First global Chrysler ads push crucial PT Cruiser introduction

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FCB Worldwide's Southfield, Mich., office has coordinated the first major global ad launch for a new DaimlerChrysler car, the 2001 Chrysler PT Cruiser. The retro-looking car with the space and utility of a minivan, is crucial for the Chrysler brand's international image and expansion.

The agency's six TV commercials for the Cruiser break in the U.S. in early April shortly after the vehicle hits showrooms. In one, a PT driver at a toll booth shows off the car's versatile seating while hunting for a final quarter.

$50 MIL U.S. MEDIA EFFORT

The car gets an estimated $50 million media push in the U.S. A co-marketing promotion at fast-feeder McDonald's Corp. could arrive as soon as mid-March, said an executive close to the car marketer who asked not to be named.

The car goes on sale in Europe by early summer, with ads shortly following. They will be tweaked to fit local markets abroad, an FCB spokesman said.

PT Cruiser has appeared in full-line Chrysler brand print ads in this country since last year.

Bill Morden, managing partner, creative director at FCB, said planning for a global strategy started about a year ago and was presented to top creatives. He and Gary Topolewski, executive creative director at FCB, presented the work to Chrysler clients in all parts of the world.

The trick for a global ad campaign "is to keep it simple, without words," Mr. Morden said.

FCB saved the client money by shooting footage of right-hand drive vehicles when shooting U.S. spots with left-hand drive.

Last September, FCB parent True North Communications, Chicago, announced the Detroit-area and Los Angeles offices of sibling shop Bozell Worldwide were changing their names to FCB. Mike Vogel, vice chairman of Bozell's Southfield office, explained FCB had a stronger international network -- the better to serve global client DaimlerChrysler.

Before Daimler-Benz acquired Chrysler Corp. in fall 1998, Chrysler sold fewer than 250,000 vehicles outside North America. Former Chrysler Corp. Chairman Robert Eaton, the co-chairman of DaimlerChrysler who retires March 31, said then the deal would help Chrysler spike sales outside North America.

The PT Cruiser has all the attributes of a minivan but doesn't look like one, said John Bulcroft, president of marketing strategy consultancy Advisory Group. He predicted the car wouldn't sell as well in Europe as in the U.S. because Europeans may not appreciate the American retro styling.

AHEAD OF COMPETITORS

Mr. Bulcroft likes the retro design and said, "Chrysler has jumped ahead of everyone else with the Cruiser's design."

Chrysler marketers collected more than 225,000 PT Cruiser prospect names after the brand's most extensive pre-launch effort. The marketer started collecting prospect names and addresses in January 1999. The pre-launch push included a series of direct mailings, a sweepstakes and on-site events.

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