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CHRYSLER'S CIRRUS TAKES ON JAPANESE DATABASE EFFORT IS AIMED AT BUYERS OF IMPORTS

By Published on .

Chrysler Corp. is mobilizing a highly sophisticated database marketing effort for its latest compact car entry, taking dead aim at Japanese competitors.

The program matches car registration information from R.L. Polk & Co. with subscription listsfrom four Time Warner publications.

The result will be owners of 4-year-old and newer Honda Accords, Toyota Camrys and Nissan Altimas receiving an eight-page insert with detailed Chrysler Cirrus product information in November issues of Time, Sports Illustrated, Money and Life.

The program will help kick off an estimated $90 million marketing effort for Cirrus, which begins production today and goes on sale in October, and the Dodge Stratus, bowing early in '95. Cirrus' base price is $17,970; Stratus is expected to start around $14,000.

Domestic automakers Chrysler and Ford Motor Co. are spending big and pioneering new tactics in their fight to lure young families out of Accords, Camrys and Altimas, the best-selling models for their respective brands.

Ford is preparing to spend an estimated $110 million to back the introduction of its Ford Contour and Mercury Mystique models (AA, July 18). The Mystique media introduction includes auto exclusivity on NBC's Sept. 29 prime-time schedule, and the promotional giveaway of a car on Jay Leno's "Tonight Show" that evening and on each of the next six successive shows.

Upscale, well-educated baby boomers are attracted to import cars' styling, handling, quality and value, said Arthur "Bud" Liebler, Chrysler's VP-marketing and communications.

"During the 1980s, the imports were delivering all those elements in spades, and maybe we weren't," Mr. Liebler said.

Improved domestic products, escalating import prices and rising pro-American sentiment provide an opportunity for U.S. automakers to make inroads, he said.

In Chrysler's program with Time Warner, subscribers in target areas also will get the eight-page insert.

Together, 47% of the four magazines' combined circulation of 11.7 million will get the added information, said Ken Laurence, national ad manager for the Chrysler/Plymouth division. Chrysler will also run gatefolds in two other Time Warner books, People and Fortune.

Time Warner tested a similar database marketing program with Philip Morris USA late last year, matching the cigarette maker's customer list with its magazine subscriber lists to reach smokers.

While auto marketers previously have aimed magazine ads at specific ZIP codes, this is the first time a campaign has had "this degree of specificity," said a Time Warner spokesman.

Pentacom, Chrysler's Troy, Mich.-based media buying unit, arranged the buy. Bozell Worldwide, Southfield, is providing creative for the estimated $40 million Cirrus introduction.

In an effort to freshen the Chrysler brand image, symphonic music and actor Christopher Plummer's voice-over have been dropped from TV commercials breaking Oct. 31.

The campaign's tagline is, "Introducing the Chrysler Cirrus. It's not just a step above, it's the new plateau."

Also involved in the integrated marketing effort:

A sampling program providing cars to community opinion leaders for two- and three-day test drives, and giving guests at 20 top-rated resorts the chance to drive a Cirrus for a day.

Making test drives available to participants and spectators at the Black Enterprise Golf & Tennis Challenge at Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. during the Labor Day weekend.

Sponsoring, with House Beautiful, receptions at nine Frank Lloyd Wright-designed buildings in major metro markets.

Sponsoring the "Nutcracker on Ice," show featuring Brian Boitano, Oksana Baiul and Viktor Petrenko in more than 30 markets.

Offering Prodigy subscribers Cirrus specifications.

Advertising in spring Brooks Brothers catalog, tied to in-store promotions at the clothier.

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