Yoyodyne rolls out online car contest

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Yoyodyne Entertainment thinks it has invented a new way for marketers to fish for ready-to-buy car shoppers.

Launching in February is EZWheels, a nine-week online promotion that will give winners $20,000 toward the car of their choice in one of eight categories. Sponsorship of each category will be sold for $64,000 for a guaranteed 25,000 participants. Volvo Cars of North America has already signed on to represent family wagons with its Adventure Wagon. Other categories open for sponsorship are minivans, sport utility vehicles, luxury cars, compact cars, motorcycles, sports cars and premium sedans.


"It will cost the car brand a little over $2 to own a communications channel nine weeks long with a hot prospect," said Jerry Shereshewsky, VP-marketing at Yoyodyne, which promises rebates if the participant numbers fall short.

Direct mail promotions easily tip million dollar budgets, Mr. Shereshewsky said.

Automobile Magazine is the exclusive magazine sponsor, offering subscription specials. Yoyodyne is also looking for ancillary sponsors in areas such as insurance, carcare products and service providers. The promotion will be advertised heavily on top trafficked sites, car-specific sites like Auto-by-Tel or Autoweb.com, in local newspapers and other venues.

During the course of the promotion, Yoyodyne will collect information from contestants, including ZIP codes and e-mail addresses, the make and model of car they currently own and when they plan to purchase their next car. This data will help Yoyodyne statistically determine serious car shoppers.

Weekly e-mails are then sent to users, for instance, asking them to visit a section of the carmaker's site to learn about a new car feature while earning another entry in the contest.

For Volvo's new Adventure Wagon, "it was a great opportunity to start building some relationship marketing," said Jenny Genosa, Volvo Web site manager, adding that it will help the company gather some prospecting data.

The fact that it was a turnkey promotion, with Yoyodyne gathering the data and sending out the e-mails, was also attractive, Ms. Genosa said.

Yoyodyne is banking on the preliminary success of its EZSpree sweepstakes with American Express Co. that launched in October. Still in the works, the sweepstakes offers an online shopping spree to a customer who shops from EZSpree merchants.

So far, Yoyodyne reports that 35% of contestants in the EZSpree promotion are clicking through to the merchant sites, with Wal-Mart Stores' site selling $1,000 worth of Barbie dolls to EZSpree customers.


"It's blowing our socks off," Mr. Shereshewsky said, adding that Yoyodyne is planning a small office market sweepstakes and an EZSpree 2.0.

But Kate Delhagen, senior analyst at Forrester Research, Cambridge, Mass., cautions that the results from EZSpree won't easily transfer to the car-buying marketplace, which is traditionally a crowd that makes a purchase every seven to eight years. Yoyodyne's "expectations should be much different" for EZWheels than for EZSpree, she said.

However, she added, "We do know that there are a lot of people who are making their pre-purchase decision online . . . It might take a promotion like this to put window shoppers into the active mindset."

Copyright November 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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