The result: Dodge's effort has not only taken off with consumers on the continent, but, thanks to the internet, it is also generating attention in the U.S., and has prompted the company to create a second batch of shorts.
|Bride-to-be head-butts her fiance in one of Dodge's 'Ram Rash' viral film shorts first seen in Europe.
The bad news for Dodge is that the automaker has developed a nasty case of Ram rash. The good news: People are taking notice.
As part of its expansion in Europe, the Chrysler group brand earlier this year launched "Ram Rash," a campaign in which individuals have developed a skin rash that resembles Dodge's ram's-head logo.
The effort includes a website (ramrash.com), which houses six short films of people suffering from the mysterious ailment. Five of the ads show no vehicles. The closest they come to identifying their sponsor is the Dodge logo. Actors in the spots engage in ram-style head-butting.
For example, in one short, a young woman, clad in bra and panties, is moisturizing her legs. The website calls her activities a "pre-mating ritual." To express her annoyance at knocking a bottle of lotion to the floor, she head-butts the bathroom sink. In others, a man head-butts a parking meter and a woman knocks out her fiance at her wedding.
While the Dodge campaign was developed to promote the Dodge attitude in Europe, and to generate buzz around the brand there, it has attracted attention in the U.S. as well, Dodge officials said.
Viral campaigns encourage consumers to pass along marketing messages embedded in online short films, e-mail communications or special events. As in the Dodge campaign, the identity of the advertiser and its products is often obscured. Viral ads also tend to be edgier than traditional advertising.
The spot has gotten 90,000 hits on YouTube, which streams millions of videos. That response shows the appeal of the campaign, said Eric Labourier, Dodge's senior manager of international marketing.
"Our key target for Dodge's new products is very internet-oriented and receptive to this kind of media," Mr. Labourier said. "Right from the beginning, these [spots] were intended to be viral."
Besides promoting the brand, Dodge linked the viral campaign to the introduction of the Caliber in Europe. The car's target European market consists primarily of men in their 30s, who tend to be heavy internet users, Mr. Labourier said.
The Dodge effort proved so popular that the company is developing a second viral advertising campaign in an attempt to build on the success of the first. Dodge is tying the second viral campaign to other European launches, which will include the Nitro SUV. The company is brainstorming proposals for the next campaign, which will have the same tone as the first, Mr. Labourier said.
He declined to disclose Dodge's budget for the viral campaigns. But he said the outlay is much less than for traditional TV commercials.
Ramrash.com has attracted 330,000 unique visits. About 8% came from the U.S., Mr. Labourier said.
But those visits represent only a small share of people who have seen the spots, he said. Many more have seen them via e-mail and on such sites as YouTube and MySpace.
The campaign also has gotten coverage on automotive and advertising blogs, Mr. Labourier said. Dodge is compiling data on how many visitors to the "Ram Rash" website clicked through to the brand's corporate websites in various countries to find it, he said.
"I had friends calling from Europe asking me if I was aware of the video ads," Mr. Labourier says. "They didn't know I was doing them. It shows how quickly this spreads to a broad audience."
No pun intended.
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Mary Connelly is a reporter for Automotive News.