Chrysler Spending $225 Million to Push Employee-Discount Sale

Some Say Talk of German Engineering in Ads Could Hurt Sibling Mercedes

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- Chrysler Group and its regional dealer groups will spend an estimated $225 million to advertise its new "Employee Pricing Plus" July sale, which starts tomorrow.
Dr. Z. is Dieter Zetsche, Chrysler Group's former president-CEO and now chairman of German parent DaimlerChrysler.
Dr. Z. is Dieter Zetsche, Chrysler Group's former president-CEO and now chairman of German parent DaimlerChrysler.

The creative, from BBDO Detroit, Troy, Mich., touts the discount program and blends in corporate and branded advertising and is given a humorous lift from Dieter Zetsche, Chrysler Group's former president-CEO and now chairman of German parent DaimlerChrysler. Chrysler's decision to bring back an employee-discount program was first reported by Advertising Age.

'Ask Dr. Z.'
The integrated ad blitz will tout the blending of Chrysler's American and German engineering, fuel economy and the discount program. The push, themed "Ask Dr. Z.," has a dedicated website, which could remain active after the 30-day sale. The website could then be used for Chrysler's eight, new-model launches that start in August, George Murphy, senior VP-global marketing, told Advertising Age. Organic, Bloomfield Hills, Mich., is the marketer's online agency.

The program, unveiled to the press at Chrysler Group headquarters today, offers buyers employee pricing on nearly all Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler models, with either zero-percent financing or cash back up to $3,500 per vehicle. There's a 30-day return program regardless if buyers choose cash-back or the financing option. The return policy is meant to show the vehicles' improved quality and reliability, Mr. Murphy said.

In addition to national TV, online, radio and print, the marketer will use guerilla tactics this weekend, including mobile billboards, exposure at shopping malls and aerial banners over beaches and at Fourth of July parades, Mr. Murphy said.

Concern over Mercedes brand
Experts worried whether the discussion about German engineering would hurt sibling Mercedes-Benz. Mr. Zetsche said campaign talks "about the resources DaimlerChrysler has to offer, not piggy-backing one brand on another."

Joe Eberhardt, exec VP-global sales, marketing and service, said there was some concern that people across the U.S. would not know who Mr. Zetsche is.

So, the automaker pre-tested the ads via Millward Brown, which conducted consumer research with online and offline focus groups in three cities. The ads were an "overwhelming success," Mr. Eberhardt said.

Mr. Eberhardt disputed reports that the automaker has bloated inventories. Dealers' carrying costs for inventory have risen with interest rates, but Chrysler Group expects to balance production over the next couple of months.

Combating sales hangover
He conceded there were internal concerns that Chrysler Group could experience a sales "hangover" after the offer ends, in much the same way automakers did last September and October after the first employee discounts. "The situation is different because we'll be launching eight new products in the third and fourth quarters and, secondly, we have certain ideas over the transitioning period out of this program and what's coming next." The automaker will execute that strategy in the next 60 days.

Separate TV and radio spots poke fun at Mr. Zetsche's moustache. The comedian Jon Reep, who stars in Dodge ads, appears near the end of a Dodge truck spot with Dr. Z, scolding him for forgetting his lines.
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