Avis effort targets gays and lesbians

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Avis is trying harder to reach gays and lesbians with its first ad campaign aimed at that lucrative segment.

The move is part of Avis' 18-month-long strategy to grow its leisure-travel vehicle rentals to match its strong business rentals, said Scott Deaver, exec VP-marketing at the Cendant Corp. unit. "To grow our leisure [business], we're looking for pockets of high-end leisure demand," he said. Gays and lesbians tend to spend more on travel than the general population, are brand-loyal and like upscale products and services, he added.

Impax Marketing Group, which has done work for other Cendant brands, handled the campaign that breaks this week in Liberation Publications' The Advocate and Out and are slated to run for most of the year. A third ad is expected this October for the arrival of the title Out Traveler, Mr. Deaver said.

The ads carry the "We try harder" tag central to the general campaign from Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann-Erickson Worldwide, New York.

Avis has integrated its effort by sponsoring gay and lesbian film festivals in major cities. It is distributing coupons at the festivals offering upgrades or free additional rental days. Coupons also note that for every rental, Avis will donate a dollar to the non-profit Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

5% of budget

Mr. Deaver said the campaign and sponsorships account for roughly 5% of his total 2003 budget, which it said will be about the same as 2002. Avis spent $27.3 million in measured media last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

It's estimated the over-18 population of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual people in the U.S. is between 13 million and 15 million, said Wesley Combs, president of Witeck-Combs Communications, Washington, D.C., a marketing agency specializing in the segment. The group's annual buying power is $450 billion, he said. "This is an important market for companies to target," he said.

"The companies that reach out to this segment reap the benefits of consumers responding." Mr. Combs said ANC Rental Corp.'s National and Alamo had sporadically targeted gays in the past.

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