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Hyundai Motor America is accelerating its direct-mail efforts significantly this year.

The car importer plans a direct push every quarter, a shift from its past "sporadic and piecemeal" approach, said Dave Axine, manager of database marketing and communications.

He declined to reveal the budget, but said the spending on direct marketing is "primarily new money," not a shift from funds for traditional advertising.

The marketer spent $80.6 million in measured media in 1998 and $108.3 million in 1997, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Wiley & Associates, Los Angeles, handled Hyundai's first such effort of '99, for the Sonata sedan. The late February mailing marked Wiley's initial work for the car marketer.

Hyundai's national ad agency, Bates USA, Irvine, Calif., previously had handled direct efforts.

Wiley prepared two pieces, one for the 120,000 current Sonata and Alantra owners and the other for 200,000 prospects. Both pieces were sent to 31 major markets, offering a $50 American Express Gift Cheque for test-driving the Sonata.


Mr. Axine said Hyundai was hoping for at least a 1.5% to 2% response rate from current owners and a 1% to 1.5% response rate from prospects. While it's too early to tell if the push is a success, he said early results look favorable.

"We're definitely seeing quite a few coupons coming back," Mr. Axine noted.

The marketer is relying on its dealers to follow up. Hyundai gave dealers information on recipients of the mailings in their markets.

$1,500 PER SALE

Jay Houghton, retail auto consultant at EDS Corp., said Hyundai's mailing and expected return rate translate to an expensive cost-per-sale proposition, which he estimated could be as high as $1,500.

"I'm not arguing that the money isn't wisely spent," he said. "It illustrates the difficulty of trying to figure out the best place to spend your money. The industry wrestles all the time with how to increase its return on its marketing

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