ISUZU PULLS COMMERCIAL THAT PARODIED SLINKY ADS: INTRO TV SPOT FOR AMIGO SUV DREW CRITICISM; MARKETER SAYS FLIGHT WAS OVER

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A quirky commercial to introduce the return of American Isuzu Motors' Amigo sport-utility vehicle is off the air after nearly a two-month run.

The spot, which used the jingle from the Slinky toy's commercials in the 1970s and people with retro hairdos in clothes of the era, was pulled, according to an executive close to the car marketer who requested anonymity, after consumer complaints.

An ad agency executive who works for another carmaker commented the Amigo commercial was targeted too young -- at 12-year-olds.

KIDS HUMMING TUNE

"We did get reports kids were humming it or singing it," said Joe Fellona, VP-marketing at Isuzu, who added the spot was hitting the core demographic of 18-to-34-year-old consumers.

Mr. Fellona said the original strategy called for the spot -- from agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco -- to air about two months.

"It was an intro ad and we made it to create awareness," he said.

But Mr. Fellona conceded the spot got a polarized reception in tests after the commercial broke.

"It was well-received with people who got the parody to Slinky and the '70s," he said. "Either people got [the parody] or they didn't get it; either they liked it or they disliked it. Most people in the core demographic got it."

Robert Reilly, senior VP-general manager at Isuzu, told Advertising Age when the spot began airing in March it was to be the sole commercial for Amigo.

"I'd like to see everyone humming and singing" the Amigo-spot jingle, he said at the time. Last week, Mr. Reilly was traveling and unavailable for comment.

Goodby now is working on new Amigo commercials that will break in June or July, Mr. Fellona added.

Isuzu spent $97 million last year in measured media, up 40.6% from 1996, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Isuzu expects to spend about $120 million this year, up 24%.

IN MIDST OF `SALES EVENT'

The flight for the Amigo has given way for Isuzu's "Getaway Sales Event," which started two weeks ago. Amigo appears in Isuzu's first product-line spot along with the Trooper and Rodeo SUVs for the sales event.

Trooper and Rodeo each appear alone in two other spots; all three use music from "Paint Your Wagon."

"We increased the [media] weight and the number of spots" for the sales push, Mr. Fellona said. Last year, Isuzu used two spots for "Getaway."

National newspaper ads support the current push.

Contributing: Alice Z. Cuneo.

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