Crain News Service
Volvo Cars of North America Inc. was 'tuned up' this time around for the thousands of leads that poured in from its latest infomercial.
The new 28-minute infomercial, backing the S80 sedan, aired 13 times on several cable channels from Dec. 26-Jan. 10. The documentary-like program offered an 800 number to call for a free 100-page publication about the car, developed by Hachette Filipacchi Magazines' Road & Track.
Volvo got 4,000 calls from viewers, said Bob Austin, director of marketing communications. Follow-up mailings will allow Volvo 'to determine who watched what channel, at what time of day and how that may be connected into sales, which is more data than you get from traditional advertising,' he said.
Fitzgerald Brunetti of New York created the infomercial, narrated by longtime Volvo pitchman Donald Sutherland. Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG of New York handled the media buy, which included cable's CNBC, the Discovery Channel, History Channel and Learning Channel.
Volvo's first infomercial, which aired in 1991 in San Diego and Los Angeles, dealt with its cars' safety. It also used an 800 number.
'Volvo and Volvo's dealer network were not tuned up to follow the leads we got from it,' Austin said. 'We generated a lot of leads that sat in a drawer.'
The infomercial format also has been a hit for General Motors. GM got the word out early on its redesigned full-sized pickup, the 1999 Chevrolet Silverado, via an infomercial that ran a year ago.
Research revealed customers wanted product information outside dealerships and in the comfort of their own homes, said Kim Kosak, an assistant brand manager for the Silverado.
The half-hour infomercial focused on the pickup's development and was hosted by baseball great Cal Ripkin Jr., a Chevrolet truck pitchman.
The infomercial aired 36 times in January and February 1998 on cable's Odyssey Channel. It resumed in July and August with a heavier schedule on five cable networks.
It touted an 800 number for a free video of the infomercial and for getting on a follow-up mailing list.
'We got a very strong response to the 800 number, and we had a hard time handling all the calls,' Kosak said.
Her brand team found that 60 percent of callers who had just watched the program on cable wanted a copy of it.
Research revealed that more than three-quarters of those people were passing the video along to others.
Kosak said the strategy was right for the Silverado's launch because 'it was a good way to get a lot of product information out in a credible way to a large number of people.'