Lexus, TiVo Launch iTV Promotion

Luxury auto brand Lexus is partnering with digital video recorder firm TiVo to launch a new sweepstakes — which is designed to encourage users to watch commercials.

As part of Lexus’ “New World of Luxury” campaign for its ES 300, the automaker (a unit of Toyota Motor Sales) will offer the chance to win a car to users watching its ads and answering questions on the TiVo service.

Once they see an ad, TiVo users are expected to use the device’s features to review the commercial and answer a question which appears in the Showcase area of the service — an area dedicated to content from advertisers. Participants then log onto Lexus.com and submit their answers for entry into the contest.

The arrangement is especially astonishing since a host of television networks, network owners, and TV producers earlier this month sued SONICblue, the manufacturer of a similar product. The plaintiffs, which included the Walt Disney Co., Viacom and General Electric, charged that SONICblue’s ReplayTV and its automated ad-skipping technology intentionally infringed on their rights and damaged their broadcasting businesses.

Torrance, Calif.-based TiVo, which doesn’t offer the auto-skipping feature, does have fast-forward features for pre-recorded content, however. And evidently, users are taking advantage of that ability to skip commercials up to 50 percent of the time, according to TiVo executives speaking at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

Still, the Lexus contest hopes to take advantage of other features on the digital video recorder — live TV pause, slow-motion and rewind — to reach TiVo’s 200,000-person, early adopter demographic.

“While other advertisers may be running scared and hoping interactive TV will go away, Lexus is meeting the challenge head on,” said Mike Wells, Lexus’ vice president for marketing. “We’re looking to develop creative and innovative ways of working with the technology in order to leverage it to our advantage.”

“Advertisers have been concerned that viewers would use the technology to skip commercials, but Lexus has chosen to work with TiVo in order to be in the forefront of creating content and determining the potential opportunities of a new, and conceivably explosive, technology,” Wells added.

The contest is slated to run through Dec. 14.

The new campaign comes following new efforts by Lexus, which appears to be faring well in terms of sales during the current economic slump, to revamp its brand image. Earlier this month, the company tapped brand consultancy-turned-interactive shop Siegelgale for the task, while Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi retain creative agency duties.

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