Cowboys did the job for Marlboro cigarettes. And they did the job for President Ronald Reagan. Now they are helping men warm up to the Pontiac Montana minivan.
Ads for the Montana star cowboys in action-packed skits. A new study shows the campaign is convincing family men, who might shy away from a minivan, that it is cool to drive a Montana.
'I think men feel it's just fine to be driving a Montana in terms of image vs. another model,' said Art Spinella, vice president of CNW Marketing/Research, in Bandon, Ore., who researched the Montana campaign. 'For men, the (cowboy) image is absolute justification for buying a Montana and eliminates the argument that it's too sedate or driving a Pontiac minivan is going to hurt a guy's image.'
CNW found that male minivan shoppers with families gave the Montana the highest grades in the segment in the categories of 'image' and 'fun-to-drive.' Women rated the Montana lower in those two areas.
'Pontiac has taken the tactic of going after a market that has never been addressed in the minivan segment - by using a more masculine kind of approach,' Spinella said. 'Almost all the other ads in the category are very feature- or family-oriented.'
CNW surveyed 24,433 minivan intenders in June via mail, a follow-up phone call and focus groups in four major cities. All intenders said they had seen commercials for all minivans. The intenders were from family households with two adults and at least one child.
Before the first ads were created, Pontiac's research found that many women had a tough time persuading their husbands to buy a minivan. Many men see the minivan as a dull, family hauler.
Jim Murray, the Montana's brand manager, said prelaunch research also revealed that of 500,000 annual minivan intenders, about 150,000 were 'reluctant intenders who needed a minivan but wanted the image of a sport-utility.'
Ad agency D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles in Troy, Mich., created the cowboy theme and used lines in spots such as, 'Maybe it's not really a minivan' and 'Life is more exciting in Montana.' There are no women or children in the commercials.
To make the Montana more sport-utility-like, Pontiac gave it a 'cowcatcher' front end, available two-color lower exterior appearance and standard tires with raised white letters, Murray said.
Pontiac sold 35,742 minivans in the first half of this year vs. 33,205 in the same period of a year ago.
Pontiac's research shows the Montana appeals to more women than CNW's research indicates, Bob Kraut, Pontiac's advertising manager, said. Pontiac's media buys are not male-oriented, so the Montana can reach a large audience. 'You can take a masculine image and women will buy into it, like the Marlboro Man, but you can't go the other way,' he said.
Pontiac set out to present different ads than competitors. Ex-plained Kraut: 'Otherwise, we'd blur into the ether of sameness.'