Who Wants to Be a Marketeer?

SAN FRANCISCO (05/23/2000) - Ever watch TV commercials and think you could do better? Lexus' latest online effort gives armchair advertisers the chance to make a name for themselves, so long as they are prepared to let the carmaker exploit their creative talents.

Lexus is sponsoring an online contest in which Web users are invited to create a new television commercial. The luxury carmaker is encouraging Web surfers to visit its and create a 30-second spot for the IS 300, Lexus' new sports sedan that will go on sale June 23. The winner gets a free IS 300, which has just been priced at $30,500. "Because the IS is a whole new car for Lexus, we are trying to target a much younger audience -- in the 25- to 44-year-old range," says Robin Pisz, national interactive marketing manager for Lexus.

Although the current median age of the Lexus driver is in the mid-40s, Pisz says "the audience we are going for with the IS 300 is more inclined to use the Internet for information, so we thought we could attract their interest there." Lexus' move is indicative of the car industry's increasing reliance on the Internet as a marketing tool. Isuzu recently sponsored an online contest to name its new 2002 Axiom Sportwagon, and VW invited couch potatoes to go online to buy limited-edition models of its Beetle, in reflex yellow and vapor blue, colors available only on the Net. Los Angeles-based Team One Advertising helped Lexus execute its Internet promotion, determining through research that buyers of the new car would be Net-savvy.

Entrants in the Lexus contest can use the interactive, Web-based commercial production "studio" to design their commercials. The "Edit Bay" contains footage and still photography from two existing IS 300 commercials, which can be manipulated by contest entrants to create their spots. Lexus and Team One judges will pick five finalists from among entries received by May 26. Lexus is pleased with the response so far to the contest. "From May 8 to May 16, we've had more than 500 commercials submitted and 8,500 people have registered to enter a commercial," says Paul Ratzky, director of interactive marketing at Team One.

Pisz says that on the day the contest debuted, the longest visit to the Lexus site was 71 minutes -- a big jump above the previous average visit of 7 to 9 minutes. After June 5, visitors to the Lexus site who aren't creatively inclined can vote on which of the five finalist commercials they like best, which automatically enters them in a sweepstakes contest.

Winners of both the contest and the random sweepstakes will be announced on June 29 during the airing of the Who Wants to be a Millionaire? TV show. Each will get keys to a new IS-300, which competes with the BMW 3 series. Lexus will show the winning commercial during the June 29 broadcast of Millionaire, and will post the spot on its site. But the company is waiting to see what kind of commercial wins before deciding to devote media space to it. "We have no plans at this time to run the commercial regularly, but it's definitely being looked at -- depending on how it turns out," says Pisz. "We have high hopes."

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