Hearst designs promotion for Chrysler's PT Cruiser

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The Chrysler PT Cruiser is teaming with Hearst Magazines for a multifaceted, charity-tied push as part of the car's upcoming, estimated $50 million U.S. launch.

The deal is a boost to the publisher, which was among several cut last year from Ford Motor Co.'s roster as the marketer made a bigger move onto the Internet. Hearst "came to us with this wonderful idea, which over several meetings grew into a bigger and bigger marketing program," said Susan Thomson, senior manager of national advertising for DaimlerChrysler's Chrysler brand, who picked the Hearst proposal out of a stack she received from publishers.

Ms. Thomson declined to reveal the cost of the program, dubbed "Cruise for a Cause." But it's estimated at $2 million to $3 million.

T-SHIRT TIE-IN

For the promotion, Hearst lined up with four fashion and accessory designers -- Nicole Miller, Carolee, Eddie Rodriguez and the Ford Twins -- who each designed a T-shirt featuring the all-new vehicle. The shirts will be sold at Macy's stores for $15 each starting May 15; shirt sales start online April 15 at macys.

com, said Michael Clinton, senior VP-chief marketing officer at Hearst. An undisclosed portion of sales goes to First Book, which provides new books to needy children.

Hearst developed an 8-page advertorial debuting in the premiere issue of O, the Oprah Winfrey magazine arriving on newsstands April 17. The advertorial also will appear in June issues of Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Harper's Bazaar and Marie Claire and offers consumers a $50 Macy's gift certificate for test driving the car. The combined circulation of the books is 6.1 million.

Although each of the magazines, except Esquire, is heavily skewed to females, men will be among invitees to fashion shows that comprise another facet of the promotion, Ms. Thomson said.

The publisher's database of subscribers will be used to target invitations to fashion shows at Macy's stores in Dallas, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Costa Mesa, Calif. Two hundred attendees are expected per event, Mr. Clinton said.

The fashion shows are being held only in the West, a popular import market in which the PT Cruiser could make inroads for the Chrysler brand, Ms. Thomson said. All 104 stores in the Macy's West unit will have point-of-purchase materials.

During the PT Cruiser's 16-month prelaunch, more than 225,000 consumers contacted the marketer seeking more information about the car, and 13% of those were in California, Ms. Thomson said.

"We felt this was a great opportunity to get into a market we traditionally were not accepted in," she added.

The program is not radically different from what many other carmakers are doing, said Susan Jacobs, president of auto consultancy Jacobs & Associates. But DaimlerChrysler is smart to maintain the interest of handraisers and try to encourage test drives, she said. She also approves of the non-profit fund-raising angle.

"If there's a charity aspect, it makes an easier leap for people to go to look at the vehicles."

AD SUPPORT

In addition to the promotion, an estimated $50 million in advertising will support the launch of the Chrysler PT Cruiser.

National TV spots for the retro-looking car break April 22. The buy includes prime-time and late-night network TV, as well as regular season NBA and NHL games. Print starts May 3 and runs i June magazines. FCB Worldwide, Southfield, Mich. created six TV spots and 17 print ads, which will break in Europe about 60 days after their U.S. debut. The tag is "You've never seen anything like it."

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