US car manufacturers are experiencing much difficulties during this financial crisis, as they are facing bankruptcy. However, business has still to be done, and car companies seem to have much interest in the Internet medium to promote their vehicles.
Here is a good article on how Automakers give social Web sites a test-drive.
Actually, they are trying out all kinds of web commercials: videos, SEO, adwords, social platforms... What is also worth of interest, is the social communities interest.
Here is a very interesting abstract of this article.
"Social networking efforts by Dodge and Chrysler brands are in their “infancy,” Sullivan said. But as the sites attract older and more mainstream users, he said, “We are starting to build that out.”
Mark LaNeve, General Motors' vice president of North American marketing, said social networks extend word-of-mouth advertising to cyberspace.
“The most powerful thing in our business is the advocacy of one customer to the next,” LaNeve said. “These sites get that done digitally.”
This year, Chevrolet and MySpace developed a promotion that focused on conservation and alternative-fuel vehicles. A “tree widget” allowed MySpace users to plant virtual seeds on the site that grew into trees. As part of the promotion, Chevrolet and MySpace also agreed to plant as many as 225,000 real trees.
The program generated more than 8 million downloads and “millions of positive comments,” GM spokeswoman Kelly Cusinato said.
Toyota Motor Sales' youth-oriented Scion brand has appeared on social marketing sites for five years, said Adrian Si, Scion's interactive marketing manager.
In October, Scion launched a promotion on Kongregate, a social network for video-game developers and players. Users can modify a basic video game Scion has posted on the site. Visitors will vote for their favorite version.
Scion uses social networks primarily to “provide entertainment value” to users rather than generate traffic for its own Web site, Si says.
“We're not touting our cars,” he said. “We do things to get exposure to our brand and positive awareness of it.”
Jim Farley, Ford Motor Co.'s group vice president of marketing and communications, says companies such as his have not “really leveraged the opportunity” provided by social networking sites.
“It will be one of the most fundamental parts of our digital strategy going forward,” he said.
The marketing challenge, Farley said, is to provide content that will engage, rather than distract or annoy, users of networking sites.
“People come there for a very specific reason,” he said. “They don't want to be interrupted.”
But auto ads on social networks inevitably face user resistance, said Jon Schulz, a senior vice president at Specific Media, an online ad network in Irvine.
“Compared to other forms of advertising, social media do not drive the online behavior that leads to vehicle purchases,” said Schulz, who directed digital and direct marketing for Ford Motor before he left the company in May.
“You get a lot of eyeballs” at social networks, Schulz said. “But advertising is generally not well-received. The communities were launched without advertising. (Users) don't view it as a transactional space. It is a social space.”"