Mazda zooms into the ring-tone arena

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Mazda will dial up an extension of its "Zoom.Zoom.Zoom" advertising theme song this month, offering a free digital download of the melody as a ring tone for cellphones.

The automaker said Michael Belitsos, exec VP-executive creative director at independent Doner, Southfield, Mich., hatched the idea during development of Mazda's first full-line TV commercial. The ring tone made its debut in that commercial, which aired during Olympic broadcasts. A voice whispers the tagline when a man answers his cellphone (see the spot at AdAge.com QwikFIND aap86e).

Robert T. Davis, senior VP-marketing and product development at Mazda North American Operations, said the TV creative would have been changed if the ring tone couldn't be executed. Mazda got 90 e-mails from people asking how to download the ring tone, according to his latest report a few weeks ago. "We've got a connection going on with our customers which we are going to foster," said Mr. Davis.

Mazda is getting requests for the ring tone from outside North America, said Tim Blett, president of Doner Automotive. Mr. Davis expects the promotion to run through March 31.

Doner and Mazda worked with News Corp.'s Fox Music Publishing, which owns the rights to "Zoom.Zoom.Zoom." Fox first licensed the song to the carmaker in the U.S. in 2000 and has since expanded globally. Kao Rossman wrote the song, which is on the movie soundtrack for the 1993 movie "Only the Strong."

Ted Spellman, director-licensing at Fox Music, said sibling Fox Home Entertainment agreed to pay for the creation, execution and maintenance of a new consumer Web site for the downloads called zoomtones.com. Fox Music absorbed the undisclosed cost of the ring-tone creation, he said. In exchange, Mazda has agreed to add the site's URL to all its advertising.

connections

The second TV flight for the 10-vehicle spot begins this week and arrives in theaters in January. Zoomtones.com will also be incorporated into print ads. Mr. Belitsos said the promotion "will not only reinforce Mazda's brand message, but connect people to `Zoom. Zoom' literally."

Mazda isn't sure how many people will download the ring tone. But at any rate, cellphones with the ring tone translates to free publicity for Mazda. "Being the little guy, we always try to stretch everything we do and integrate it," said Mr. Davis.

Mazda spent $155 million in measured media in the first half of 2004, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

Although unique in the auto industry, the move isn't new among all advertisers. During a 40-day promotion in summer 2002, Coca-Cola attracted nearly 50,000 consumers in China who downloaded its jingle free.

Two auto experts responded favorably when told of the "Zoom.Zoom" extension, noting that few auto brands could do the same thing either, because they had no strong ties to a song or enough passionate owners. "It builds loyalty and brand awareness every time the phone rings," said Wes Brown, an analyst at consultancy Iceology. He predicted other carmakers would consider ways to follow Mazda if its ring-tone offer is successful.

Ted Turner, president of CarConcepts, said many people like to advertise brands, such as wearing apparel emblazoned with designers' names. The "Zoom.Zoom" song is "catchy" and having consumers asking Mazda for it in a ring tone "is a good indicator of the strength of their brand."

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