NO HOLA HERE, NO GENERATION X: CHRYSLER STEERS NEON TO YUPPIES SOUTH OF BORDER

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MEXICO CITY-Say good-bye to "hi."

Chrysler is taking a sophisticated approach in ads to sell its new Neon model in Mexico-In contrast to the U.S., where a folksy image that has marked advertising for the car.

While it is positioned as an approachable and affordable car for the Generation X buyer in the U.S., south of the border Neon is instead marketed as a sleek modern vehicle targeted at successful young professionals.

Priced at between $15,300 and $18,485, the Mexican-made Neon is out-of-reach for many consumers here. In contrast, the U.S. pricing at between $8,000 and $12,000 makes the Neon an attractive entry-level car with mass appeal. Print and TV ads for Neon in the U.S. start with friendly "hi." Backed by a $10 million TV, print, outdoor and radio campaign that started in May, the Neon was splashily introduced into Mexico, a market where choice is still limited by decades of protectionism.

Chrysler is taking clear aim at Mexican yuppies as its target market, designing the advertising to appeal to their preference for up-to-date designs and straight talk. Even the Chrysler logo was updated for the Neon campaign, and will now be incorporated into other Chrysler advertising.

"The Neon is going to become a status symbol [here]," predicts Carlos Arrangoiz, client service director at campaign creator Bozell Mexico. "We couldn't have done a mass [appeal] campaign in Mexico because it wouldn't have sold." The Neon TV campaign sets the car against a white background surrounded by floating figures who suddenly appear and vanish. The four :20 spots in the campaign were preceded by a teaser effort in April showing people holding letters spelling out the name "Neon" while floating against a white background.

In one spot in the current campaign, a ballerina, a racecar driver and a baby flicker quickly past in :20 seconds as symbols of the Neon's space, speed and safety. The theme is "A serious car."

To emphasize the auto's maneuverability, another execution shows a snowboarder taking a steep hill with perfect curves before cutting to the Neon taking tight turns on a white surface.

A third commercial shows a couple in a pillowfight before the woman falls gently into a huge white airbag. Models doing gymnastics in the fourth spot invite the rider to "Submerge yourself."

Each ad was produced with two voice-overs, one with a male and one a female voice. By using a woman's voice, the idea is to break with the assumption that women don't take cars seriously, said Javier Antonanzas, the campaign's creative director. The campaign, which will continue until September when a follow-up starts, follows on the heels of GM's successful rollout last January of the boxy little subcompact known as the Opel Corsa. Designed by McCann-Erickson Mexico, the Corsa TV and print ads targeted students, featuring very young people filmed in fast-paced MTV-style, talking about how they would design the perfect automobile.

Although the Neon advertising was forced to compete with the strong impression created by the Corsa campaign, the Neon's pricing positions it for an older and wealthier market. There, its direct competition is Volkswagen's Jetta, which claimed about 16% of all compact sales in Mexico last year. "If we can occupy the same place that Jetta has now, then we will have done it [accomplished our goal]," said Mr. Arrangoiz.

Chrysler has set a sales target of about 2,500 Neons a month, but sales began slowly. One reason, suggests account director Roberto Gutierrez Vitela, is that the U.S. advertising, which can be viewed on some cable and broadcast stations, led Mexicans' to believe the car was cheaper than it was. But by the end of June, the car was moving out of showrooms more quickly at about the rate of 800-900 a week.

Next, Neon and GM plan to take on Colombia. The Mexican campaign is being studied for use there, where the car will be even more expensive.

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