The Go RVing Coalition, in a standing-room-only session held during RVIA Committee Week in Washington D.C., again exhibited the kind of unity that has been a hallmark of the recreational vehicle industry’s ongoing marketing campaign since it was launched some 14 years ago.
At the end of the day, the all-industry panel unanimously agreed to move beyond the cost-effective “Ambassadors of Affordability” theme that had carried it through the recession to an all-new, integrated television, print and digital campaign utilizing an “Away” lifestyle theme that resembles in many ways the more emotional formats of earlier campaigns.
“What we really want to accomplish here is to think about our strategy as we move forward into the next level of the campaign,” said Chad Strohl, a brand manager for The Richards Group, the coalition’s Dallas-based agency. “Specifically what we want to do is return to our original strategy, which is about pursuing your passions and doing the things we like to do with the people who matter most.”
The Richards Group, along with the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) staff and members of the coalition’s Creative Work Group, had been working on the campaign’s next wave for a couple of months. And the coalition Monday (June 6) gave the agency the go-ahead to begin production work on four print ads and three television spots, samples of which are to be available for industry review at this winter’s Louisville Show. The new ads will begin running in 2012.
“‘Away’ to us is a very simple word, but it becomes much more than just that,” Strohl told coalition members before showing them some early Power Point samples. “‘Away’ can be a place. It can be a mindset that’s different for everyone. It depends really on what you put into it and what you want to take out of it. So, it makes it a very personal idea. In short, away is about traveling in an RV, which is the perfect way to get there because what’s more personalized than traveling on your own terms and on your own itinerary and to make it on your own budget as well?”
In the same meeting, the coalition’s leadership, including co-Chairmen Bob Olson, chairman and CEO of Winnebago Industries Inc., Forest City, Iowa, and Tom Stinnett, of Tom Stinnett RV Freedom Center, Clarksville, Ind., issued a decidedly positive review on the 2011 campaign to date.
“On the dealer side,” said Stinnett, “I’d like to express that the dealers are real excited about the Go RVing leads prioritization system to increase the value of Go RVing leads. It does seem to be working. The ‘Leads Plus’ program is delivering more qualified leads categorized by RV purchase likelihood, helping us all follow up more efficiently and effectively.
“And, so far this year, more than 420 dealers signed up for the Go RVing leads program compared to 382 a year ago,” said Stinnett. “That’s a 10% increase over 2010, and we’re not done yet. We’re still working hard to get more dealers signed up since research shows that the best time to work with these leads continues to run through October. So, we’ve had some terrific support from the industry partners this year. Several manufacturers and state associations have really helped us get the word out regarding the Leads Plus program. So, we appreciate their involvement.”
Olson, for his part, said he liked the way things were shaping up. “I’m really excited about the direction that our coalition’s headed in 2011,” he told the group. “We are starting with our cross-media promotion on The Food Network, which will include Go RVing messages on their TV program, in their magazine and on their web page. With the growing popularity of the Food Network, it’s a great venue for us to reach our potential customers. We have also partnered with National CineMedia, with Go RVing ads airing prior to PG movies soon in theaters across the country. What a way to get our message in front of young families, just the kind of people the industry wants to reach.”
Go RVing, he adds, will continue to advertise with the ESPN family of networks, including NASCAR, professional bowling and Major League Baseball. Also still on the agenda are cable networks, including Discovery, the Travel Channel, the Outdoor Channel, and The Weather Channel and a wide array of magazines from Better Homes & Gardens to Parents, Budget Travel and Family Circle.
“We will continue to utilize the Internet (in 2011) with buys on 40 sites,” added Olson, with Google, Yahoo and other sites playing key roles while social networking outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube remain an inexpensive means of harvesting millions of impressions for a negligible cost.
After introductory comments by James Ashurst, RVIA’s new vice president of communications and advertising, RVIA Senior Director of Marketing Communications Chris Morrison reviewed some of the other highlights in this year’s media plan.
In 2011, she said, Go RVing is enjoying exposure with 40 cable TV networks, 28 magazines and 42 websites and search engines.
“Both the staff at RVIA and the Richards Group are continuously tracking the impact of the media plan, and we track against three key measures: impressions, web traffic on GoRVing.com and, of course, the consumer leads that the ads generate,” she said. “By all these measures, I’m happy to say that the 2011 campaign is performing very well. We’re going to have by the end of the year a total of 2.4 billion viewings of our ads by our target audience, and 1.6 billion of those will be among the primary target families of adults age 30 to 49 with children in the household and a household income of $50,000 or more. And our secondary empty nester targets are also getting good exposure.”
Thanks to a larger per-unit seal assessment, this year’s media spend is somewhat bigger, with an estimated $10.3 million committed during 2011 versus $8.2 million last year, and Morrison says the media impact is evident. “Right now,” she noted, “we’re at about 600,000 total visits to the website this year and at about three million page views. We are slightly behind last year at the moment, but a few weeks ago we were 50% ahead. And this week we’re expecting a big jump because our Food Network cross-platform promotion is going to be fully kicking in.”
Morrison, at the same time, said that ad dollars were shifted this year to focus on lead-generating media.
“We shifted the ad investment somewhat in 2011 to more lead-generating media,” she explained. “This was by direction of the coalition to help provide the industry with more qualified prospects during the industry’s recovery. And we have found that the media plan is doing a good job of targeting people – the right people in the right media to be exposed to our ads — and that’s shown by our conversion rate this year. This year, people who are responding to our online ads are converting to become leads at a rate of 7%. Last year, it was 3%, so that’s a nice jump.
“And as a result of our more aggressive leads generating buy, we posted 70,000 new leads so far this year. That’s up 26% over last year at this time.”