SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- If the idea of marketing Porsche sports cars on mobile handsets seems unlikely, it's for good reason: Mobile skews young, but the core Porsche demographic is more middle-age male. And pitching aspirational luxury vehicles with an entry price of $45,000 seems incongruent on a platform where the most popular wares are games, ringtones and wallpaper.
But in just a 4-month-long pilot run, mobile outperformed Porsche's wider campaign to convince buyers it wasn't just an unaffordable icon.
The mobile piece was integrated into the tail end of an 18-month-long affordability campaign meant to quash the notion that the German-made sports car was out of reach. The campaign was inspired by company research showing potential Porsche customers believed that the car's price tag and ownership costs were higher than they really were.
Porsche saw mobile as an opportunity because its customers are technologically savvy and always connected. The creative delivered a straightforward message of "You can own one, click to see how" or "Can you afford a Porsche? Just say "I can."
When users clicked through, they arrived at the "I Can" mobile site and could choose to see the various models and their prices. Traffic spiked on weekends, suggesting users were interacting with the brand as they went about shopping or test-driving vehicles.
"We wanted to make sure we can capture people as they're in the shopping process. ... We think with our demographic; mobile gives us a good opportunity to do that," said David Pryor, Porsche Cars North America's VP-marketing.
Mobile delivered 22% of the entire digital campaign traffic, with a click-through rate that was up to six times better than online-display advertising. Mobile generated three times the volume to Porsche's call center than online, and twice as many dealer look-ups. The mobile site logged 40% higher visit rates to the model-pricing sections, compared to online.
"We had never done any extensive mobile campaign before, so going into this, we didn't know exactly what to expect," said Mr. Pryor.
The campaign, which targeted smartphone users on Weather.com and Yahoo properties including news, finance and sports, represented about 10% of the total digital budget, which allocated 70% to online display ads and 20% to search. The cost-per-click was up to four times less compared with online. Mr. Pryor said one reason search did not yield better results may be because Porsche is an aspirational brand and some may be seeking it out as they're randomly surfing. The buying intent of mobile users seeking out Porsche, on the other hand, tends to be more immediate.
The carmaker used Yahoo behavioral targeting tools to serve Porsche ads to smartphone users whose web-surfing behaviors had indicated they were in the market for coupes, SUVs, convertibles or luxury cars.
Bigger next time
Given the engagement metrics, Mr. Pryor said it was likely mobile would get a bigger share of the digital budget in the future, with a longer campaign run-time. The mobile campaign is slated to relaunch in the spring to promote the March debut of the new Cayman and Boxster models.
A niche brand, Porsche spent about $40 million on domestic measured media in 2007, according to TNS Media Intelligence, and $30 million in the first nine months of this year. In contrast, top U.S. automotive marketer General Motors Corp. spent $1.6 billion in U.S. measured media for the first 9 months of 2008. Cramer-Krasselt, Chicago, is the automaker's agency of record.
Like every other carmaker, Porsche Cars North America needs to see that its ad dollars are generating real returns. The unit, the exclusive U.S. importer of Porsche vehicles and a wholly owned, indirect subsidiary of Germany's Porsche AG, sold 26,035 new vehicles in the U.S. last year, down 25% from 2007, according to the company.
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Contributing: Jean Halliday