Consumers are bombarded with advertising. To break through the clutter, carmakers are finding new ways to get their vehicles or ads in front of consumers without traditional media, such as TV, radio or magazines.
'The car companies want to be in an environment where they can present their vehicles isolated from competition to draw more attention,' said consultant Susan Jacobs, president of Jacobs & Associates in Rutherford, N.J. 'The manufacturers are looking for subtlety and exposure in a nonsales environment where people can be more relaxed.'
Three brands, Chevrolet, Nissan and Toyota, recently started innovative and nontraditional programs.
SUN AND SAND
Chevrolet is hitting the beaches of Orange County, Calif. The brand recently became the official marine safety vehicle of the county's coastline. Chevrolet provided a total of 42 Blazer sport-utilities and S10 pickups for lifeguards and beach safety patrols for the 30-mile stretch along the Pacific Ocean. Ten of the trucks have four-wheel drive.
General Motors' Western Region in Thousand Oaks, Calif., signed the two-year deal with Orange County. It is the area government's first with a vehicle manufacturer.
The sponsorship 'gets us plenty of exposure on Southern California beaches with a very young and trendy crowd,' said Rick Sitek, assistant regional marketing manager for Chevrolet at GM's Western Region. Beachgoers can see how the four-wheel-drive trucks perform in the sand.
Plus, he said the deal gives Chevrolet auto exclusivity and the right of first refusal to take part in events on the beaches.
A WHIRL AT THE AIRPORT
Ads for two Nissan vehicles are appearing in a new place at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport: luggage carousels. The large ads with Nissan's four-door Frontier and Maxima were stuck on the carousels in September.
'We wanted to follow the consumer through a day in their lives and get as many impressions on them as possible,' said Mark Barnes, regional marketing manager at Nissan's South Central office in Irving, Texas. 'We're always looking for ways to get people to notice our products and break through the (advertising) clutter,' he said.
Although he admitted the results are hard to measure, he said other forms of advertising can sometimes be just as tricky to evaluate.
Nissan North America Inc. made the deal with CarroSell Inc. in New York. Barnes said he expects Nissan to buy placement at other airports when CarroSell expands the service to other major cities this fall.
CarroSell said the ads on airport baggage belts target educated, affluent consumers and costs less than $2 per thousand people reached.
TOYOTA SETS SAIL
Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc. will start displaying its redesigned 2000 Avalon sedan on select Princess cruise ships this fall. The deal is the first with an automaker for the cruise line. Travelers on board can participate in a sweepstakes to win the sedan. The promotion also will be publicized in Captain's Circle, the Princess newsletter sent to 1 million current and past passengers.
'We've learned that Avalon buyers enjoy experiences such as travel and leisure activities,' said Steve Sturm, vice president of marketing at Toyota. 'Therefore we've targeted our message to be wherever our customers are.'
Toyota said it wants to increase Avalon sales to more than 100,000 units annually. The company sold 77,752 Avalons last year, compared with 71,309 in 1997.
The cost for these kinds of programs 'is not necessarily huge,' said Dave Schmittlein, chairman of the marketing department at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He said auto and nonauto marketers often take the last 5 percent of their ad budgets to try experimental promotions that are out of the mainstream of measured media.
He said Toyota has the best chance among the three programs of tracking results because the names of cruise ship passengers could be followed to the showrooms.
Advertisers generally 'acknowledge they are not going to be able to measure the effectiveness' of such programs, Schmittlein said. 'You're doing it as an act of faith.'