Automakers turn to music

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Three auto marketers are trying to reach Gen Y buyers through live events rather than traditional channels. Toyota Motor Sales USA, Chrysler Group and American Honda Motor Co. all are sponsoring music-related events, hoping to slip in some brand messages to a jaded demographic.

Toyota will tease the June 2003 arrival of its all-new Scion sub-brand by co-sponsoring 24 events this summer in California, where the models will be sold first. Scion teamed up with URB magazine, Los Angeles, for film screenings, record releases and art shows. URB will produce the events, dubbed "Scion Summer Sessions."

Carlos Vega, URB's in-house art director, collaborated with Raymond Roker, its publisher and creative director, to create a poster and brochures for the events. Select shoe and apparel retail partners will give away the posters. Both URB and Scion are promoting the events online at urb.com and scion.com. Traditional media will eventually be used, most likely cable TV, said Brian Bolain, national manager of Scion. But creative from Attik, San Francisco, won't resemble Toyota's from Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles, Torrance, Calif. Mr. Bolain is already at work on plans for marketing on college campuses.

Scion's summer events, with expected attendance of 100 to 1,000, are targeted at people in their early 20s. Toyota will hang Scion logo banners and give away key chains, custom music CDs and other merchandise with the logo and Web site address. But the two concept versions of the vehicles, introduced in late March at the New York Auto Show, won't be on display. Mr. Bolain hopes attendees will be curious about Scion and want to investigate at scion.com.

For now, Toyota is measuring the effort's success by the number of consumers who opt to register at scion.com. Registrations are nearing 10,000.

wide target

Chrysler Group's new Jeep World Outside Festival offers sports activities several hours before Sheryl Crow's 23-stop concert tour. The automaker, working with magazine Outside for the event, brings extreme athletes to chat with and compete against attendees. The tour added the Gen Y group Five for Fighting Aug. 7 as the opening act.

The tour's target ranges from "the high teens to mid-to-late 30s," said Jay Kuhnie, marketing-communications manager, Jeep. Attendance at each venue is between 15,000 and 20,000.

Jeep advertises its models in the Outside as part of the deal. Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, Detroit, Troy, Mich., handles. The tour doesn't replace traditional advertising, but it's a way to talk directly to prospects while they participate in fun activities, Mr. Kuhnie said. Jeep owners skew older, with most in their 40s.

Honda wrapped up its second straight youth-targeted concert series last month. The Civic Tour 2002 featured college-crowd band Incubus. Other than online promotion at civictour.com, the tour had little traditional advertising. Giveaways of the Civic Si were arranged with local radio stations. Honda is now polling visitors at its Web site for which bands they'd like to see on next year's tour.

Nissan North America started promoting its Nissan performance Sentra SER at Hot Import Nights auto-enthusiast events around the U.S. two months ago. Will James, model line manager of Sentra, said Nissan gives away an animated CD brochure for the car from its booth. (Omnicom's TWBA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., handled). The trick to reaching marketing-wary Gen Y is "to seem as if you're not trying to sell them something," he said.

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