Autotrader Plays Games to Reach Younger Audience

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With the help of an online game mirroring its TV ads, Autotrader.com began its first marketing campaign to drivers age 18 to 24 this month. The campaign runs through Sept. 30.


"At this point, our brand name has grown and the awareness among the 25- to 34-year-old group has grown substantially," said Clark Wood, vice president of marketing at Autotrader.com, Atlanta. "We decided it was time to look at other targets and try to build brand awareness among other groups such as 18- to 24-year-olds, women and Hispanics."


Autotrader decided to target those age 18 to 24 this month because many are looking to purchase a car before returning to college. Campaigns aimed at women and Hispanics will kick off later this year.


In reaching out to younger car buyers, Wood said Autotrader realized it would have to use something entertaining enough to keep their attention and that they would want to pass along to friends, all the while painting a vivid picture of what Autotrader can do for them. To accomplish this it has decided to use a concept called advergaming, a combination of advertising messages with game play developed by Midway Games.


"This is a hard group to sell to," Wood said. "We can't market to them the same way we market ourselves to a 35-year-old father of three. The younger demographic is more tech-savvy and likes to become familiar with a product, and this campaign will allow them to do that.


"By using this method it clearly communicates what we are and what we can do for them. Not only are they learning about us, but we are interacting with them at the same time and making them familiar and comfortable with us."


John Kovac, Autotrader's director of advertising, said more than 500,000 people have played the game in the first two weeks and close to 70,000 people have registered for the sweepstakes. He said it is monitoring how many times the game is forwarded and how many new registered members it acquires, but it has not compiled numbers yet.


Wood said the number of unique visitors has increased 20 percent since the start of the campaign.


Consumers have two options. They either can play the game and automatically be eligible for instant prizes from sponsors such as JBL, Gatorade and Sports Illustrated, or can play the game after registering for the sweepstakes for a chance to win the grand prize of $25,000 to be used toward the purchase of a new car on Autotrader.com, $2,000 toward the purchase of stereo equipment from JBL and a year supply of Gatorade.


The concept of the game is to line three cars of the same color up in a row. As cars disappear from the board, others pop up from underneath it, similar to the effect portrayed in Autotrader's TV commercials. The concept and creative elements of the game were developed by Exile on Seventh, Atlanta, an interactive advertising agency.


Autotrader provides a link to the game in its monthly update that it sends to 1 million registered members who have opted in for monthly updates. At the end of August it will send e-mail messages to a list of 250,000 people age 18 to 24 provided by Sports Illustrated.


Links to the game are also on Autotrader.com and its partner sites, including America Online, CompuServe, Ask Jeeves and CNNsi. Print ads directing people to the site to play the game are running in the August and September issues of Auto Trade, Truck Trade and Auto Mart.


Users will have the ability to forward the game to a friend and will be able to register for monthly updates from Autotrader.com.


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