Buick Century slams Taurus, Camry

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General Motors Corp.'s Buick division, with the first major redesign of its Century in 15 years, will support the marque with its first national advertising push in a couple of years.

The campaign for the 1997 midsize sedan breaks Monday on network and cable TV with the tagline, "Discover a little luxury in this Century."

Buick said it will spend nearly $50 million this year on Century, about 75% of that in TV.

The model is targeting younger buyers and Buick's ads take direct shots at Ford Motor Co.'s Taurus (the best-selling car in the U.S. last year) and Toyota Motor Sales USA's Camry.

EYEING TAURUS BUYERS

"Our biggest opportunity is with Taurus buyers because some of those people want a very practical vehicle," said Century Brand Manager A.H. Tony Derhake. "The No. 2 opportunity I see is Camry because of our price point and content and value."

The base Century, priced at $18,395, is about $1,800 less than Camry's LE sedan and $1,100 less than the Taurus GL.

The TV spot breaking this week shows talking cows commenting on the passing Taurus, Camry and Century, with the latter preceded by a rolling red carpet on the road to illustrate the car's touches of luxury. "Camry drivers, take special note" copy in a print ad says.

The agency is McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Troy, Mich.

The 1997 Century is positioned as a practical, affordable family car. Advertising will list or mention the automobile's $19,400 sticker price, which includes popular options.

Buick will shoot for an equal split of male and female Century owners from its current 60% male.

Today's average Century owner is 68 years old, with an annual household income of $35,000, but the new Century targets buyers from 45 to 60, with incomes of about $52,000, Mr. Derhake said.

MARTIAN MOTORISTS

One of the five Century commercials uses special effects to show Martians enjoying the car's "spaciousness," while a spot using a penguin and baby chick shows off the dual-control heating and cooling system.

A three-page, launch print ad is due in newsweeklies in early April, and other page ads are being planned along with banner-ad buys on Web search engines, said Jack Bowen, Buick's advertising director.

The Internet Factory, Birmingham, Mich., is helping Buick upgrade its Web site for the Century launch.

McCann Direct, New York, handled a direct mail program to 260,000 Century owners that wrapped up this month. The shop will do another program this summer.

Copyright March 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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