IQ News: Power Play – GM to Put Net Bucks Behind Car Site

General Motors is plotting its largest media blitz ever for an Internet initiative with the nationwide launch early next year of its comprehensive online car-buying service, GM BuyPower. To assist with the national rollout, executives at GM’s consumer marketing initiative division said they had hired Zentropy Interactive, Los Angeles.
For now, Zentropy, in which Western International Media owns an interest, has been hired as a consultant. It will collaborate with Catalyst Resources, San Francisco, on upgrading the site to serve a national consumer base, said Zentropy chief executive officer Ryan Magnussen. DMB&B, Los Angeles, the traditional agency of record for BuyPower, will handle the creative, said Ann Blakney, director of GM’s consumer marketing initiative, the Thousand Oaks, Calif.-based unit that operates BuyPower.
The roll out plans haven’t been finalized, but the service is expected to expand nationwide from its current four-state test region of Washington, California, Oregon and Idaho in the first quarter of 1999. Coinciding with the national launch, an ad campaign will break that utilizes predominantly television and online media, Blakney said.
Because BuyPower has been in beta test since its launch in October 1997, promotional support has been limited to regional TV spots and geographically targeted banner ads. The national rollout will mean ratcheting up Web spending on search services such as Yahoo, Blakney said. Media funding likely will come from a variety of sources: including GM corporate’s online media buying arm, GM CyberWorks, and perhaps from GM auto divisions and dealers. Total spending hasn’t been determined, but it is believed the budget will be in the tens of millions.
The car maker intends to position BuyPower as a direct competitor to independent Web car-buying services such as and Microsoft’s CarPoint. GM has been providing customers with information about competitors’ cars to underscore its position as a comprehensive car-buying source, Blakney said.
BuyPower eventually is expected to be expanded to include the sale of used cars, GMAC financial products, dealer’s automotive parts and products from other GM-owned units such as DirecTV. GM is in the process of signing up more dealers which have to be certified in order to be admitted into the program. “The objective is to put consumers in charge of the buying experience,” Blakney said.