Audi of America Inc. is promoting its A3 hatchback, which went on sale this month, with its biggest online campaign ever. The blitz includes Internet films, music downloads and an online hunt for a supposedly stolen A3.
Targeted customers spend about six hours visiting six or seven Web sites when they shop for a vehicle, says Jim Taubitz, Audi's online marketing manager. He adds that 85 percent of Audi customers use the Internet for vehicle shopping.
Audi spent $5.7 million to advertise online last year, TNS Media Intelligence reports. That was about four and a half times what Audi spent on Internet advertising in 2003.
The A3 launch campaign invites Web visitors to solve the alleged theft of an A3 from Audi's Park Avenue showroom in New York City. A sign posted in Manhattan seeks help finding the car.
The hunt has an intricate plot that involves several Web sites. A page dedicated to the A3 on the Audi Web site, audiusa.com/a3, links to another page where viewers are told they can watch a video of the robbery. Fictitious characters appear, including a video game pioneer and an investigator who recovers stolen art.
Audi also is promoting online travelogues by three filmmakers who are chronicling cross-country travels in an A3. Consumers will be able to vote for the best of the three short films on the A3 site.
That A3 site offers free downloads of 33 songs from the iTunes Web site to consumers who test drive the car. The promotion ends May 31.
Ian Beavis, a marketing consultant in Long Beach, Calif., calls Audi's online effort to interest Web surfers in a phony car theft time-consuming and complicated.
Says Beavis, a former marketing executive with Mitsubishi Motors North America: "Consumers don't mind being enticed or entertained, but not misled. It's a very delicate balance."