The $5 million, fourth-quarter campaign from Cliff Freeman & Partners, New York, continues Budget's long-running value theme-albeit with a strange twist.
In one ad, Budget employees sit in a conference room throwing around ideas on how to promote a $19.99 special on Ford Rangers. One staffer suggests allowing customers to become a "ranger for the day" in exchange for renting a Ford Ranger. As the employees mull the idea, the camera cuts to a man feeding a bear cub, only to have the animal vomit all over him. The employees then decide to nix the idea, and just promote the car.
The ad ends with no tagline, just the company's logo and Web site address (budget.com).
In another spot, the employees contemplate sending customers who rent an Explorer on a trip to the top of Mount Everest. The next scene shows the faces of three ice-laden men up to their necks in snow. The staffers also decide to skip that promotional idea.
Budget executives said they wanted standout advertising that would highlight the diversity of the chain's fleet, as well as showcase its quick service and rewards programs in a humorous way.
Fourth-quarter spending will be relatively low, but Budget Group Chairman-CEO Sandy Miller said he expects that amount to substantially increase next year. Budget, the third largest car and truck rental system, lags far behind No. 1 Hertz in ad spending. Hertz spent $84 million on advertising last year, while Budget spent $39 million, according to Competitive Media Reporting.
"We are clearly outspent, so we had to come up with something unique," Mr. Miller said.
Cliff Freeman won the account at the end of June. It was previously handled by Publicis & Hal Riney, Chicago, and prior to that Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Boston.
Budget executives conducted extensive research on the advertising, and showed the spots to employees last week. Mr. Miller conceded the ad's offbeat approach may be too much for some viewers. But he added that tests on the ads showed consumers remembered Budget, the diversity of cars and their customer-focused programs.
"We really needed something that gave us the flexibility to talk about what made Budget unique," said Cliff Freeman Senior VP-Creative Director Eric Silver.
A main campaign criterion was to not create ads just for entertainment value, said Mr. Miller, adding that he has seen too many ads fail on that front before.
Cliff Freeman has helped other companies such as Little Caesars Pizza, Outpost.com and Wendy's International gain consumer recognition through wacky and weird ads. In the Outpost.com ads, for example, one celebrated commercial