2000 MERCURY SABLE GOES LIVE FROM SAN DIEGO

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Lincoln mercury co. unveils its 2000 Mercury Sable sedan March 31 during a Web broadcast from the San Diego Auto Show. The live Web event, at 1 p.m. EST, is the brand's first. The industry's first online debut was Dec. 3, 1996, for General Motors Corp.'s Buick Regal.

Access for the Sable event is available through several sites, including mercuryvehicles.com and its partner in the event, broadcast.com.

The debut will be followed by 30 minutes of live chat with Ford Motor Co. CEO Jacques Nasser; J. Mays, global designer; and Mark Hutchins, president of Lincoln Mercury.

LEVERAGING EXISTING PARTNERS

This week, Mercury starts advertising the event with banner ads, including sites that leverage the brand's existing media partners, said Tony Picarello, brand manager for Sable. For example, ads from Y&R Advertising, Irvine, Calif., and San Francisco, will be on Discovery Online at www.discovery.com. Mercury is the name sponsor of the site's Planet of Wonders. A print ad will appear in the March 26 USA Today within the Mercury-sponsored "Gadget Guru" section. "This is more personal and a non-traditional way to talk to our customers and journalists," said Mr. Picarello.

The purpose of the event is twofold: to reach prospects and as a public relations push with the media. The logistics of staging the event costs more than the ads, he said, declining to be more specific.

The brand has been aimed at younger buyers in recent years and the redesigned Mercury Cougar, launched last spring, now has the youngest demographics across the lineup, hovering at 35 years old.

Auto experts once said Sable was a spiffed-up Taurus, from sister Ford Division. But Mr. Picarello said the new Sable's exterior is very different from Taurus.

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