Betsy Lazar

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Betsy Lazar is leading General Motors Corp.'s drive into video-on-demand. GM's general director-media and advertising operations stepped up an initial VOD test that took place in Philadelphia in 2003, with a 12-month deal with Comcast in that city that ended in February.

A board member of the Association of National Advertisers, Ms. Lazar is at the center of the automaker's shift into new media and earlier this year called the review for GM's massive media buying account. GM was the nation's largest advertiser last year with $2.79 billion in measured media, $1.6 billion of that on TV, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

The Philadelphia test was the first VOD play of its kind; more than 1,800 30-second spots directed viewers to GM's Virtual Showroom, where certain models were featured in separate, long-form videos. Over the 12 months, GM tallied between 10,000 and 12,000 page views monthly and nearly 150,000 visits, says Kevin Fuelling, a local marketing manager for GM. A sales staffer at an area Chevrolet dealership says consumers reported they watched the VOD segments and knew exactly which models they wanted to test drive.

Ms. Lazar didn't want to discuss specifics or spending, but says GM is expanding VOD after hammering out similar national deals this year with Cox and Scripps as part of the upfronts.

Interpublic's LCI handled the local VOD buy in Philadelphia. The videos of GM models were developed from the automaker's in-house footage and shot locally by Comcast, not GM's ad agencies. Publicis Groupe's Starcom MediaVest and sibling General Motors Planworks, Detroit, will take over buys from LCI and Interpublic's General Motors Mediaworks in October.

While many may perceive GM as an old-school marketer, the automaker has long been a pioneer in trying new media. Ms. Lazar figures GM's early foray into VOD arms it with plenty of learnings as digital TV expands. "Soon on the horizon, this will evolve and we'll begin two-way interaction where consumers can opt in for information," she says. Although they can do that now via VOD, she dubs the process "very rudimentary." The married mother of two predicts "TV and the computer will merge into a single entity over time."

While she emphasizes GM isn't abandoning TV, VOD helps the marketer deploy its "video assets across many platforms" and allows consumers to view vehicles on their bigger TV screens instead of their smaller computer counterparts.

The Detroit native graduated from Western Michigan University with a bachelor's in marketing and earned an MBA from Wayne State University in 1987. She joined GM's media operations in 1989 as manager-media operations after stints at JWT, Detroit, on Ford and the now-defunct suburban Detroit office of DDB on Volkswagen and Audi. Ms. Lazar moved up the ladder in 2000, when she was named general director of media operations and earlier this year added corporate reputation ad duties, which also enhanced her title.

Brent Dewar, VP-marketing and advertising at GM, praises Ms. Lazar's balance of media and business acumen. "Under her leadership, we're making bold, bold changes."

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