Dodge Intrepid, Chrysler Corp's best-selling car and the one that started the "New Dodge" repositioning, debuts a major redesign late this month via a $60 million campaign touting the computerized, `virtual" nature of the car's design, engineering and testing.
Four special effects-laden commercials will be used. Signature elements of previous Dodge spots also appear, including title cards, red vehicles and voice-over by actor Ed Hermann. The tag from Intrepid's initial launch, "We changed everything," has been expanded to "We changed everything. Again."
BUILT BY COMPUTER
"This car is built completely by computer in a way people don't know about. That made the car really important," said Dick Johnson, president-chief creative officer of agency BBDO Worldwide, Southfield, Mich.
"The process that went into this car has never been used before," said Dodge Division General Manager Ray Fisher.
Mr. Johnson admitted he was initially nervousness with the ad focus because "people don't care about how beer is brewed or how a car is built. This isn't about how a car is built. It's about how to perfect a car, and it's real."
Dave Rooney, Dodge communications manager, said that "the people we are talking to are not afraid of technology. They embrace technology."
The new ads don't use the word "quality," a topic Chrysler has struggled with. But the campaign implies the computer-designed, -engineered and -tested car has high quality. One spot calls the new Intrepid "virtually perfect" by the time the car was finally tested "in the real world."
The campaign's focus on the car's computerized development should help define what Intrepid is and "the integrity of Dodge's car brand," Mr. Fisher said.
Intrepid TV advertising will be launched during 14 college bowl games in late December on ABC and ESPN. The spots then will run heavily on professional football, basketball and hockey broadcasts.
Media also include an eight-page insert in February magazines, and outdoor boards in the top 25 markets in January and February. In addition, there are five magazine ad spreads.
An Intrepid giveaway sweepstakes is tied to the Winter Olympics. During the week of Jan. 24, CBS will air 20-second promotional spots directing viewers to the Jan. 30 edition of USA Today for sweepstakes entries.
The car will get a lot of exposure during the Winter Games on CBS as part of Chrysler's $50 million Olympics buy.
Intrepid will sponsor five 30-second "Olympic Spirit" vignettes on athletes. There will be other sponsors for other athletes.
The 1998 Intrepid is targeting a median age of 45, slightly younger than currently, and annual household income of about $55,000. Currently, 54% of Intrepid owners are men, but Dodge is shooting to sell half to women.
The Dodge sedan, which starts at $20,235, competes in the crowded midsize segment with the likes of Toyota Motor Sales USA's hot-selling Camry and American Honda Motor Co.'s Accord.
"They're in a segment that's playing by knife-fight rules," said auto expert James Hall, VP-industry analysis at the Southfield office of AutoPacific. He predicted Dodge will sell more of the updated model than its predecessor.
Dodge should sell 130,000 Intrepids this year--including fleet sales to rental chains--and nearly 146,000 next year.
Intrepid, launched in fall 1992 as a '93 model, posted its best sales in 1995, when it sold 147,576 units, according to Automotive News.
Copyright December 1997, Crain Communications Inc.