This year’s RVIA Annual Meeting featured updates on the industry’s ongoing Go RVing campaign, the fourth three-year phase of which launched early this year with a visible role in the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics. And, considering the general economic circumstances of the year at hand, it was a very positive report that was presented to the association’s leadership, which met Sept. 21-23 at the St. Regis Resort, Monarch Beach, Calif.
“By all accounts, it’s been a tumultuous decade since the first Go RVing ads launched in 1997,” Go RVing Coalition Co-Chairman Don Walter, president of Starcraft RV Inc., told the audience. “These years have been filled with promise – and peril – for the RV market. But through it all, Go RVing has been working to expand your business. And even when the odds were against us, the campaign has delivered as promised. The media and business environment were particularly challenging over the past two years as Phase IV was developed and launched.”
To build positive RV attitudes and increase dealer leads in a “very tough” business climate, the coalition had to bring its “A-game” – plus an enhanced $16.3 million media spending budget – to the table in its the latest round of “What Will You Discover?” campaign ads, according to Gary LaBella, vice president of public relations and advertising for the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA).
And, thus far, those strategies have been working, Walter and LaBella maintained, and have coincided with a five-year period of industry growth during a period when some sectors – like power boats – have experienced serous setbacks. “We have big gains to report – increases in consumer leads, website visits, dealer participation, consumer awareness and more resulting from the industry’s growing investment in Go RVing,” said Walter.
Go RVing, along with the RVIA PR program, LaBella posited, have also worked to prevent a spate of negative publicity during an era of roller-coaster gas prices.
According to an ad effectiveness study just conducted by SIR Research, LaBella reported, RV ad awareness is up 16%. More than half of the coalition’s core target market of parents ages 30 to 49 with annual incomes over $40,000 now say they have seen ads for family travel in RVs. And a third of the respondents specifically recall the “What Will You Discover?” campaign theme.
That’s double the number that recalled the “Pursue Your Passions” ads during Phase III of the campaign and twice the number of consumers who are aware of the ads who say they’re likely to purchase an RV.
Moreover, year-to-date consumer leads total more than 230,000, up 29% over 2005’s record of 204,000, half from the prime demographic. “As leads are going up,” said LaBella, “the cost to fulfill them is going down. Nearly half of all leads are coming in through the GoRVing.com video order form, the most cost-effective source. The more expensive fulfillment option, our toll-free number, is still popular. But as more leads come in through the website, our costs will keep doing down.”
The Go RVing website, redesigned to match the look and feel of the new Phase IV ads, had drawn more than three million visitors through August – a 60% hike from last year. And, the coalition’s leadership maintains, a Go RVing e-newsletter, including a monthly column from noted travel author and RVIA media spokesperson Brad Herzog, has played an important role in the e-newsletter’s subscriptions reaching more than 160,000.
This, in turn, has drawn more dealer participation. A total of 791 retailers have signed up for the upgraded tie-in program, surpassing the previous record of 756 for all of 2004.
More show promoters are also giving away Go RVing CD-ROM’s as promotional tools, said LaBella, who maintained that show officials have been reporting more first-time buyers, including targeted minorities. “Keep in mind that all these rising indicators and positive developments occurred despite high gas prices,” he noted.
The key, in the opinion of LaBella and Walter, has been more media presence, thanks to additional TV, print and online advertising in 2006 – the kickoff, again, being a $2.5 million blitz of the Winter Olympics that included 100 total Go RVing spots over the two weeks of the games on NBC and its cable partners. The number of impressions exceeded 122 million.
Also part of the 2006 program were ads on more than 40 cable networks, from CNN to ESPN, the Food Network, Fox News, TBS, TNT, the Weather Channel and many more.
Meanwhile, Go RVing print ads, the top lead-generating medium, ran in 30 national publications. And the coalition’s Internet ads, the second largest source of leads, focused on 28 popular websites and search engines as part of the largest online ad buy to date. Rounding out the ’06 campaign, the coalition utilized TiVo, movie theaters and Hotel Networks to transmit a total of 2.2 billion positive impressions of the RV lifestyle.