DEMO GIVES LIFT TO SKODA

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PRAGUE-Staff at Grey Advertising can breathe a little easier now.

Last week, they successfully re-created a commercial in which a Skoda was suspended in midair. The spot had come under attack earlier in September.

Hundreds of spectators and dozens of reporters huddled in the rain in Prague's Old Town Square to watch the agency suspend two Skoda Felicias in midair.

The Felicia is the first Skoda model created with the help of Volkswagen, which now has a minority stake in the Czech automaker. Skoda is still trying to overcome a negative image, even among Eastern Europeans, so the TV commercial was designed to demonstrate the sturdiness of the new model.

In the ad, a Felicia is lifted by a crane and suspended by ropes tied to the car's open doors. When a Czech Television program tried to duplicate the ad during prime time Sept. 5, the car suffered severe structural damage and the mutilated doors refused to shut.

Grey responded by staging the public demonstration. In a much-rehearsed move, which required importing a crane from Germany, the agency suspended a car for several minutes. Once lowered to the ground, the car suffered no visible damage and the doors closed properly. Skoda repeated the stunt twice, each time loading the car with daring spectators.

But the real test came when Grey pulled a Felicia off the street and successfully suspended it in the same fashion. The car's owner? An impressed Czech Television crew.

"We have proved to everyone that the car really is strong and the advertisement was not faked," said Halgard Stolte, management supervisor for the Skoda account. "The car needs to be balanced properly; that's why it didn't work when Czech Television did it. We would not have done this demonstration in public if we weren't sure it would work."

In its first attempt at suspending the car for the TV ad last year, the agency also wrecked the auto.

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