Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Auto Marketing Takes Sharp Web Turn

Auto makers all now have interactive websites that let prospective users examine and experience their models to some degree or another. Advertising also continues to move to the web. Just a few weeks ago GM let it be known that within three years fully half its advertising budget would be spend on the web (AdAge, March 17, 2008). Yesterday Chrysler announced that 29% of its budget for the new Journey would be spent on the web, with strong visitation numbers at the beginning of the launch.

It’s less of a surprise that BMW is spending half their budget for the US launch of their 1 Series on the Internet. BMW has been a leader in creative use of the web from the beginning with their BMW films series early in this decade followed by BMW comics. Their 1 Series is a lower-priced version aimed at a younger target market, so the emphasis makes sense. They cut their teeth on this type of strategy when they used the films to attract a younger, hipper audience. Now it’s an introductory video on YouTube. Take a look—it’s definitely not your father’s auto advertising!

Among other things, BMW is offering a Facebook app that will let users build their own BMW and send it to friends. Presumably that’s a repurposing of the functionality they have on the website. Makes sense to move it out onto the web where they can make it more visible, presumably by attaching it to advertising on Facebook and elsewhere on the web.

Another thing that isn’t new news is that young people spend most of their media time on the web, so that’s where you have to engage them. It takes integrated programs there, just like it’s always done in mass media. The difference is that we’re integrating a different set of tools; targeted online display ads, search advertising, microsites, videos, widgets and other specialized apps to name some of the main ones. Basic marketing principles still apply, but the execution is very different!
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