Comcast has unveiled a new ‘Virtual Auto Showroom’, an ad offering for car manufacturers which will let them virtually demo their products on TV sets. The showroom is available via Comcast’s multiplatform virtual programming distribution (MVPD) service Xfinity X1, and users will be able to navigate it via X1’s voice control features. It will be free for ‘tier 1’ car manufacturers for two months, to help them reach audiences during the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Virtual Auto Showroom will be available via a dedicated channel on Xfinity X1 devices, or accessible via voice command. Users can scroll through participating brands (Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC, Buick, Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Ram, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Volvo, Mini Cooper and Nissan are among those who have partnered with Comcast), and will then be taken through to their chosen brand’s virtual showroom.
This will then lead users to a hub of video content from that manufacturer. This content will cover specific car models, covering things like technical specifications and safety features. But the videos may also showcase the car brand’s customer service and community involvement.
As VAN has previously reported, broadcasters have been very active during the pandemic in coming up with new creative solutions to help brands work through to crisis to reach consumers, and the Virtual Auto Showroom provides another example of that. The auto industry has been hit particularly hard by the lockdown as car sales have plummeted, and auto manufacturers’ ad spend on TV has fallen as a result.
While the virtual showroom won’t immediately bring in any ad revenues (since it’s being provided free for two months), it will likely help strengthen Comcast’s relationships with auto manufacturers during the lockdown, and gives the tool a chance to prove its value.
“The automotive industry is facing challenges they’ve never seen before,” said Melanie Hamilton, head of enterprise sales for Effectv, Comcast Cable’s ad sales division. “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.”
Melissa Grady, chief marketing officer at American car brand Cadillac, said there is genuine value in being able to demonstrate their cars’ features to prospective customers via their TV sets. “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,” she said. “The Auto Showroom allows customers to get deeper product information about our whole lineup, on their terms.”
And while the product has been launched with the lockdown in mind, if it proves successful it could spur more interest in TV-led product demos. The same sort of idea could fairly easily be applied to other cases where users might want to explore a product in-depth without travelling, for example with house viewings or hotel bookings.