Torrent TV Promotion Spikes Online Page Views 869%

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The deal: In its latest partnership with CBS's “Survivor,” Pontiac used the hit reality show to showcase its new Torrent crossover sport utility vehicle.

The result: The appearance on the show, and an affiliated contest, drove traffic to dealerships.

DETROIT -- Pontiac said its latest branded entertainment program for its new Torrent crossover sport utility created a torrent of dealership traffic, one of its main goals.

Pontiac's 'Survivor' appearance and related integrated promotions were deemed to be a major success by the marketer.

The General Motors Corp. brand worked with CBS and producer Mark Burnett to integrate the SUV into the Dec. 8 broadcast of “Survivor: Guatemala.” In the episode, contestant Cindy Hall, a Florida zookeeper, won a reward challenge and was given the option of taking a 2006 Torrent for herself or one to each of the four other finalists.

'Reward Challenge'

Pontiac learned about three weeks before the show’s airing that the winner had opted to only take one of the vehicles. So to capitalize on having three additional vehicles leftover as part of the integration, the automaker introduced the “Torrent Reward Challenge” sweepstakes with ads during the broadcast and again during the finale Dec. 11.

The catch: consumers had to visit a Pontiac dealer to get a “Survivor”-like scroll that contained a number that could be checked on www.pontiac.com/survivor. Pontiac gave away a Torrent every day for four days ending Dec. 12 to the numbers that matched.

Mark-Hans Richer, Pontiac’s marketing director, said the brand’s retailers handed out 80,000-plus scrolls and based on anecdotes from dealers, between a third and a half of participants had never previously visited a Pontiac showroom.

“We thought the traffic was outstanding,” he said. “The bottom line was people came to dealerships. There is no greater prize in automotive.”

21.3 million viewers

It helped that a lot of people watched the episode. The two-hour finale of “Survivor: Guatemala” was viewed by 21.3 million people and averaged roughly a 7.8 rating/17 share among adults 18-49.

The numbers helped Pontiac also generate Web site traffic for the Torrent. Online page views for the Torrent jumped by 869% on the evening of Dec. 8 and by a total of 233% throughout the promotion compared to the month prior to the sweepstakes. The number of consumers opting in online for more Torrent information rose by 223% during the promotion, compared to before it was launched.

“This is just a great example of how to use integrated marketing,” Mr. Richer said. “We are bleeding the most results out of some of these alignments.” He compared Torrent’s integration to the Outback eatery chain’s recent appearance on NBC’s “The Apprentice.” Outback, he noted, “probably didn’t maximize” their appearance on the show with possible online tie-ins. “It seems like a lot of people feel if my sign or logo got shown (in a TV program), that’s enough.”

Declines to provide spending details

Although he declined to discuss spending specifics of the deal with CBS and Mr. Burnett, Mr. Richer said it wasn’t an added-value program to Pontiac’s ad buy. “I’d call it a benefit of having a good, longstanding relationship with these people.”

Jim Sanfilippo, executive VP of auto consultant AMCI, was impressed with Pontiac’s stats. “Pontiac dealer traffic has been frustratingly low and delivering 80,000 people is a significant undertaking.” He added Pontiac got its money’s worth for the promotion.

Although some experts have criticized Torrent for not fitting into Pontiac’s performance positioning and as being too close to sibling Chevrolet’s Equinox, Mr. Sanfilippo dubbed the model “very competitive” and a nice fit for the brand’s lineup.

The sweepstakes was Pontiac’s second effort with “Survivor” for the Torrent. In early fall, the marketer ran 15-second ads at the end of each “Survivor” episode for its “Survivor Search in the City” promotion.

18,000 photo entries

Consumers had to find one of six former Survivors driving a Torrent, snap their photos or find a photo online and send it to www.cbs.com/survivorsearch. Pontiac got more than 18,000 entries by the deadline in November and the promotion generated nearly 350,000 page views for Torrent.

Pontiac has been trying to redefine itself as GM’s sporty performance brand for more than a year. A year ago, it ended production of the Aztec, the quirky SUV that was part of the grand prize on the first season of “Survivor.” But along with Aztec, the brand phased out its popular Grand Am in 2005. Pontiac said its sales through November are off by 8% to 401,518 vehicles vs. a year ago.

Pontiac had about 2,800 dealers in 2003, with each generating an average of 146 vehicle sales annually, according to Automotive News.
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