Dodge Uses Macho Message to Market New Nitro

But TV Spots Will Also Target Women, as They Buy 58% of SUVs

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DETROIT ( -- Dodge is using a macho marketing message for its first mid-size sport utility vehicle, but is running TV ads not just on sports but also female-skewed programming such as "Medium" and "Desperate Housewives."
Dodge's Nitro -- tough enough for a man, but also marketed to a woman.
Dodge's Nitro -- tough enough for a man, but also marketed to a woman.

The seemingly schizophrenic approach is aimed at reaching men while not turning off women, as 58% of SUVs are bought by females. Dodge's five-seat Nitro "is the SUV to which men aspire and women appreciate," Tom Loveless, director-marketing and global communications for the brand, said at a press conference today in suburban Detroit.

Integrated blitz
Mr. Loveless introduced an integrated blitz for the Chrysler Group vehicle that breaks today on national TV with a spot from Omnicom Group's BBDO, Detroit and New York, that shows the Nitro crashing through the earth's core and landing in China. The commercial will also air in movie theaters and could run in other parts of the world.

Dodge also plans an extensive multicultural effort, handled by GlobalHue, Southfield, Mich. An Asian print ad shows a man walking on water carrying his girlfriend toward a Nitro parked on the beach. A Hispanic magazine ad shows a man calmly ignoring a bear gnawing on his leg, with copy telling readers that what really makes him scream is having to walk show dogs. The tagline is "The new Dodge Nitro: the return of the man."

Mark Spencer, senior manager-marketing and global communications at Dodge, said the work has great gender appeal and that he doesn't see it as too macho. He said the SUV segment currently skews 58% female with a median age of 49; major players include sibling Jeep Liberty, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Chevrolet Equinox.

Targeting 30-year-old males
Nonetheless, Dodge is targeting primarily male buyers with a median age of 30. Doug Scott, analyst with consultant GFK Automotive, said 30-year-olds are already buying Jeep's Wrangler and Liberty brands, so Nitro could cannibalize its siblings' sales. But Dodge isn't worried about that, Mr. Loveless told Advertising Age.

Mr. Scott said carmakers generally underestimate how much it costs to introduce a new model name in crowded segments with strong existing players. A marketer should spend between $75 million and $80 million to launch a new vehicle name, he said. "You got to have big bucks to build recognition."

Mr. Spencer said Dodge's launch window for Nitro will last through early February, and media outlays would be comparable to other recently introduced brands, such as the Caliber. He declined to reveal specifics.

Dodge backed Caliber with $66 million in measured media in the first half of 2006, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Jeep spent $69 million in measured media to introduce the Liberty in calendar 2001, TNS figures show.

Reaching females
Mr. Spencer said Dodge will reach females mainly through TV, with the medium accounting for 60% of Nitro's launch budget with buys on hit shows such as ABC's "Desperate Housewives" and NBC's "Medium."

The percentage spent on TV is a bit less than Dodge has spent in the past, he said. Still, PHD, Troy, Mich., and New York, bought heavy sports programming for the new Dodge. Sports airtime bought includes automotive sponsorship of Direct TV's NFL Sunday Ticket, as well as airtime during National Football League games on CBS, Fox, NFL Network and ESPN Monday Night Football; NCAA college bowl games; the National Basketball Association; and the National Hockey League.

Later this year, Nitro will be integrated into the NHL 2K7 video game available for Xbox and PlayStation.

Mr. Spencer said Dodge will spend 20% of its budget on online ads for Nitro; 12% will be allocated to print (including almost 70 magazines); 6% to out of home; 1% to network radio; and 1% to unmeasured media, such as events.

Organic, Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and San Francisco, handles all of Chrysler Group's online ads.

Top prize
Nitro will be the top prize in an online video game, "Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas Challenge," with the SUV integrated into the game. A two-page spread announcing the program is in current gaming titles, with registration starting today at

Dodge wants its traditional offline ads to drive consumers to the upgraded "In a 30-second TV commercial, you can't possibly talk about all the features and benefits this vehicle provides," Mr. Loveless said.
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