AUDI LAUNCHES 'ADVERTAINMENT' WEB SITE

Intense Online Effort Pushes New A4 Model

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- Audi of America has embarked on its most ambitious online-marketing effort ever.

The European car importer kicked off the "Double Take" "advertainment" online sweepstakes as part of its $25 million launch of the redesigned 2002 A4 sedan, its best-selling model.

Visitors to the site can try to solve mysteries after viewing clues from three short episodes involving the A4. They can also register to win prizes while learning about the car and its features. The grand prize is a three-day trip for two to the Audi Driving Experience at the Panoz Driving School in Atlanta. The sweepstakes, run by Don Jagoda Associates, Melville, N.Y., allows prospects to enter up to eight times.

Getting people to play
"We wanted to

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do something different, something that involves brain cells," said Andreas Sigl, e-business content leader at Volkswagen AG's Audi. "Our objectives are for people to play it and get people talking about it."

The prizes are tied to A4 core values, such as performance, he added.

"The main thing is to educate and entice users to go to dealerships," said Steve Glauberman, president-CEO of Enlighten, the privately held Ann Arbor, Mich., creator of the site and sweepstakes.

Since the sweeps launched Nov. 8, tens of thousands of visitors have registered and played Double Take, he said. The contest ends Dec. 31.

Enlighten worked with Audi's ad agency, Havas Advertising's McKinney & Silver, Raleigh, N.C., on the site's content and creative concept, tying closely to other A4 launch elements. Audi is advertising "Double Take" with banner ads on a slew of Web sites, including AOL Time Warner's America Online, TheStreet.com, cars.com and Internet portals such as Yahoo! The marketer also sent e-mail to an undisclosed number of owners and people who requested more information on the A4 at Audiusa.com in recent months.

Last week, Audi began offering computer screen savers featuring A4 exterior and interior images, said Mr. Glauberman. Visitors to the site can subscribe to receive free, updated screen savers, as well as a choice of hundreds of A4 images to send as e-postcards to friends.

Good rate of online leads
Mr. Sigl declined to reveal spending on the interactive program. He said Audi gets between 15% and 20% of qualified leads for its dealers from its Web site, better than the industry average of between 12% and 16%. Audi started a program a little over a month ago that evaluates online leads for dealers.

"We pre-qualify them because dealers don't know which ones to pursue," Mr. Sigl added.

Automakers' Web sites generate fewer leads than third-party sites, but the rate of conversion to sales is higher than third-party sites, said Chris Denove, director overseeing online research at consultancy J.D. Power & Associates. Car marketers that use incentives such as prizes to attract prospects don't get leads of as high a quality, he said. And carmakers' offline advertising for their Web sites "is the single biggest key to driving auto shoppers" to their sites, he added.

Mr. Denove cited two examples: a TV commercial by Publicis Groupe's Publicis Hal Riney, San Francisco, for General Motors Corp.'s Saturn brand two years ago touting online sales and BMW of North America's TV and national newspaper ads from Publicis' Fallon Worldwide, Minneapolis, for The Hire, its acclaimed online-movie program at bmwfilms.com.

"In both cases," he said, "we saw significant increases in shoppers visiting their Web sites."

Little spent online
The auto industry spends an "extremely small" amount on online advertising, when compared to the marketers' overall ad budgets, Mr. Denove said. But automakers are steadily increasing online ad spending and that doesn't surprise him.

"For the past three years we've been saying there would be more ad spending online by the industry. If anything, it's a surprise it has taken this long," he said.

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