AutoTrader.com's new and largest-ever integrated marketing campaign borrows from that old sci-fi flick, "Fantastic Voyage," (sans Raquel Welch) to make the point that the successful search and buy of a new or used vehicle takes both heart and mind.
The campaign, which kicks off on Monday, features two 30-second TV spots, one showing a woman's thought process as she shops, the other a man's emotional drive. The ads evolve AutoTrader's "Armada" creative, which showed parades of cars each finding its way to just the right buyer. Except in this case the buyers are choosing the cars, and the parade is internal: The "heart" ad shows a guy searching for just the right vehicle on AutoTrader.com.
Cut to an angioscopic view of his arteries through which hundreds of cars zoom. As he winnows his choices online to "SUV," then "Silver," and "New" versus "Used," the cars he doesn't want veer off on branching arteries until the one he desires -- a Chevrolet Equinox, as it turns out -- arrives at his heart. "When you find the right car," the V.O. says, "You'll know it in your heart."
John Kovak, AutoTrader.com advertising director, says the company's ability to run side-by-side comparisons of vehicles -- including "new" versus "used," is a major point of differentiation for the company and highlight of the campaign. He says the big picture is that the site's total capabilities offer something of a vaccination against buyer's remorse.
Kovak says that message is critical because given the state of the economy, consumers are doing a lot more research, and are a lot more prone to regret purchases. "We did lots of research over the past year and found that now, more than ever, the buying decision is critical. We wanted to create this world where decisions that take place in the heart and head are powered by AutroTrader.com."
The spots will be running through the year in heavy rotation on networks like ABC, ESPN, TNT, MTV, VH1, Spike, Lifetime and HGTV.
The campaign, done both in-house and via Southfield, Mich.-based Doner and Critical Mass of Chicago, includes a media buy with home-page takeovers of sites like Slate.com, YouTube, Pandora, AOL Fanhouse, Facebook, ESPN, CNN, NBA.com, NASCAR.com, PGA.com and Yahoo Sports. Digital ads will use images and copy from the broadcast spots.
But Kovak says the online creative elements are also tailored to fit the Web properties on which they reside. "We have done custom creative for each site to make sure it fits the audience and environment," he says. He explains, for instance, that NBA.com will host an AutoTrader.com-branded "player comparison" widget through the playoffs. Like the ads, the comparison seems to take place in an NBA fan's mind, per Kovak.
Kovak says that AutoTrader.com will have marketing efforts at Major League Baseball venues and on sports radio coverage of MLB games.
A social-media vector, "Decide My Ride," is also running on Facebook. The application lets users pick four cars they are considering purchasing and then have their Facebook friends vote on which one they should get. The idea is that even if a shopper loves a car or thinks it is the best car for them, the opinions of their family and friends can sway their "hearts and minds" in their final purchase decision.
The Atlanta-based company is also doing a B-to-B push to dealers with emails, collaterals and advertisements in automotive trade media through year's end. The company says the purpose is to tout the size of the campaign and how, by drawing more traffic to AutoTrader.com, it will benefit the companies listing vehicles for sale or advertising on the site.