Buick is betting that young tech-savvy buyers would rather take a test drive on the information highway before they consider a test drive on a real road.
This month, the General Motors division began a six-week Internet-based campaign with broad-band Internet service provider [email protected] (www.excite.com) that allows consumers to test drive its Regal GS on their home computer. Buick believes the new campaign is the first broadband-based Internet campaign for a major automotive brand with clickable video.
'What makes us so excited about this is the whole idea of experiential marketing,' said Tom Jump, Buick director of advertising.
Not a big, bland box
'There are still a lot of people out there who still think of Buick as big boxy cars that their parents or grandparents drove. With the convergence of television and the Internet, people can actually experience our cars,' Jump said.
[email protected] delivers the full power of the Internet to the home computer over cable lines instead of phone lines. It has 1.1 million subscribers and is linked with 23 cable companies in 20 states, three regions in Canada, Japan, Australia and the Netherlands.
Once subscribers have logged on to [email protected] on their home computers, they can click on the Buick banner ad on the welcome page. From there, they see and hear a general Regal GS promotion with a specially edited video feed and are invited to explore five different vehicle areas.
Those areas include performance, comfort, active safety, interior safety and ownership. For instance, just by clicking on a picture of an instrument panel, a viewer can get more information on airbags or audio systems.
'The consumer is controlling the information flow,' Jump said.
Buick is hoping to generate some retail traffic from the promotion, as well.
$50 at Amazon.com
The virtual test drive includes a dealer locator. The division also is offering $50 gift certificates to Amazon.com for those [email protected] subscribers who take a real test drive at a Buick dealership. In addition, Buick is offering [email protected] subscribers a $600 e-coupon on the Regal and another $100 rebate for those financing the car through GMAC.
There also is an opportunity for consumers to register with Buick to receive more information on the Regal. Jump said the division will monitor how many subscribers take the virtual test drive and may consider adding other car lines.
He declined to say how much Buick is spending on the promotion. A spokesperson for [email protected] said the company charges between $150,000 for 2 million impressions - an impression is one person viewing an ad - for up to two ads and $500,000 for 8 million impressions for up to four ads.