General Motors will send dealers videotaped suggestions on how to turn contestants in its Hot Button promotion into buyers.
In the promotion, GM is giving away 1,000 vehicles to consumers who enter dealerships and play the game by pushing an OnStar button. GM has said it expects 5.5 million contestants during the three-month game.
GM wants to build traffic to avoid the market share slump that the company endured in the first quarter of 2003. But some dealers have said many contestants simply play the game and leave.
John Middlebrook, GM vice president for marketing and advertising, said in an interview during the convention that under state sweepstakes laws, dealers cannot impose any requirement, such as a test drive, before playing the game. But, Middlebrook added, "after they're done playing the game, the customer is fair game."
GM is counseling dealers to try to persuade contestants to take a vehicle home in GM's 24-hour test drive program. Also, Middlebrook said, dealers have discretionary cash as part of the program. They can use that as sales incentives, which some dealers have done by creating their own rebate coupons.
They also can create second prizes for contestants who fail to win a vehicle, he said.
But, Middlebrook said, the program is not meant "to rip the market open in January."
"Hot Button is not intended to spike sales as much as get consideration, to get people to sit in the product," he said.
John Smith, group vice president for vehicle sales, service and marketing, says GM will look for more sales promotions that shake up the market: "We intend to be disruptive."