Internet contest sparks interest in Toyota Matrix

Create an online video for Toyota's new five-door hatchback, the Matrix, and you may win one.

To generate interest in the 2003 Matrix, which will go on sale Feb. 2, Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. is inviting consumers to visit to create a Matrix video and enter it in a contest.

The campaign, called Studio Matrix, began Oct. 11 and runs through Jan. 23. It is a partnership with Oddcast in New York, which provides interactive media applications.

Using Oddcast's VideoMixer application, visitors can mix their own one-minute video with sample audio and visual tracks. An e-mail address is required to register before making a video.

Steve Sturm, vice president of marketing for Toyota Motor Sales, said this type of online promotion gives much better feedback than broadcast or print advertising. It also gives Toyota more intimate interaction with consumers, he said.

"It's a unique way to bring music and product to the test market rather than just one way of presenting the car to the viewer," he said. "They get involved with the car in a more dynamic way."

The campaign is also more economical. Though he wouldn't give a figure, Sturm said it costs less than a TV campaign. A 30-second TV campaign costs an estimated $250,000 to $300,000 compared with a minimum of $50,000 for Internet video games.

As of Tuesday, Dec. 18, Toyota had recorded 591,693 visitors to the Studio Matrix section of its site; 9,427 had created videos, and 6,948 videos had been entered into the contest.

Completed videos are posted on Toyota's site and voted on by the online community. Those with the most votes will be selected as finalists.

A Matrix will be awarded by random drawing from selected finalists in February. The automaker may publicly show at least one of the videos but does not have plans to use them for advertising.

Sturm said his goal is for Studio Matrix to generate at least 50,000 hand-raisers by launch time. Through Dec. 18, about 38,000 consumers had requested more vehicle information.

Sturm is pleased. "Overall," he said, "it's much more efficient reaching the targeted buyer than other means."

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