While the auto industry has been talking about wanting to adopt a pull-marketing strategy for the past five years, it's better able to do so now that U.S. broadband penetration has passed the 80% mark. The media content is meant to drive awareness and affinity, as well as work 24/7, for what are most often youth-skewing brands.
Toyota's Scion brand is expanding the offerings on its six-month-old broadband channel accessible via scion.com. This month the marketer added "The Skinny," a video newsletter about its events and on-the-road reports from Slick Rick about what's hot in select U.S. cities. One recent newsletter included a feature on a Chicago merchant selling cool sneakers.
Jeri Yoshizu, sales-promotion manager at Scion, said her target is young consumers who live in smaller cities but still want to know what's happening and hip. She is using e-mail to get the word out about "The Skinny."
Audi dives in
Meanwhile, Germany's Audi launched its own German- and English-language broadband TV channels in Europe last month at tv.audi.com, an expansion of its 2005 digital TV Audi channel, which reached more than 7.6 million households in the U.K.
On the site, visitors anywhere in the world can pick from videos about culture, sports, lifestyle or technology; reports from a "live" channel; and on-demand information about Audi design and motor sports.
"We regard Audi TV as an innovative communications channel that operates like a TV channel but which also reflects the merging of traditional TV broadcasting with the internet," said Audi's Hans-Christian Schwingen, who heads marketing communication. Audi of America isn't promoting the broadband site here from its parent, a spokesman said.
Joseph Jaffe, president of Crayon, a marketing-innovation agency and a self-described Audi loyalist, said it's a shame Audi of America isn't promoting the site. "This Audi channel is a gold mine," he said.
Ironically, this broadband strategy by the auto industry, America's biggest ad-spending category, is heating up in the backdrop of a heftier TV upfront. But Mr. Jaffe said TV has gotten "a brief reprieve at best," noting that these broadband channels need to be supported by mass media to generate awareness and buzz.
That's what General Motors Corp.'s Cadillac brand did earlier this year, using national TV and print ads to promote customers and curious prospects to a site at mycadillacstory.com. The marketer invites brand loyalists to send photos or essays about their Cadillacs to the site, which also offers short documentaries on celebrity owners.
Ford Motor Co.'s content approach centers on music. It has teamed with iTunes to offer free, downloadable music videos at the Apple-owned site as well as at fordvehicles.com to build awareness with 30-something, newlywed professionals for the Ford Edge crossover. The automaker tapped River Rock Music, San Francisco, to recommend artists for monthly podcasts and handle approvals. WPP Group's Wunderman produces the video podcasts, which will continue for seven months. The more than 51,000 downloads since the podcasts started in February have exceeded expectations, said Dave Finnegan, marketing manager of the Ford Edge.
Ford's presence is limited to a brought-to-you-by mention and its blue-oval logo. "We don't want to get overly commercial in this space because we don't want to do anything to turn off our customers," Mr. Finnegan said. "We don't want to make this an intrusive experience."
"It's not about reaching most people," said Mr. Jaffe. "It's about reaching the best people or the right people."