IQ News: Honda, Other Carmakers Gear Up New Web Efforts

Armed with a $2 million-plus online budget, America Honda Motor Co. kicks off the car-buying season this week with a revamped Web site and banner campaign to tout the 1998 Honda lineup.
As in the past, will get a complete makeover that coincides with the new model year. The site updates will be handled by Honda interactive agency Rubin Postaer Interactive, Santa Monica, Calif. The revamped site will have customization capabilities that enable visitors to rearrange pages within the site to suit one’s interests.
Honda recently launched an online teaser campaign for the centerpiece of its ’98 model lineup, the Accord. Banners were purchased on GeoCities, E! Online, and to lead Accord fans to a sneak peak of the new model on The teaser campaign was themed like a preview for a box-office hit, giving interested surfers the option to register for more details about the car and, in turn, provide dealers with a database of fresh leads.
Other than the Accord, the bulk of Honda’s online promotional push this fall will be for Passport, its sport utility vehicle, and a college marketing initiative for the entry-level Civic that promotes student rebates, said Meridee Alter, vice president and media director at RPI. Banner buys for Passport are planned for lifestyle and outdoors-related sites such as GeoCities’ Baja and Yosemite sections. Civic deals will be promoted on www. and on, a college sports network.
The fall is typically the most active time for car companies on the Web. Saab Cars USA is the latest automaker to use the Web, as it prepares a customer retention program tentatively dubbed “Saab i Personal Information Vehicle.” Starting later this month, site registrants can sign up on to have updates about the 1998 car line e-mailed to them, said Lin Borkey, president of Saab’s agency of record, The Martin Agency, Richmond, Va.
“We’re treating this as a pilot program” to gauge prospective car buyers’ online habits and supplement direct marketing efforts, Borkey noted.
General Motors, perhaps the most aggressive car maker online, will launch a pilot campaign on Oct. 15 that will permit Web surfers to do some virtual tire-kicking and even place an order from any GM car site. Dubbed GM Buy Power, the test effort links Web inquiries to dealers’ inventory rolls in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. The program is being handled by GM Cyberworks, the company’s in-house interactive unit, based in Detroit.