In a program that could be expanded to other parts of the country, Ford dealers in the Northeast last week began offering coupon booklets good for 12 free video rentals to anyone who takes a Windstar test drive.
At the same time, Ford is providing 100 copies each of a Windstar video to 370 Blockbuster outlets in the region. In-store promotions inform customers they can take a video home free and enter a drawing for one of three new minivans by calling an 800-number at the end of the 7-minute video.
"The partnership is a real good fit," said Scott Rolf, Blockbuster zone marketing manager. Families are the primary target for minivans, and Blockbuster positions itself as "America's family video store," he said.
Blockbuster has run promotions with CBS-TV and fast-food companies, but this is the first one with an automaker, Mr. Rolf said.
Ford considers test drives a major weapon in its challenge to Chrysler Corp.'s dominance of the minivan segment.
"The Windstar is the best in class, and we just have to get people exposed to it," said Jeff Bell, Ford Division's Northeast marketing manager.
Mr. Bell, who said he observed the professional way Blockbuster stores handled previous promotions, proposed the marketing partnership in January.
He said the five-week promotion is expected to generate 30,000 test drives. Another 400,000 people are projected to take home the product videos.
J. Walter Thompson Direct, New York, originally produced the video for customers responding to magazine offers.
The promotion is being backed by more than $2 million in spot TV, radio and local newspaper advertising by three Ford dealer ad groups. J. Walter Thompson USA, Detroit, handles the dealer groups in the New York and Philadelphia areas, and W.B. Doner & Co., Southfield, Mich., is agency for the Boston-based New England Ford Dealers.
The co-promotion will produce names for both companies' databases for future marketing programs. Anyone who wants to redeem the coupons for free videos will have to sign up as a Blockbuster member.
Susan Daniher, Northeast zone marketing coordinator for Blockbuster, said the stores are using an aggressive point-of-purchase plan that includes posters, shelf talkers and buttons worn by employees.
After the promotion, Ford will reclaim the videos for a future marketing effort, Mr. Bell said.