Dollar Moves Affiliate Efforts to Commission Junction

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Dollar Rent A Car is using affiliate marketing firm Commission Junction Inc.'s network of Web sites to boost car rentals nationwide on a pay-for-performance basis.


"What they're seeking to do is extend their reach using our network to be able to go out and tie back all of their advertising and marketing dollars to actual rental cars," said Lisa Riolo, vice president of client management at Commission Junction, Santa Barbara, CA.


Dollar joins a roster of Commission Junction clients including MSN, USA Today, eBay and GSI Commerce.


Riolo would not disclose the sites targeted for Dollar but said categories include travel and consumer-focused online locations. Dollar will pay affiliates a 5 percent commission for every car rented through that site.


Dollar is no stranger to new technology. The company offers live online chats for customer inquiries and allows car bookings through wireless devices. Dollar claims it gets more reservations through online channels than any other source.


The move to expand affiliate marketing comes around the time Dollar parent Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group announced a single operating structure to cut costs. The Dollar and Thrifty Car Rental brands will keep their identities, but back-office functions like finance and accounting will be merged Jan. 1. Dollar Rent A Car Systems Inc. and Thrifty Inc. previously functioned under separate operating companies.


Dollar will continue to handle some affiliate marketing in-house.


Dollar has a fleet of 74,000 vehicles and 430 locations worldwide. It competes with brands like Budget Rent A Car, Hertz and Avis Rent A Car.


The renewed emphasis on Internet-based direct marketing is in keeping with the same cost-cutting spirit. Dollar currently advertises in print publications and on television. Online, the preponderance of its traffic comes from relationships with travel sites Travelocity.com and Expedia.com.


"One of our primary objectives is obviously to lower distribution costs, and by going out there and having affiliate programs, those are less-costly transactions when they come to us via other channels," said Charlie Coniglio, staff vice president of e-commerce at Dollar Thrifty. "Therefore, we're getting wired distribution at hopefully a lower cost per transaction.


"Keeping distribution costs down -- that really is the prime objective here, getting our products into the hands of people we may not have reached or may have only reached through higher-cost distribution channels," he said.


Commission Junction will handle tracking and reporting as well as manage the Web publishers that choose to place Dollar links on their site. The links will be in standard banner, text and content formats. Clicking on these links will take users to the pertinent offer on dollar.com.


Coniglio has expectations from this exercise. But he would not bet on a number.


"I don't think we've targeted any specific number," he said. "But what we really want to see is what this can generate."


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