'Ultimate Drive' promo: Saab's sweepstakes

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Saab Cars USA is gearing up for the second phase of its biggest-ever online media promotion for the newly overhauled 9-3 sports sedan. The "Ultimate Drive of a Lifetime" sweepstakes starts in late October when the 2003 model 9-3 entry-level luxury sedan hits showrooms.

Visitors can win the car by visiting driveofalifetime.com, the same address as a pre-launch promotion. Saab will direct traffic to the site via ads and e-mails from Digitas, Boston. The buy includes auto, outdoor enthusiast, financial, news and premium travel sites, along with forbes.com, AOL Time Warner's fortune.com, concierge.com and the New York Times Co.'s NYTdigital.com, said Doug Ellinger, media supervisor, Digitas.

For the promotion's first phase, seven winners and their single guest each will be flown to San Francisco for three days later this month to drive the car plus go on one of three outdoor adventures.

Colin Price, Saab's Internet marketing manager, said the sweepstakes marks the first time the marketer has done such an integrated campaign using e-mail, online ads and direct mail from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin Agency, Richmond, Va. Sibling shop Lowe, New York, will handle traditional media for the 9-3 this fall.


Saab used two databases to begin a dialogue with prospects. One was created using consumers who entered the sweepstakes at the driveofalifetime.com site and a separate 9-3 site, both of which went live in June. The latter database was built over the last five years with the names of owners and enthusiasts from Saab's main site-saabusa.com. In July, Saab sent a direct mail to 750,000 consumers directing them to the promotional Web site.

Digitas also created rich-media e-mails with audio that are being sent to entrants from the pre-launch promotion roughly every month, said Amy Hauser, an associate account director at Digitas. "We want to maintain interest with the Phase One entries," who can also enter the second contest.

Saab had 68,000 entries just from online efforts in the pre-launch sweepstakes. Of those, 23,000 asked for more information about the new 9-3, Mr. Price said.

Saab's online ad budget rose by 20% this year vs. 2001, according to Mr. Price, who declined to specify online media spending. Saab spent $33 million in U.S. measured media in 2001, and $38 million from January-June this year, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR. These figures don't include online spending.

Saab is betting on the new model to double sales to some 20,000 units vs. the old 9-3. The marketer, owned by General Motors Corp., expects 45% of new 9-3 buyers to come from competitors.

More than 90% of buyers in the entry-lux vehicle segment do research online in their early shopping days, Mr. Price said. "We can target them through online media. We don't do broad online campaigns. We can't afford to."

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