Dodge is abandoning a focus on low price in its 2001-model advertising for the Stratus and Neon. Instead it is trying to project a more desirable image for the cars.
Meanwhile, advertising for the 2001 Caravan minivan won't change much, but the Grand Caravan will make a new claim: 'The best minivan ever.'
'Neon has gone from cute and practical to more cool, more with it,' said Jim Julow, head of Dodge Division. 'So many competitors are selling warranty, price point, practicality. Part of the market rebels against that. They say, `I want it to be something I can be proud of.' '
Dodge Neon sales have been slipping in recent years. They dropped 4.9 percent in 1999 to 112,236. In 1995 they were 133,984.
To help pump up Neon's image, Dodge's ad agency, BBDO Detroit, shot footage of various neon signs in Las Vegas and used them to spell out sentences, said Dick Johnson, agency chairman.
ON THE ROAD
Stratus TV spots in the new campaign show rolling footage of the car, a big departure from Johnson's philosophy of putting the vehicle on the stage and using no one but Dodge spokesman Edward Herrmann.
'But really, this is no more than showing off what the car looks like moving slowly down a city street,' Johnson said.
Dodge went without spokesman Herrmann for the Stratus and Caravan campaign launches. The brand used a computer-generated voice for the Neon spots. Herrmann has honored a commercial actors strike since its May 1 start. Instead, the brand hired an interim nonunion announcer, Johnson said.
The Stratus will use the tag line 'We red your mind' to complement Dodge's tradition of using red vehicles in its advertising. In the spots, white scenes turn red.
As the car drives throughout the TV spot, ad copy highlights various features of the car, and voiceovers relate those features to human life. For example, when 17-inch tires are featured, the voiceover says, 'You're not going out dressed like that, are you?' When antilock brakes are featured, a fatherly voice says, 'I'd like to put a stop to this now.'
Dodge will rely on one campaign for both the Stratus coupe and sedan. 'The strategy is to sell the nameplate,' Johnson said. 'Regardless of their different audiences, we'll appeal to both. We can't afford to do a campaign for the coupe and a different one for the sedan.'
The new claim shared by the Grand Caravan and Chrysler's Town & Country, 'The best minivan ever,' becomes the tag line for their 2001-model advertising.
DaimlerChrysler commissioned Automotive Marketing Consultants Inc., an independent vehicle-testing company in Vista, Calif., to conduct a study of 14 minivans sold in the United States. Dodge and Chrysler are using the claim in their advertising because, 'Luckily, their vehicles were the top point-getters,' said Gordon Wangers, a managing partner at Automotive Marketing Consultants.
New Caravan advertising is traditional Johnson, showing the minivan on a stage, using no people and highlighting a specific feature per ad. Some of the features highlighted are the minivan's movable console, triple zone heating and cooling, rear hatch, safety and quietness. The Caravan also will have three commercials touting the fact it's a redesigned vehicle with many new features.
Stratus advertising broke Sept. 4 on ABC's 'Monday Night Football.' Neon and Caravan advertising broke nationally last week on national cable and network TV.
Starting this month, Caravan and Stratus print ads are running in magazines, including AutoWeek, Car and Driver, Cooking Light, Road & Track, Sports Illustrated and Smart Business. Inserts for the Neon and Stratus are running in USA Today.
Julow would not disclose how much Dodge is spending on the ad campaigns. Dodge also will not release sales goals.
The Neon, Stratus and Grand Caravan Sport are on sale. Dodge will begin producing the 2001 Caravan Oct. 2. A price has not been set.