Toyota division's Camry sedan, RAV4 small sports utility vehicle and Yaris small car are highlighted in branded content on the cable provider's digital Optimum Autos interactive channel, where subscibers can opt to watch videos about the features of the 2007 models of the three vehicles. Users can also request pricing information or product brochures with the click of a remote, because the cable operator already has subscribers' contact information. The automaker collects the requests and distributes leads to area dealers.
'Channel within a channel'
"This is the most interactive campaign Toyota has ever done on television," said Barry Frey, senior VP-sales at Cablevision. "We've given Toyota a channel within a channel."
Although Toyota's luxury brand, Lexus, was a pioneer in digital-TV advertising as a charter advertiser with TiVo in 2001, its mass-market sibling has been somewhat late to the digital party; General Motors Corp., by comparison, started experimenting with VOD in 2003 and in 2005 did deals with Comcast, Cox and Scripps.
An as a group, the auto industry has been busy. This spring, Toyota, GM, Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler all inked deals with DriverTV, a video-on-demand channel available through Time Warner Cable, Comcast and Cox as well as through Liberty Media's On Command Hotel Network.
Carmakers have also used interactive-TV offerings from Turner Media Group, which sells iTV campaigns on the Dish Network. DaimlerChrysler's Dodge Caliber model is set to wrap up a two-month iTV campaign on Dish that let viewers click through tagged ads to see a gallery of images of the car.
It's no coincidence that automakers are investing in virtual VOD showrooms at a time when real showroom traffic is down. And they often have a wealth of high-quality, often high-definition video from commercial shoots they can edit into longer-form segments.
Katherine Jaris, media-communications director of Saatchi & Saatchi, the agency for Toyota brand and the Greater New York Toyota Dealers Association, said the Toyota effort is aimed at creating a "powerful and distinctive one-on-one engagement" with existing owners as well as prospects.
Saatchi worked with Publicis Groupe sibling Zenith Media, New York, on the new Cablevision campaign. The regional dealer ad group spends an estimated $100 million in measured media annually.
While Cablevision is one of many cable operators investing in VOD and offering branded opportunities, it's known among marketers as being especially amenable to creating branded environments, right down to the background color of the interactive overlays. The drawback, of course, is that Cablevision is only in about 2 million homes -- albeit homes in wealthy New York City suburbs -- making it more of an experimental ground than a proper national ad platform.
Toyota said its U.S. Camry sales in the first half of 2006 inched up by a mere 0.9% to 218,517 units compared to a year ago, while its RAV4 exploded by 108% to 75,015 units. The automaker said it sold 22,685 of its new Yaris models, which started trickling into showrooms in March.