Chrysler reaches for 'Next Big Star'

It was decided over breakfast Aug. 6.

TV personality Ed McMahon and his business partner wife, Pam, pitched, and Chrysler group marketing executives Jim Schroer and Jeff Bell accepted.

Later, for $1 million, the Chrysler group signed on as the exclusive automotive sponsor of "Ed McMahon's Next Big Star," McMahon's follow-up show to "Star Search."

The Chrysler group hopes the show will reach young buyers.

"Ed (78) is not a spring chicken," acknowledged Bell, vice president of marketing communications for the Chrysler group.

But helping Chrysler's cause is McMahon's co-host, Valeria, a 22-year-old pop singer.

"Ed McMahon's Next Big Star" is a TV show of talent competitions by young performers that began airing on Sept. 16. It will continue every Sunday through Feb. 24 on cable TV's PAX.

Although PAX typically draws a small audience that's older than the twentysomething crowd Chrysler is seeking, Bell said the station's fall programming should draw younger viewers.

"If we do this well, it could evolve from PAX into a different format," he said.

A Chrysler, Jeep or Dodge vehicle will be awarded to each of the five final champions of the show. The Chrysler group is airing two 30-second commercials during each episode.

In addition, some dealers will sponsor the show's local talent searches, though details of their involvement are still in development. The first search that will include dealers is scheduled for 12 cities Oct. 24 through Nov. 6.

"There will be contests, sweepstakes and events built around the show to attract customers into our showrooms," Bell said.

Meanwhile,Chrysler group parent DaimlerChrysler AG launched a global advertising campaign early this month in hopes of boosting the company's image among executives, investors and financial analysts.

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