IQ News: Carmakers Driven To Try New Online Ad Forms

Acura, Volvo and Ford are all launching online media programs this week. The promotional efforts range from a movie tie-in to a so-called “rich media” buy on the cable-modem based Home Network. For the auto makers, the summer promotions are a deviation from the norm. The manufacturers typically take a marketing back seat to dealers in June and July, who run ads to clear the lots for the new fall models.
However, beginning today, Acura Cars, the Honda division based in Torrance, Calif., will run a three-month campaign on the Home Network to promote the 1998 Acura TL. The network has 100,000 subscribers. The “multichannel ad experience” allows users to check out several multimedia presentations about the car. A voiceover highlights the car’s features and urges users to request a test drive online. The program was created by Gen X Interactive, Los Angeles.
Acura is what Home classifies as a “pioneer” advertiser, paying roughly $35,000 for the ads. The top-tier or “visionary” advertisers on Home, such as General Motors and Toyota, pay a $120,000 rate, according to Kasey Zacher, advertising programs manager for the Redwood City, Calif.-based Home Network.
While the medium may differ, the auto advertisers’ objectives remain the same: influence potential car buyers to visit dealers during the summer months, said Zacher.
Volvo Cars of North America, based in Rockleigh, N.J., is also launching an online initiative today. According to Microsoft officials, Volvo is the first automaker to participate in Microsoft CarPoint’s new car-buying feature, digital brochure. The new ad unit enables prospective car buyers to communicate directly with the manufacturer to request information and a test drive.
Starting this week, Ford Motor Co. is participating in an online sweepstakes as part of a larger tie-in deal with Columbia TriStar Pictures to market the upcoming feature The Mask of Zorro. “The Mask of Zorro Zweepstakes” allows fans of the masked swashbuckler to qualify for a chance to win a two-year lease for a 1998 Mustang GT, according to the Culver City, Calif.-based movie studio. Other prizes include a trip to Switzerland and movie-themed merchandise. The movie, to be released on July 17, will be promoted in a two week online campaign beginning July 3.
Neither the automakers nor their agencies returned calls by press time.