PeopleFirst's inaugural ads look to South

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Online auto loan site PeopleFirst.com launches its first ad campaign this week, a radio and print effort from Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, San Francisco.

PeopleFirst.com, founded in 1995 and bolstered by last month's purchase of giggo.com from DaimlerChrysler, offers online customers a quick assessment of their car loan application and provides a blank check up to a specified amount to purchase a new car. The process is intended to put the customer on an even par with the dealer.

CHECK IN-HAND

The new company logo and yet-to-be-launched redesigned Web site include an icon of a happy person holding a check. The print and radio campaign, tagged "When you get the check, you've got the car," is running in Atlanta and Austin, Texas. Ads are expected to move into national markets and onto TV next year.

"Our challenge is to get the word out on a limited budget," said Kathy Pettus, VP-advertising and public relations for PeopleFirst.

In one print ad, the online auto loan company touts its speed, with most loans approved in 15 minute or less. A second execution focuses on the ease of use of the process and how it leads to less stress when negotiating with a car dealer for a specific vehicle.

Spending could reach as much as $10 million in 2001.

One new product, involving an agreement with Mail Boxes Etc., allows people to apply for a check online that can be used not only at dealerships, but also to buy a vehicle from private parties.

PeopleFirst also has partnerships with car information sites Edmunds.com and Kelley Blue Book that involve only financing, but not vehicle purchases, that it intends to maintain, Ms. Pettus said.

Online vehicle loan competitors include a wide range of sites, from online lenders such as LendingTree.com to car Web sites, individual auto dealers, banks and loan brokers.

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