Yahoo has begun aggregating its own content through destinations dedicated to games and TV shows independent of those advertisers, and now the publisher is working directly with Pontiac to aggregate content generated by its fans from across the Web. The Pontiac Underground site, expected to be the first among other GM brand destinations on Yahoo, combines Yahoo social media features like photos and video with information posted on forums and online communities on and off the Yahoo roadway.
“We’re not just creating a new community, we’re aggregating communities that already exist,” said Mark-Hans Richer, director of marketing at Pontiac, a division of General Motors Corporation. According to Richer, we can expect to see similar sites created for other GM brands in the future. Interactive agency Digitas helped develop the site, which launched yesterday in conjunction with GM’s unveiling of its G8 Performance Sedan at the Chicago Auto Show.
In addition to centralizing Pontiac-related content from disparate Yahoo parts like Flickr photos, Yahoo Answers, Video, and Groups, Pontiac Underground is also home to the “Inside Track” blog, featuring exclusive news and images from Pontiac. And, in true communal spirit, the site gives link love back to communities around the Web, feeding posts through RSS from groups like “Bandit Trans Am Club” and “centraljerseyfieros” into the clubs area of the site, and linking to full posts on those other sites. Of course, several groups living in the Yahoo universe are also included.
Pontiac alpha-tested the new destination with “a handful” of fan sites, “to see if this is something value-added for them,” Richer told ClickZ News.
While it has set up the site as a meeting place for brand enthusiasts, in-market car buyers may be checking in for research purposes, too. The effort represents the company’s recent focus on connecting with online communities that have built up around its vehicle brands. The objective, said Richer, is for Pontiac to “have a better dialogue with brand advocates.”
Indeed, some fans have flocked to the site, posting rave reviews such as “G8 Performance Sedan from Pontiac rocks.” Others, however, are also eager to provide constructive criticism: “As a long time Pontiac owner, I think it is a mistake to drop the Grand Prix name and its traditional styling,” opined another user on the site’s Pontiac Blog.
“We’re not going to censor the content in terms of its tone,” said Pontiac Communications Manager Jim Hopson. Still, he added, “We will be monitoring the site and removing content that is inappropriate and totally off-topic.”
The carmaker planted a stake in the virtual sphere late last year to appeal to car culture buffs, offering land grants on Second Life’s “Motorati Island” to people starting car-related businesses there. The company also launched a MySpace promotion recently, providing payouts to Pontiac G5 owners who refer others to purchase the coupe.
GM has already launched its own corporate blogs, but the firm chose to house the new social site on Yahoo, because the portal “already has a lot of features and a lot of tools in their tool chest,” said Hopson.
Yahoo has been in talks with marketers in “many categories” regarding other customized branded offerings, said Jennifer Dulski, VP, general manager of Yahoo Autos. The company in December released the first of many planned “brand universes,” providing a similar feature set. Those sites, oriented around entertainment brands such as Nintendo Wii and NBC’s “The Office,” are not being created in conjunction with their affiliated brand owners.
However, noted Dulski, both the Pontiac initiative and the brand universes are “examples of how we’re leveraging Yahoo’s social media assets.”
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