As automotive marketers become more Net-saavy, major Internet service providers are developing specialized marketing packages and new features to attract growing Internet advertising budgets.
Interactive ads with film clips, games and customized showrooms fill the automotive sections of major portals such as AOL.com and Yahoo.com and information sites such as Edmunds.com.
For example, Yahoo.com offers an exclusive model showcase within the auto section of its site each month. During May, a Subaru Outback is pictured. Consumers who click on the photo are taken to a site offering information and a 1.9 percent financing offer.
"We're trying to come up with more creative solutions that go beyond the banner - anything to get them to spend more time with the information the manufacturer is providing," said David Rich, marketing director at Yahoo! Inc.'s listings business unit in Sunnyvale, Calif.
Automotive marketers spent about $110 million on Internet marketing last year, up 6 percent from 2000, according to Competitive Media Reporting. That's small change compared with the billions automakers spend on TV and magazines. But Forrester Research Inc., a technology research firm in Cambridge, Mass., says automakers and dealers this year could spend up to $1 billion, including site development costs, to market themselves on the Net.
"I think (the automakers) have just scratched the surface," said Robert Friedman, senior vice president of corporate marketing at AOL Time Warner in New York.