Auto lube marketer takes direct TV route

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With automotive products fighting for attention on retailers' shelves, some marketers are using direct response TV to drive sales in stores while keeping media costs down.

Prolong Super Lubricants, a devoted user of long-form infomercials to market its engine treatment product, launched its first short direct response ad this spring. The 60-second spot -- described by Prolong VP-Marketing Lawrence Kahn as "high speed, fast action, MTV meets motorsports" -- promotes a lifetime engine warranty for viewers who call an 800-number, and is designed primarily to boost in-store sales.

"This year we really had a switch in our strategy from long form to short form, a more image-oriented advertisement," Mr. Kahn said.

The Prolong ad created by Steve Moss Productions, Van Nuys, Calif., features motorsports legends Kenny Bernstein, Sterling Marlin and Al Unser talking about using the product in their personal cars.

CENTURY DR

Century DR, which is handling media buying for the Prolong campaign, has found direct response TV a successful way to target car buffs.

In 1996, the Santa Monica, Calif., agency created an infomercial for Pennzoil-Quaker State Co.'s Quaker State to help dispel an urban myth that the product caused engine sludge. The 30-minute infomercial followed Jeff Gordon's Nascar team to give consumers a behind-the-scenes view of how the motor oil was used. The infomercial was ultimately cut into :30s and :60s.

Last winter, Century DR tested a TV commercial for Pennzoil's Rescue, an emergency fuel replacement that can be stored in a car for long periods of time.

Gerald Bagg, exec VP at Century DR, said using direct response ads to drive retail sales helps clients target their media buys at lower rates. Automotive direct response ads often run on regional sports networks, ESPN and TNN, as well as Speedvision or airings of Nascar races.

"From a media standpoint," Mr. Bagg said, "we're able to buy at 30% to 50% off [standard rates] and get the benefit of national branding at a discount."

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