CARPOINT'S NEW BIG 3

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Salespeople at Microsoft CarPoint will be knocking hard on the doors of automotive media buyers this year. That's because Mark Hickling, who manages the editorial content for Microsoft CarPoint's Web sites, thinks he has three new packages that are perfect for carmakers.

Call them direct mail on steroids. All three, Hickling says, offer automotive advertisers unusually effective channels to would-be buyers. The three services are:

Personal auto pages.

Interactive digital brochures.

Virtual auto show displays.

Most of CarPoint's revenue has come from car dealers. But Hickling expects to sell $3 million in ads to automakers this year, vs. $200,000 last year, when the company sold ads to automakers for only the last six months. "We're focused on providing deeper relationships and more points of contact," Hickling declares.

Automatic e-mail

CarPoint introduced its personal Internet auto pages service last November. Free to consumers, the pages provide automatic e-mail notification of scheduled maintenance and recall notices for subscriber's vehicles. They also offer pricing for service and repair, coupons from vendors and estimated trade-in values.

In return, advertisers capture information about subscribers, including what vehicles they own and how many miles are on them. Automakers also can link consumers to their sites.

The service also locks out competing advertisers from a subscriber's page. Thus a consumer who owns a Chevrolet sees only Chevrolet ads. "The promise to the manufacturer is quantification," Hickling says. "Unlike direct mail, you know this envelope is opened."

Advertisers pay about $2 per session, or only when a consumer opens a personal page.

For automakers looking for a more intensive connection, there's the digital brochure. It lets a manufacturer promote a vehicle in detail on the Web - complete with a video spot of 15 to 30 seconds visitors can download and print. The interactive brochure can even change the colors of cars. CarPoint charges automakers $3,000 to $5,000 a month, plus a fee based on the number of visits to the site.

A third marketing option, Digital Showcase, gives Web browsers an opportunity to see displays at the annual Detroit auto show. The service costs automakers $200,000 to $300,000.

CarPoint is confident

Hickling is confident the three services will catch on quickly, even though initial interest has been limited. CarPoint has yet to sign up its first carmaker for an ad on its personal auto pages, even though more than 163,000 people and nearly 215,000 vehicles had been registered by the service by March 1. Only the Oldsmo-bile Intrigue and Alero have signed up for the digital brochures. And the Digital Showcase service at last January's Detroit auto show attracted only Ford, Lexus, Toyota and Volvo.

Hickling is not deterred. He is confident that CarPoint's trio of new services

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