CHRYSLER READIES MAJOR CORPORATE AD CAMPAIGN CARS SAID TO BE FOCUS OF DRIVE, THOUGH TRUCKS ARE BIGGER SELLER

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Chrysler Corp. is preparing a major corporate ad campaign, its first corporate effort since 1992.

Sources say the drive, which begins later this month, will showcase products the company has produced since the arrival of the Dodge Intrepid, Chrysler Concorde and Eagle Vision for the 1993 model year. Redesigned models will arrive next year.

`TIME IS RIGHT'

Christine MacKenzie, corporate ad manager, hinted at the campaign in May. "There's so much positive stuff going on at Chrysler Corp. that I think the time is right to give that kind of positive image a real boost and to make people know we are here," she told Automotive News then.

Chrysler is keeping a tight lid on details of the advertising, from Bozell, Southfield, Mich. But sources say cars, representing just 35% of Chrysler's U.S. sales, will get great attention; trucks and minivans are its hot models.

Earlier reports had the new theme as "Just great cars" (AA, Sept. 2). But there are indications now that another new theme, "What's new in your world from Chrysler," may be for the corporate campaign and "Just great cars" for Chrysler-branded models.

The Intrepid, Concorde and Vision were the first new cars to get the automaker back on track with car buyers. The redesigned 1998 models will test Chrysler's ability to attract repeat buyers.

"Our market share shows that we're making good progress, but we need to work on that more," Ms. MacKenzie said. "I feel corporate advertising has to do that."

The campaign for the Chrysler-Plymouth products intends to show how the brands have changed this decade.

On the regional side, the company is boosting the coffers of Chrysler-Plymouth ad associations to help them tout vehicle brands more heavily across the country.

It's an extension of two tests conducted in four California markets this spring and summer. Dealers in San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento and Los Angeles asked the company for money to help them promote the Cirrus, and the spring results were positive, said Dave Rooney, national advertising manager for the Chrysler-Plymouth brand. Cirrus sales in California were up 24% in May, compared with 14% nationwide.

USING ALL RESOURCES

"What's new about this is the way we will use regional and national [resources] together," Mr. Rooney said. "We can't do all of this from Detroit."

Mr. Rooney would not talk about other markets where the test may be extended. But he said: "We will work more closely with the associations so we can be more flexible in individual markets" (see related story on Page 10).

Auto analyst Jack Kirnan, of Salomon Bros., thinks it's about time for Chrysler to tout its cars a bit more to the public.

"It would be smart for them to emphasize they are more than a truck company," said Mr. Kirnan. "The risk is growing by the day that with so much truck capacity margins may come down less than investors want."

Ms. Jackson is staff reporter with sister publication Automotive News. Contributing: Jean Halliday.

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