CHRYSLER FORMS TASK FORCE AFTER FLUBBED PACIFICA LAUNCH

Group Performs Postmortem on Failed Celine Dion Campaign

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- After flubbing the launch of its Pacifica, Chrysler Group formed a task force made up of dealers and executives from the company and its agency to
The marketing launch of the Pacific did not go well.
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develop more effective and efficient marketing communications plans.

The automaker plans to boost ad spending by $250 million next year to promote eight new or redesigned models, which includes regional dealer spending.

"The responsibility for perfectly executed launches lies with all of us," said Joe Eberhardt, executive vice president for global sales and marketing, who added that his reference includes Chrysler Group President-CEO Dieter Zetsche.

Battling back
Chrysler is battling back from a $1 billion second-quarter loss. But it posted an operating profit in the third, which it said was mainly due to cost cuts. The automaker increased media spending in the first eight months to $869 million vs. $602 million a year ago, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. That included an added $100 million for a summer-long sale.

While its vehicle sales slipped through October to 1.787 million units from 1.878 million, the automaker showed an 11% gain to 166,262 units last month vs. last October.

Chrylser named four Dodge dealers and four Chrysler-Jeep dealers to the panel, which will have its first meeting in early December, said Tom Barenboim, a Massachusetts dealer on the panel.

Mr. Barenboim said dealers would work with Chrysler executives and BBDO Worldwide, Troy, Mich., to determine the strongest attributes of new products and how to motivate people to buy them. "We are probably the best consultants they have," he said. "We see customers every day."

Celine Dion
For the Pacifica launch, Mr. Eberhardt's predecessor, Jim Schroer, hired Arnell Group, New York, which created a launch campaign starring Celine Dion. Arnell and BBDO are both part of Omnicom Group.

But Mr. Eberhardt said the ads didn't stress product attributes. "People weren't clear what this was," he said, referring to the sedan/minivan/sport utility hybrid. "You have to let the market know."

BBDO created new ads that took the focus off Ms. Dion while continuing to use some of her music. Those ads play up features and position Pacifica as a family vehicle. Mr. Eberhardt would not comment on whether Chrysler will renew its contract with Arnell, which expires at yearend.

Minor reorganization
The German-born executive is making other moves to increase Chrysler's efficiency. He plans to announce what he called a minor reorganization in the coming weeks, but declined to confirm an earlier AdAge.com report that said he would reunite Chrysler and Jeep under Jeff Bell, current vice president of Jeep, and elevate Julie Roehm to head of advertising for all three brands. She is currently director of marketing communications at Dodge.

Mr. Eberhardt said his goal is to streamline decision-making processes without disrupting the organization. "If you shake the tree too hard the birds move to another branch. I prefer to keep them on the branch."

Agency negotiations
Chrysler is in negotiations with BBDO for its 2004 contract. Mr. Eberhardt quashed speculation the automaker would consider splitting creative accounts for its brands, saying all three would remain with BBDO. He declined to discuss whether Chrysler would seek cost concessions from its agency, saying that BBDO is "a great partner, and they are working with us to be the most efficient and effective we can be."

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