DRIVER'S MART'S AD DEBUT TOUTS 'NEARLY NEW' AUTOS: CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE IS CENTRAL TO CHAIN'S STRATEGY

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Driver's Mart Worldwide takes a customer-focused approach to advertising as it prepares to launch its used-car superstore.

The company will kick off the first regional brand campaign this month for its fledgling chain. It expects to open six new stores across the U.S. in the coming months, having opened one outlet last fall in Neenah, Wis.

DRIVER'S MART ETHIC

"The Driver's Mart idea is entirely driven by the customer; so is the Driver's Mart advertising," said Kevin O'Neill, president-chief creative officer of agency Warwick Baker & O'Neill, New York. The tagline-"A nearly new car. A brand new experience"-"captures the Driver's Mart ethic," he said.

The one TV spot, still in production, should be done in a few weeks. But five spread ads tout that new experience. Each focuses on a single benefit, such as no-haggle prices, wide selection and one-year warranty.

The ads resemble Hal Riney & Partners' print work for Saturn Corp. in both appearance and tone.

The spread ads will primarily be used as bundled newspaper inserts because "they capture the whole story" of Driver's Mart, Mr. O'Neill said. They'll also run individually in regional editions of national magazines and in local magazines.

Driver's Mart President Tho-mas Eggleston said he didn't have details on 1997 ad spending, but the company has said it expects the figure to reach $75 million during its first three years.

The campaign's success is vital to Warwick, which agreed to base its compensation on vehicle sales. Warwick gets fees based on labor costs for servicing the account.

The agency also developed in-store displays, brochures, the logo, banners and outdoor advertising.

Warwick presented much of the final creative while pitching the account last year, although some was revised. "Our arrow flew very near the bull's eye in the pitch," Mr. O'Neill said.

Tom Groves, chief planning officer at the shop, said all Driver's Mart materials convey the same concept.

The agency will do either focus groups or telephone surveys to track brand awareness and ad effectiveness in each market, Mr. Groves said. The target is middle-income adults, 25 years old and older, who have owned a couple of cars.

WOOING NEW-CAR DEALERS

The chain wooed existing new-car dealers, who are opening freestanding stores. The Birmingham, Ala., outlet is due to open next, around July 1. Others markets on tap are Flint, Mich.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Indianapolis; Salt Lake City; and Tucson, Ariz.

In Wisconsin, its first market, Driver's Mart used different ads, developed earlier on a tight timetable and budget, said Mr. O'Neill.

Driver's Mart's primary competitors are CarMax, United Auto Group and AutoNation USA. CarMax, a subsidiary of Circuit City Stores, is the veteran, having opened

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