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Acura, Reuters Give Away SUVs to Avatars in Second Life

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- Give away a car and you're sure to get some attention, but what if it's a virtual car? Acura, through a deal with Reuters, is promoting and giving away virtual SUVs to Second Lifers. Ads for the automaker's SUV can be seen on Reuters' 50,000 displays in the virtual land of Second Life as part of a bundled buy on Reuters.com.
Acura, through a deal with Reuters, is promoting and giving away virtual SUVs to Second Lifers.
Acura, through a deal with Reuters, is promoting and giving away virtual SUVs to Second Lifers.

It's the first time Reuters has sold ads on its so-called heads-up displays -- which look like real-life mobile devices and fixed displays resembling plasma TVs -- since the global information outfit became the first news organization to open a full-time bureau in Second Life.

It's also American Honda Motor Co.'s initial entry into Second Life, said Jenny Howell, manager-interactive marketing for Acura and Honda. Other auto brands, including Nissan, Scion and Pontiac, have already driven onto the site in the past year.

Integrating Acuras
Acura issued a request for proposals among undisclosed sites over the summer looking for an online program that could integrate Acuras, Ms. Howell said. Reuters provides Acura a chance "to reach a larger number of people" due to its presence on Second Life. The two-month effort targets urban professionals in their late 20s and early 30s.

Acura is using the partnership to promote the RDX entry-level premium SUV. The marketer is giving away free, virtual RDXs on Second Life and offers custom driving tours in the virtual world.

Reuters' Adam Pasick, known on the site as Adam Reuters and the bureau chief for Second Life, said 1,227 virtual RDXs were given away in the first month of the program. Second Life users can get a car by clicking on one of the Reuters displays or by visiting Reuters Island in Second Life. Traffic to secondlife.reuters.com totals about 60,000 unique visitors monthly, he said.

Driving traffic
Acura hopes to give away several thousand of the SUVs before the two-month program ends Oct. 28, Ms. Howell said. Some of Acura's ads on Reuters.com are designed to drive traffic to Second Life. Genex, Culver City, Calif., handled media planning, buying and creative for Acura.

Acura spent $111 million in all U.S. measured media in the first half of 2007, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

The RDX arrived in Acura's lineup last summer, joining the pricier MDX SUV. Acura said it sold 17,477 RDXs in the first nine months of 2007 in the U.S. vs. 3,065 for the same period in 2006. The two SUVs are the only models in Acura's lineup that have posted sales increases through September compared with a year ago. The automaker said its total vehicle sales in the period tallied 136,726 units, an 8% decline from the first nine months of 2006.
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