General Motors Corp. was largely caught unprepared by the rising consumer interest in sport-utilities during the 1990s. So even though the Chevrolet division pioneered the concept with its first Blazer in 1983, competitors like the Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee have roared past with more sophisticated entries aimed at car buyers who were crossing over to the truck segment.
Now, Chevy finally has a product that can go head-to-head with its competitors on styling, comfort and handling, and is pulling out all the marketing stops, including an estimated $60 million ad effort, to get back in the game.
Chevrolet agency Lintas Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich., even hired an anthropologist to conduct in-depth interviews. The main finding was that owners viewed their vehicles as something that offered security in an insecure world, said Bill Ludwig, exec VP-creative director.
"The size and physicality of the trucks are almost like a big shield," he said. "It gives the driver confidence in being protected against the elements, whether it's a rough road, harsh weather or a bad driver."
Jeff Hurlbert, Chevrolet general marketing manager, said the ability of sport-utilities to deliver more than needed adds to the feeling of security.
"Ninety-seven percent or 98% of them know they're always going to do city driving, but they love the fact that they have the ability to go off-road and be aggressive truckers," Mr. Hurlbert said.
That's why the new campaign will use the theme line "It's nice to know it's there," as ads describe situations that might be more severe than a typical driver would encounter.
The campaign carries Chevy's overall truck tagline, "Like a rock," though without the Bob Seger music used in pickup truck commercials.
Ford Motor Co.'s Ford Division, on the other hand, used its car theme line "Have you driven a Ford lately?" when it introduced the Explorer in 1991, forgoing the "Built Ford tough" truck theme.
The Explorer was the leading sport-utility vehicle in 1993 and the No. 6 selling vehicle overall in the U.S. With sales of 302,201 units, it easily outpaced Blazer sales of 168,356. Chevy expects to sell at least 200,000 Blazers in the 1995 model year.
A 30-second teaser for the Blazer began running Sept. 3; the brunt of the campaign kicks in later this month with six more :30s, airing mostly during network prime time and sports.
One spot, featuring special effects from Digital Domain, Venice, Calif., shows a Blazer driving down a winding road, going sequentially from sunny weather to a rain storm, a blizzard of snow and then fog.