It was Alamo Rent a Car that nearly two decades ago drove the rental car industry into unlimited free miles.
But ads that broke last weekend no longer feature the dulcet tones of Hal Riney saying "Where all the miles are free." Instead, the theme "Just ask Alamo" is used in TV ads from Hal Riney & Partners, San Francisco, and the newspaper ads produced in-house by Tower Advertising. Travel trade and corporate travel buys will follow.
The campaign focuses on Alamo's low prices vs. its rivals, and presents situations highlighting the savings potential, said Michael Batt, exec VP-sales and marketing. "We find that to be a much, much bigger concept than saying we've got cheap cars."
Roger Ballou, Alamo vice chairman-chief marketing officer, wouldn't say whether Alamo has definite plans to end unlimited mileage. But he did say: "We're working on getting the price up, and mileage is one vehicle to do that."
The industry is facing an era of increasingly expensive fleet costs; and longer auto retention by the rental companies resulting in more accidents, higher liability costs, thefts and taxes.
Unlimited mileage, it seems, has become not only Alamo's "albatross," but the industry's Achilles' heel, said Jon LeSage, executive editor of Auto Rental News, Redondo Beach, Calif.
Messrs. Ballou and Batt are both part of a tune-up Alamo underwent earlier this year.
The company changed corporate management and divided the hierarchy into four divisions, all reporting to Vice Chairman-CEO, D. Keith Cobb. Markets were divided into North America; Europe; new business development; and Alamo business services.
Mr. Ballou, the former president of American Express Travel Related Services, came on board in May and shortly thereafter, Mr. Batt was lured away from his job as British Airways marketing director.
Since their arrival, Alamo has begun a review for its first direct marketing agency, with Wunderman Cato Johnson, New York, among the contenders. Alamo also is said to be talking to M&C Saatchi, London, about work in the U.K. and Germany.