12V Campaign Raising $300K

By Amy Gilroy On Oct 12 2009 - 6:00am




The 12-Volt Awareness Initiative plans to spend $300,000 toward a viral video campaign to reverse waning interest in car stereo and electronics.

The campaign is set to launch Nov. 12.

The group hopes to follow up with a second campaign in the spring to drive “Dads and Grads” sales, it said during an open Webinar last week that drew about 100 industry participants who hope to create the first industrywide car stereo awareness campaign.

Interim 12-Volt board chairman Steve Witt said many of the current board members have already verbally committed to each spending $20,000 towards the campaign.

During the Webinar, industry members were called on to participate at various levels. The top contribution, $20,000, gives a company a seat on the board directly involved in decision making, The smallest, $99, allows a retailer to link its store to a Web site tied to the campaign.

Beginning tomorrow, the current board will work on two videos, on campaign slogans and a campaign Website. The promotion will target 16- to 36-year-olds, broader than the traditional car stereo demographic of 16- to 24-year-olds.

Noting the board has already spent $100,000 on research, Witt presented a rough outline of the findings after 11 months of research, including online surveys conducted by Boston-based Cogent Research.

The study found that consumers want their cars to sound better, and they love music. “That is very encouraging for us,” said Witt, adding that consumers also want to integrate their portables in the dash and they want a cool GPS that is affordable.

Other findings showed that consumers didn't know there are several ways to hook up an iPod to a car, and they didn't know they could remove a factory radio and install an A/V-navigation system.

But findings also showed that consumer interest in car stereo is waning and the industry has sustained for years of losses in dollar sales. “The reality is this trend is alarming,” said Witt, noting research also found that after six to eight years of little industry advertising, consumers don't understand what 12-volt products are; they are confused when they walk into a 12-volt store, be it a specialist or big-box store; and they don't trust these stores to work on their cars.

As a result, the campaign will focus on “sound, connectivity and navigation” and will have a general theme of “It's all about having a fun experience in your car,” and “You don't know what you are missing.” Witt said the goal is to stop the losses in car stereo and to drive consumers into the stores.

“We are frankly very confident we'll be able to raise the minimum $300,000,” he said. When questioned, he said in the event that if the industry cannot raise $300,000, “we'll refund the money in full and we will then regroup the governing board … and determine if we should go forward and do it differently or should we stop.”

Interested industry members should contact Mary Leigh Hennings, senior VP of the Acumen Group, at (937) 231-8502, or Steve Witt, at (562) 889-5018. An industry Web site on the campaign will go live shortly.

Witt stressed the governing board will be charged with reporting on various metrics for measuring the campaign's success and that the funding will be publically viewable to those who contribute.

Another Webinar introducing the campaign will be held Nov. 9. No individual brands will be mentioned or pictured in the campaign.

Witt, who just resigned from his post as marketing VP at Alpine, said he would continue to lead the campaign for the next 60 days or longer.

The 12-Volt Awareness Initiative is the continuation of a movement begun by Ed Sachs, former president of Pioneer Electronics, who called for the industry to come together and reignite the category at the 2008 International CES.

A new governing board will be formed based on contributions to the campaign. Current board members include:

Steve Baldacci, iBiquity;

Mike Kahn, Sony;

Keith Lehman, Kenwood;

Carl Mathews, Crutchfield;

Larry Rougas, Pioneer;

Adam Thomas, Clarion;

Barry Vogel, MERA; and

Steve Witt, Alpine.

Jason Oxman and Ellen Savage from the automotive electronics division of CEA provide counsel and support, as have leaders from The Acumen Group, which is managing the promotion.

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