Time Warp Character Drives Up Online DMV Renewals

Colorado officials cite reduced DMV office traffic and increased organ donor sign-ups.

Visitors to offices of the Colorado Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) may do a double take when they see advertisements featuring a colorfully dressed, mullet-sporting character suggesting they skip the lines at their local branch and instead renew their driver’s license online.

Or maybe they’ll recognize “Guy Vroom” from public service announcements where he appears alongside Gov. John Hickenlooper advancing the same message in order to ease the strain on DMV field offices.

It’s an unconventional approach to a conventional problem, and is less buttoned up than many government outreach efforts. The thought behind the nostalgia-evoking Guy Vroom is that he will remind drivers that they can avoid DMV offices altogether, and hang on to license photos from yesteryear, if they opt for online renewal.

“This was really something a little out of the box that we’ve never done before,” said Amy Sawyer director of portal operations for Colorado Interactive, a division of e-government company NIC.

The 20-year-old company uses a self-funded portal model that allows states to add functionality to their websites with no upfront investment. NIC instead receives a percentage of the transaction fees from government business conducted online.

The push to increase online license renewals in Colorado began in 2009, with a direct mail campaign targeted at eligible drivers with licenses nearing expiration. The state has seen a steady increase in renewals since then, boasting enviable gains year over year. For 2012, the state is on pace to log a 34 percent increase over the more than 109,000 renewals completed online in 2011.

"I would anticipate through this effort, those numbers will continue to increase,” said Mike Dixon, director of the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles. The division is housed within the state’s Department of Revenue.

The state’s nonprofit organ donation organization, the Donor Alliance, has benefited from the “Save Time, Renew Online” program as well, with its parallel message to licensees to check the organ donor box when processing their renewal.

According to Colorado officials, the state’s donor rate is the highest in the nation, and residents renewing their license online are even more apt to sign up as a donor than those visiting brick-and-mortar locations. The Donor Alliance helps fund the campaign by paying for direct mailings and the broadcast of the campaign’s public service announcements.

Colorado Interactive officials estimate that they have spent about $10,000 on the marketing campaign in the past year, including introducing the live character at a DMV event in 2011, marketing collateral and the public service announcements, produced by students from the Colorado Film School.

Staff time also goes toward the social media campaign elements, added last year. Guy Vroom has a presence on Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and YouTube. Next for the campaign is a mobile app offering the same functionality that residents can now access online. Look for the mobile application this fall.

Colorado’s Save Time, Renew Online campaign, featuring Guy Vroom, has received recognition for its success to date. The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators presented Colorado officials with its National PACE Award in the Best Use of Social Media category on July 31. The International Academy of the Visual Arts also recognized the campaign in June with its Silver Communicator Award.

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