transmission Physician herself, attention to detail was crucial.

“We have a great relationship with Cottman,” Wile said. “We’d have to flag any technical aspects to make sure we got it right. We then had to see the real world parts, as well as any diagnostic machines so everything looked correct. We needed to have those for reference, so it was as accurate as possible.”

One issue was that transmissions are unique to different vehicles, but Wile said that was just something they had to roll with.

“Cottman sent us diagrams, and we modeled these as accurately as we could,” Wile said. “But it’s still a cartoon, not a technical diagram. We were also able to literally show a transmission come apart, and except for an animation, there is really no way to show that.”

What Aureate Films didn’t have was the long lead time typically associated with animated TV series or movies. While an episode of The Simpsons is often produced up to a year in advance — which shows with sometimes dated jokes — the team at Aureate Films did work in batches to streamline the process. It was able to produce about 10 episodes in about two months, and that included the music editing and voiceover as well as the actual video animation.

“Yes, I would say we’re a lot shorter in turnaround time than a Disney film,” Wile said.

Behind the Video
Already, Cottman Man, who has been a staple of Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care for years, has branched out into media. Last holiday season, the company released a Cottman Man coloring book for children.

Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care has also earned several awards as well for its Cottman Man character, including two categories in the 2016 The International Advertising Competition for Best Blog Website for the Cottman Man blog, and for Best Other Online Video for the Cottman Man educational video series.

The Cottman Man blog was also honored in 2015 with an Automotive Communications award from the Car Care Council Women’s Board (WB) and the Automotive Communication Council (ACC); and was also named a Top 50 Automotive and Mechanics Blogs in a list compiled by Direct Capital.

The coloring book has also been noted for being more than just an activities book for children. While it does feature activities such as connect-the-dots pictures, a word search, a maze, a compare-the-images page and, of course, a lot of images to be colored in – it has also been configured into stories to help young children understand why their parent’s cars need to be taken in for service.

Cottman Transmission and Total Auto Care supplied copies of the coloring book to more than 30 children’s hospitals coast to coast over the past holiday season, and also selected more than 40 Boys & Girls Clubs from coast to coast located near existing Cottman centers where it donated the coloring books. From there, the clubs across the country will donate thousands of coloring books to hundreds of nearby club locations.

Next for the Transmission Physician
While the Transmission Physician is new it is possible she could star in her own coloring book or other media, too.

“As the public embraces our characters, that will help us decide what happens in the future,” said Beck, who noted both the Cottman Man and the Transmission Physician will co-exist. “Right now Cottman Man is part of brand, and he offers general auto maintenance tips, while she is a specialist who takes care of the most important transmission issues.”