Just in time for the Chicago Auto Show Feb. 12-21, Chicago Tribune has launched its Print to I (print to Internet) auto advertising program for dealers. Norm Hull, the Trib’s automotive sales manager, showed us around the homegrown online product. Only available to dealers and manufacturers who advertise in print, the online showcase reproduces each dealer or OEM’s print ad, but in a new and different way.

If you’d like to walk through it yourself, go to ChicagoTribune.com and click on Cars. On the left rail above the fold you’ll see the Print + Auto advertising directory. Click on that and you’ll be taken to a landing page of auto manufacturer logos or you can choose from a pull down menu. The menu includes choices to link to All Print Deals on Cars & Trucks, or specials and incentives specific to each manufacturer.

We chose to look at all print deals and specials, and from that landing page clicked on the Chevy logo. The result: “View this week’s specials from the manufacturer you selected” is the heading, below which are displayed the various Chevy dealers’ print display ads. We then clicked on the Rizza Automotive Group ad, which zoomed the ad and opportunities to e-mail to a friend or print the ad. There was also a link to more deals and specials from this advertiser. Rizza has several locations and manufacturer dealerships, so ads for other makes are accessible from here.

This print to Web product is not the only change in the auto vertical at the Chicago Tribune.

“Once someone comes in to the auto page twice that month, we send them an ad mail (e-mail) that says something like, “Hey, if you’re looking for a new car, come to x dealership.” Hull said that only those who opt-in during their site registration for these e-mails will be getting them, and they are sent from the Trib on behalf of the dealership who pays the Tribune to have them sent. The dealers are not given the consumers’ e-mail addresses, and only print advertisers are eligible.

“We have both a new and used car site, and so we know whether these consumers are looking for new or used, and which ad(s) they clicked on.”

This campaign just started, and it’s designed for all Chicagoland Tribune media properties including TV and radio. “We will share this with any local Tribune property that is interested,” said Hull. It’s also being introduced to other Tribune properties in other markets as well.

While it’s too early to talk about results, Hull is excited about the possibilities of growing both print and Web. “We have a wonderful auto market here,” he said. “We’ve done a very nice job in this vertical of late.”