Print ads for Hummer point to Web site

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As a niche marketer, AM General Corp. has a limited ad budget. So it must promote its Hummer sport-utility vehicles intelligently.

The company will launch 2000-model advertising this month in an all-print campaign. And the ads' main job is to direct prospective customers to the Web site, said Lee Woodward, manager of marketing communications.

"We can put so much more information on the Web site than in a print ad," he said.

For emphasis, ad agency Pyro, Dallas, used Hummer's Web site address in the ads' headlines. Pyro also redesigned the hummer.com site, launched in 1997.

The site now features music, environmental sounds and videos showing the Hummer's off-road abilities.

The 2000-model brochures also direct consumers to the Web site. The simple cover, for example, has a photo of a yellow, four-door, open-top Hummer driving through new snow, with the Web address hummer.com/2000/.

CONTACT MANAGEMENT

Pyro developed an online contact-management system for Hummer dealers that helps them get more sales leads and better manage prospects, said John Beitter, a principal at the ad agency. The dealers can use Pyro's online marketing programs, which are e-mails for prospects who provide their e-mail addresses.

Several times a year, prospects and enthusiasts will be directed via e-mail to a Web site that will feature topics such as Hummer's performance in an off-road endurance race.

About half of Hummer owners used the Internet during the buying process, said Mr. Beitter, adding he expects that to grow substantially as a result of the marketing efforts.

The campaign will continue through the 2000 model year. Print ads will appear in 15 magazines, including Cigar Aficionado, Field & Stream, Forbes FYI, Fortune, Skiing and Wine Spectator.

"Unfortunately our ad budget is dwarfed by other brands, so we have to make sure our marketing is very tightly integrated," Mr. Beitter said.

The ad budget is higher than for the 1999-model year, he said, but declined to give specifics. AM General traditionally has spent less than $1 million in measured media annually.

The ad effort comes at a time of uncertainty for the Hummer brand. Last summer, General Motors Corp. announced plans to buy the rights to the brand and marketing, with AM General making and distributing the military vehicle. No decision has yet been made about which company would make a new civilian version, and there has been no announcement yet that the deal has closed.

`WALKING A TIGHTROPE'

GM is "walking a tightrope" because it could dilute the Hummer brand, said Jim Hall, VP-industry analysis at consultancy AutoPacific.

"The Hummer brand could go anywhere, but there's not a lot of latitude due to its uniqueness and rareness," he said.

Hummer is an off-road vehicle, not a mass-market sport-utility, Mr. Hall noted.

Hummer sales, excluding those sold to the U.S. military, have ranged from 781 to nearly 1,000 units annually since 1995, according to vehicle registration data from Polk Co.

"I'd be happy if GM didn't change it," said Jim Lynch, owner of Lynch Hummer in Wentzville, Mo., who expects to sell a record 180 new and used Hummers this year.

Ms. Halliday is a staff reporter with Automotive News.

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