The Chevrolet Venture minivan's entire marketing budget is aimed at moms.
Honda will spend nearly a quarter of its total media budget on the Odyssey minivan this year.
And DaimlerChrysler, over the next year, will use its most integrated media buy for the rollout of its 2001 Chrysler Town & Country and Voyager minivans.
All for the sake of reaching America's huge family market.
'It would be great to own the family market,' says Susan Thomson, global customer relationship manager for DaimlerChrysler. 'I'd love to do that, especially with our minivans.'
The definition of family has changed over the years - evolving from mom and dad and the kids to encompass single parents, childless adults who live together and adults who own pets. Families buy all types of vehicles, but at the epicenter of automotive family marketing is the minivan.
Families buy more than half of all minivans, according to Polk Co. Auto companies are not taking these families for granted. Last year, the Dodge Caravan, Chrysler Town & Country and Honda Odyssey were among the 20 automotive nameplates that got the most ad spending, according to Competitive Media Reporting, at $109 million, $76 million and $70 million, respectively.
Spending trends through the first six months of this year indicate that minivan ad spending will increase this year.
'Everything we do with the Odyssey is about families,' says Doug Hoffman, national advertising manager for the Honda division of American Honda Motor Co. 'We're spending about the same on those efforts as last year.'
Here's a look at how minivan marketers hope to show off their goods through the next year.
Through the first six months of this year, DaimlerChrysler spent an estimated $59 million on the Chrysler Town & Country and Voyager and $54 million on the Caravan, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Beginning in October, the company began testing, for the first time, a multimedia deal with Viacom (owner of CBS) and Meredith Corp.
The buy encompasses CBS broadcast and local TV, radio, print, interactive, events and an alliance with Marriott hotels.
Meredith proposed the deal, described by Thomson as 'a big undertaking.
'Meredith could bring me Viacom,' Thomson adds, 'so we thought it was a good way to talk to consumers on a national and local level. We've never done it before.'
Pegged at an estimated $15 million to $20 million, the multimedia effort will carry a consistent message - family travel by vehicle.
The entire marketing budget for the Chevrolet Venture is focused on moms and families, says Chevrolet Venture brand manager Pete Langenhorst. He says Venture ads are placed on TV programs and publications popular with women with families.
According to Competitive Media Reporting, Chevrolet spent about $42 million on Venture advertising last year; that figure stood at about $26 million through the first six months of this year.
Chevrolet also has a five-year co-branding agreement with Warner Bros., operates a momsclub.com Web site and participates in the SAFE KIDS program. It donates a Venture to each state for use at the safety belt/child restraint check-ups, which are a trademark of SAFE KIDS.
The Odyssey has two new TV spots that focus on the family.
One shows an in-vitro child giving the thumbs up sign when he hears the parents tell the doctor they're buying an Odyssey. The second focuses on a family vacation.
The Odyssey also is the official vehicle of the Little League, a three-year contract that costs about $1 million total and includes providing courtesy vehicles for Little League games, ads in the programs and displays at the Little League World Series.
'Yes, there is real value in pursuing the family market,' Hoffman says, adding that 22 percent of Honda's media expenditures are spent on the Odyssey, about the same as last year.
Safety will be a big portion of Ford's family message in the coming months. Nickelodeon is creating a character called Mr. Buckle for Ford. His job will be to remind parents to buckle all passengers while riding in vehicles.
And Blue, the animated canine star of the 'Blue's Clues' TV show on Nick Jr., will embark on a live tour for Ford beginning next year. Called 'Blue's Clues,' the tour will focus on Blue giving clues about the need to buckle up.
'`Blues Clues' will help us get deeper into the kid market because the creators are a little bit more savvy marketers' about kids than Ford is, says Jan Klug, marketing communications manager for Ford.
But to Klug, families are more than the mother, father and kids. She says Ford will put more resources into family marketing, not necessarily aimed at the traditional family.
'What's a family anymore?' she asks. 'Families today are multigenerational; they are same sex; they are multiracial.
'It's not just the mom, dad and kids anymore. It's a single mom with kids. It's a single dad with kids. It's two dads with kids. It's two moms with kids. It's a grandfather with kids. And it may not be any kids at all - it could be animals.
'To me, the definition of family has evolved so much that I would not consider a family just a minivan. I would consider family also to be a Focus. We really want to be a leader in relevance to families.'