MONTEREY, Calif. - Fewer eyeballs, more meaningful dialogue.
For the 2000 model year, American Isuzu Motors Inc. will narrow its marketing target. Isuzu wants to reach a smaller demographic audience more times.
'We know all about clutter. We're in a no-win budget battle with companies many times our size,' said Bob Reilly, senior vice president of American Isuzu, at the 2000 press preview here.
For calendar 1999, Isuzu predicts it will hit about 103 million consumers with its broad-based media attack. Next year, Isuzu wants to reach just 39 million. But many more times.
No longer is reaching every 25- to 49-year-old viewed as necessary. Isuzu just wants to reach people who play hard.
Instead of hitting prime-time network TV shows, Isuzu will aim more for alternative cable, magazines and Internet sites frequented by rock climbers, surfers and endurance bicyclists. Isuzu expects the consumers it reaches to be more receptive to its hardcore-recreation image.
Isuzu's creative approach also will change, said Mark Darling, vice president of marketing.
Isuzu had tried to prove its vehicles' toughness by showing them performing rugged off-road tasks. But too many other sport-utility makers use the same 'dirt roads and mud holes' recipe, Darling said.
So as a sport-utility specialist, Isuzu will playfully mock the competition.
For example, one proposed TV spot will show a group of giggly sorority girls unloading a canoe from a generic sport-utility and floating down a gentle river. The voice-over intones: 'Some sport-utilities only go so far.' Then two athletic women roar past and plunge down through some rapids, loading their raft into an Isuzu. Voice-over: 'We go farther.'
Isuzu feels its intended customers will relate to this sort of campaign. Fewer than 10 percent of sport-utility buyers are believed to take their vehicles off-road. Isuzu says 20 percent of its owners do.
Not that Isuzu will abandon the mass market. It still will run ads on network TV and in major magazines. And the VehiCross will be featured in Disney's Mission from Mars movie next summer.
Darling also feels the new message will not alienate the mainstream because few people recognize that they belong to the demographic group being parodied. After all, how many soccer moms will confess that they bought a sport-utility because they couldn't bear being seen in a minivan?
How all this affects Isuzu's budget isn't being revealed. Isuzu said its 1999 media spending budget was $82 million, and the 2000 budget has not been finalized.