Mitsubishi Virtual Test Drive Isn't So Virtual

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More than 5,000 people took the new 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport for a test drive during the first 10 days of this month without ever going outside.

In one of the most unusual and innovative digital-marketing campaigns in the auto space, Mitsubishi Motors North America teamed with its ad agency, 180 LA, and production company B-Reel to produce what it called the world's first online test drive. Dubbed "Mitsubishi Live Drive," the program allowed users to actually operate a 2011 Outlander Sport using the arrow keys on their computer keyboard and watching on the screen from one of four different cameras, including the driver's view.

This was no simulator - the vehicle itself was parked on a closed course created at the Port of Long Beach, Calif. (where viewers could clearly see the giant Maersk shipping containers on the course). The Outlander was fitted with special software, robotics and video cameras that allowed users to remotely operate the vehicle from their computers. The car could only be driven within the boundaries of the course, and Mitsubishi had people on-site with an automatic kill switch if anything went wrong.

And, while nothing did go wrong, it certainly made for some, shall we say, adventuresome driving. "You should have seen the people who were trying to drive at 11 o'clock at night," joked William Gelner, executive creative director for 180 LA.

Gelner helped design the overall campaign, which includes TV, print, digital and direct mail and runs through January. The online component of the Live Drive only lasted from Nov. 1 until Nov. 10 at Drivers could navigate the course for two minutes, and then a new driver took over. So, roughly 30 people an hour had a chance to "live drive" the car.

See the full story on Mitubishi's virtual test drive on

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