Volvo zooms into iTV

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Volvo Cars of North America is trying out interactive TV as the sponsor of a comprehensive online effort on bravo.com.

Under the sponsorship, viewers of Bravo's weekly "Inside the Actors Studio" program will be invited to log on to the cable network's Web site for real-time quizzes, polls, biographies and chat. The interactive program started Nov. 18 and runs through June. Viewers can access the content via computer; digital set-top boxes from AOL Time Warner's AOLTV or Microsoft Corp.'s UltimateTV; or Microsoft's MSN TV (formerly WebTV).

"Inside the Actors Studio" features weekly moderator-led discussions with film and theater actors, followed by Q&A sessions with students and other art aficionados. Both Bravo and Volvo's target audiences are considered early adopters of technology. Volvo hopes the iTV play will raise brand awareness and connect with potential customers, said Phil Bienert, manager of customer relationship management and future-product strategy at Volvo. Online participants can request product information on the Actors section of Bravo's Web site or on Volvo's site. Visitors to bravo.com can also link to volvocars.com.

The Ford Motor Co.-owned marketer collected a couple hundred thousand names when it tried a two-week interactive TV promotion with CBS during the National Collegiate Athletic Association "March Madness" basketball playoffs. Unlike the new effort, the NCAA drive included hand-held devices and wireless phones and involved a sweepstakes to win a Volvo.Cylo, New York, created content for both the March and current interactive programs after inking a one-year deal with Volvo's ad agency, Havas Advertising's Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York, last December. Cylo, on behalf of Volvo, asked several media outlets for integrated proposals, said Cynthia Burnell, senior VP-general manager of Bravo Networks Digital Media.

The agency created Volvo TV commercials to run during Bravo's broadcast. Volvo typically runs between 15 and 25 commercials on Bravo weekly, according to Mr. Bienert.

Bravo, owned by Cablevision Systems Corp. and NBC, will promote the effort during the "Inside the Actors Studio" program with a message appearing on the bottom third of the screen. The push will also be promoted on bravo.com and sibling ifc.com.

GoldPocket, Medford, Mass., has built the technology for the iTV program and will track online traffic and responses. The program won't replace direct mail. "Maybe this is in lieu of shoving stuff in people's mail boxes," said Mr. Bienert. "If we can get people to engage with us for relevant information vs. mass messages, it could lower our cost per customer [acquisition]. This is just another step in Volvo pushing the envelope to engage customers in a different way."

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