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October 2000: Rich Media Campaign Motors Leads for Pontiac

The objective was simple - generate online 'buzz' for Pontiac's ( new 'Aztek.' The catch was that you couldn't buy the car until Summer 2000.

The solution - create an innovative two-episode e-mail ad campaign that utilized 'toggle' technology. The episodes, launched last February, were created and designed by Digitas (, Pontiac's interactive ad agency. New York City-based Togglethis ( provided the rich media platform and programming driving the campaign. The company's toggle technology allows users to experience the vehicle online. Toggled shows are free, interactive serialized campaigns delivered directly to consumers via e-mail.

"We wanted people to experience the versatility of the vehicle and decided that an 'opt-in' e-mail program was the best way to initially get them to participate," said Kim McGill, Pontiac's interactive manager. "It was also important to engage viewers' interest so we decided that a game would work best."

McGill added that since the consumers would opt-in for the episodes, the distribution would be highly targeted, allowing Pontiac to tailor its message to the audience.

Viewers who visited either the Aztek ( or Togglethis site signed up to receive the episodes, which were sent to their e-mail boxes. They had to download the latest version of Togglethis software in order to play each episode. There was also a viral component too - viewers could pass along the Aztek e-mail to first time Togglethis users, who could see the shows without having to visit either site.

The first episode displayed an image of the Aztek. Viewers had to hunt for virtual keys so they could crank up the engine and ultimately enter the sweepstakes. But while tracking down the keys, they were also taken on a virtual tour of the Aztek.

"It was a fun way for people to learn about the vehicle," said Paul Shapiro, Togglethis' director of production. "They could click through to the exterior to view specific features, then weave their way through the interior of the car and inspect the radio, cargo space, and other areas."

The second episode was an actual driving game through three different themed courses, each ending with an activity - mountain biking, rock climbing and snowboarding.

The sweepstakes, called the 'A-List Adventure Beach Bash,' drew more than 60,000 participants. Twenty winners were eventually selected and flown to Malibu, CA. In addition to meeting a number of celebrities such as Billy Wirth ("Lost Boys") and AJ Langer ("My So Called Life"), winners got to test-drive an Aztek for 45 days. In addition to the e-mail campaign, Pontiac ran banner ads within a number of targeted site categories (such as outdoor and health and fitness) and included sites like the Go Network, CarPoint, ZDNet, Wired and EXPN. Aztek was also the exclusive automotive sponsor of the Snow Conditions section of the Resort Sports Network (RSN).

"We initiated an innovative Web marketing package that included pop-up windows, television on-air mentions, and messaging in RSN's weekly newsletter," McGill said. "These cross-marketing efforts helped drive traffic to the site."

While Pontiac declined to provide any statistical data on the number of viewers/participants that are now part of the Aztek database, and also elected to not provide click-through rate figures, McGill said the program far exceeded their expectations.

"The campaign enabled us to formulate a database of prospective Aztek owners," McGill said. "It also proved that a well-organized Web marketing campaign utilizing state-of-the-art technology, banners and sponsorships, can be a very cost-effective way to reach targeted audiences."

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