The new 28-minute infomercial, backing the S80 sedan, aired 13 times on several cable channels from Dec. 26 through Jan. 10. The documentary-like program offered an 800-number to call for a free 100-page publication about the car, developed by Hachette Filipacchi Magazines' Road & Track.
Volvo got 4,000 calls from viewers, said Bob Austin, director of marketing communications. Follow-up mailings will allow Volvo "to determine who watched what channel, at what time of day and how that may be connected into sales, which is more data than you get from traditional advertising," he said.
Fitzgerald Brunetti, New York, created the infomercial, narrated by longtime Volvo pitchman Donald Sutherland. Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York, handled the media buy, which included cable's CNBC, Discovery Channel, History Channel and Learning Channel.
Visual Services Inc., Bloomfield Hills, Mich., is handling fulfillment, including follow-up mailings. Volvo is preparing a second media flight for the first quarter.
Volvo's first infomercial, which aired in 1991 in San Diego and Los Angeles, dealt with its cars' safety. That program also used an 800-number.
"Volvo and Volvo's dealer network were not tuned up to follow the leads we got from it," Mr. Austin said of the first infomercial. "We generated a lot of leads that sat in a drawer."
GM ALSO USES FORMAT
The infomercial format also has been a hit for General Motors Corp. GM got the word out early on its redesigned 1999 Chevrolet Silverado via an infomercial that ran a year ago.
The stakes were high. Silverado's predecessor-the C/K full-size pickup-had been GM's perennial best-selling vehicle.
INFO IN COMFORT OF OWN HOME
Research revealed customers wanted product information outside dealerships and in the comfort of their own homes, said Kim Kosak, assistant brand manager for Silverado.
The half-hour infomercial focused on the pickup's development and was hosted by baseball great and Chevy truck pitchman Cal Ripkin Jr.
VSI produced that program.
The infomercial aired 36 times in January and February 1998 on cable's Odyssey Channel. It resumed in July and August with a heavier schedule on five cable networks. It touted an 800-number for a free video of the infomercial and for getting on a follow-up mailing list.
"We got a very strong response to the 800-number, and we had a hard time handling all the calls," Ms. Kosak said.
However, her brand team was a bit puzzled that 60% of callers, who had just watched the program on cable, wanted a copy of the program. Research revealed more than three-quarters of those people were passing the video along to others.
Ms. Kosak said the strategy was right for Silverado's launch because "it was a good way to get a lot of product information out in a credible way to a large number of people. . . . in the end, we dialogued with over a quarter of a