To help automakers struggling through the Coronavirus crisis, Effectv, the advertising sales unit of Comcast Cable is setting up free virtual showrooms that allow Xfinity subscribers to check out new vehicles from their living rooms.
The showrooms will be available free until July 4 to top-tier brands. At that point, Effectv will offer automakers a paid version of the showrooms with more features.
“The automotive industry is facing challenges they’ve never seen before,” said Melanie Hamilton, head of enterprise sales for Effectv. “We created the Virtual Automotive Showroom as a way to help Tier 1 automotive brands during this difficult time. Americans still need cars, and what better way is there to learn about the latest vehicles than on the biggest screen in their home.”
Automakers are usually among the biggest local advertisers but the virus has impacted sales and some brands cut back on their spending.
Brands including Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Buick, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Ram, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Volvo, Mini Cooper and Nissan are participating in the program.
Comcast customers with the X1 operating system can visit the showrooms by saying “auto showroom” into their remote controls or by turning to channel 889, 991 or 989, depending on their market.
Effectv is supporting the program by running a 30-second call to action spot letting viewers know to find the virtual showrooms on their cable dial.
The virtual. showrooms feature videos from the automakers. Some content is longer form. “We know the automakers have created some amazing video for their own websites, so we’re posting that in whatever flavor they want,” Hamilton said.
While the free showrooms feature “upper funnel content” aimed at driving awareness for the brands and its models, more interactive features that help viewers contact local dealers may be available in the paid versions. Hamilton said some participants in the free showroom program are already asking for pricing for the paid version.
“At Cadillac, we are always looking for contemporary ways to connect customers to our products, and a purchasing process they can facilitate from the comfort of their own home,” said Melissa Grady, chief marketing officer for Cadillac. “The Auto Showroom allows customers to get deeper product information about our whole lineup, on their terms.”
After July 4th, Hamilton expects Effectv to offer paid versions of the showrooms, partially as a substitute for cancelled auto shows, where many new vehicles get unveiled.
“All consumer behavior has been affected, so for us having that local connection point and having the X1 technology, we’ve been exploring the art of the possible in terms of how we can create and curate unique opportunities and experiences to ensure that our advertising based feels like we’re partnering with them, feel like we’re working with them to meet their business goals and that we are innovating at the same time,” Hamilton said.
She said Effectv is looking into a virtual travel experience with most travel advertisers shut down.
Effectv has also been running a program called Hometown Hub, which promotes small businesses.
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Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.