GM Banners Drive Shoppers to

LOS ANGELES A banner-ad campaign leading users of major auto Web sites to a redesign of General Motors’ broke Aug. 15, followed by a related contest promotion on NetZero’s auto channel that launches today and runs until Sept. 22. Zentropy Partners designed both efforts.

The campaign focuses on the relaxation of the buypower-“prepared” car shopper at the point of sale, serving as an argument against “information fatigue” on sites that offer only undifferentiated data. (GM research indicates some Internet car shoppers download so much information that it delays purchase decisions.)

Some of the first half-dozen ads, which will run on auto-related sites, show buyers who are about to purchase GM cars relaxing by a poolside or playing golf. Copy implies the use of makes car research, price quotations and locating dealers so effortless that one can afford leisure time.

Two other ads emphasize GM’s selection of 52 models and seven brands. One execution shows a screen shot of the improved site. “Your car. Your choice. Your way” is the tagline.

The contest ads rotate featured models and beckon Web viewers to “start driving your dream vehicle” by using the buypower site to find an ideal car on a dealer’s lot. The contest aims to get prospective buyers to test-drive the site at the same time they are being exposed to GM cars. Tiago Soromenho-Ramos, svp at Zentropy in Los Angeles, is the creative director on both campaigns.

The banners will run on major auto Web sites. Spending was undisclosed.

The buypower site has generated more than a million sales leads and closed the sale of more than 200,000 vehicles within 14 days of site use, said Steve Woolford, evp, worldwide managing director at Zentropy, a longtime partner in GM’s site development. When GM launched the 5.0 version on July 15, it saw a 50 percent jump in the conversion rate of users to leads from the average for the previous three months.

Woolford said the redesigned site features an “unbiased comparator” that allows shoppers not only to compare and contrast within the GM family, but also to do it outside the family as well. Version 5.0 produced 190,000 leads in July and a marked increase in the conversion rate of users who message one of GM’s 5,300 dealers of their interest in a particular vehicle (which can be as specific as a VIN). Up to 20 percent of unique users now follow the Web research to a lead that ends in a sale, 2 percent higher than GM’s dealer walk-in lead rate, noted Leo Drew, general director of strategy, integration and operations at GM Customer Network in Detroit.

“We account for the increase by a deeper understanding of the user’s needs,” Woolford said, “and research that made the site more intuitive about how people shop for vehicles online.”

“The Web is now a critical component of our sales,” said Drew. “We’re intent upon using it to improve our customer-relation activity.” Drew added that the buypower “manager” component of the GM site was underrated. “There needed to be a seamless connection between research and shopping,” he said. “The emphasis is on the purchase process, but we want to transition and provide support for the ownership experience.”

Drew characterized the Web’s efficiency as a tool as “extremely high” and said that while GM will expose the customer to the “traditional stimuli” of mass media and direct mail, the company plans to spend a higher percentage of its total budget on advertising and marketing on the Internet.