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Vehicle Shopping Web Site Tries TV

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Chicago Dealer Service Is a Joint Effort of 8 Major Media Players
DETROIT--Cars.com, an Internet site where consumers can shop for new and used cars, is launching its first TV ad campaign through Stein Rogan + Partners.
The Chicago-based company is a division of Classified Ventures, a joint endeavor of eight media companies, including Gannett, Knight-Ridder and The New York Times Co. The company's aim is to simplify the process of shopping for a vehicle by providing daily updates of dealer inventories in 70 markets nationwide.
Car buyers can search for vehicles by zip code, make, model and year, and then request a price quote from a dealer by e-mail, fax or telephone. The site, which has been averaging about 1.3 million so-called "unique visits" each month, also includes other information and resources related to vehicle shopping, said James Maguire, Cars.com marketing director.
Co-branded print ads will appear in 92 affiliate newspapers, and two 30-second TV spots from New York-based Stein Rogan will be tagged with local media outlet affiliations, Maguire said. In addition, local dealers and media are doing direct mail, outdoor and relationship marketing through events, he said. Cars.com features a co-branded version of its Web site on 92 newspaper Web sites nationwide.
The TV spots play up the site's simplicity, mixing colorful, energetic scenes set against a white background with images of the site itself. They are designed to be humorous but informative, Maguire said.
Unlike other campaigns for similar products, the ads do not mock automotive dealers, he said. In fact, they strive to direct consumers to them.
The tagline is, "Car shopping the way it should be. Simple."
The TV ads break in 16 markets nationwide this week. Total media spending for the fourth quarter will reach $12 million, Maguire said, with 1999's total tally expected to be about $26 million.
The campaign is scheduled to run through the fourth quarter, with possible media buys next year "dependent on the campaign's impact," Maguire said.