Carsdirect.com has linked up with PlanetOutPartners for a co-branded U.S. online auto buying and financing site. PlanetOut's planetout.com and gay.com started a hyperlink late last month to the site, which will carry content from carsdirect.com, which represents 3,000-plus auto dealers.
The one-year deal has a renewal option. While the cost was not revealed, PlanetOut's site lists sponsorship prices of $2,500 to $10,000 monthly for top-of-page brand logos. But the CarsDirect deal goes beyond that.
PlanetOut will sell ads for the co-branded site, which offers data on new and used vehicles, as well as auto financing. Mark Elderkin, chief operating officer of PlanetOut, said gays buy more new vehicles more often than the general market, and that gays and lesbians are more loyal once marketers establish themselves as preferred brands that make efforts to reach them.
Mr. Elderkin said his sites tally some 5 million unique visitors monthly, giving it the greatest reach to the gay segment of any media.
"Brand allegiance is one of the few big selling points of the gay market," agreed John Nash, president of Moon City Productions, a New York shop specializing in marketing to gays and lesbians. Moon City is Subaru of America's gay and lesbian agency of record. He said online shoppers often look for the best vehicle prices, which seems to defeat any relationship building. But, he speculated, since auto dealers earn higher profit margins on service vs. vehicle sales, online shopping could be a way for dealers to solidify relationships via the service side.
PlanetOut now has a panel of more than 10,000 registered members who have opted in for research, and it plans to survey them on their vehicle purchase patterns. The co-branded site also expects to learn which models and option packages are most popular with the community.
Mr. Elderkin said 40% of visitors to his two sites have used the Internet to research vehicle purchases in the past six months.
Consultancy J.D. Power & Associates reported in its most recent online vehicle buying study released in November 2001 that 62% of all new vehicle shoppers used the Internet for research, an 8 percentage point jump from its 2000 study. On the used car side, 43% did online research last year vs. 27% in 2000.
The hyperlink was difficult to find from gay.com last week and was found by going in the search section and typing in "auto." That brought up several "sponsored listings," headed by carsdirect.com. Other car buying sites were below: pricequotes.com, carinfo.com and lexus.com.
A spokeswoman for CarsDirect said visitors can go to the "entertainment" area and click on "car talk" for the hyperlink. She said the two parties are working on ways to make the link more prominent.