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American Isuzu Motors narrows its marketing target for the 2000 model year, hoping to reach a smaller demographic audience more times.

"We know all about clutter. We're in a no-win budget battle with companies many times our size," said Bob Reilly, senior VP.

Isuzu predicted it would reach about 103 million consumers during calendar 1999 with its broad-based media attack. Next year, Isuzu wants to reach just 39 million -- but hit them many more times.

How that affects Isuzu's budget isn't being revealed. Isuzu said its model-1999 media spending was $82 million, and the 2000 budget hasn't been finalized. Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, is the agency.

Isuzu spent $137.2 million on measured media in 1998, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

No longer is reaching every 25-to-49-year-old viewed as necessary. Isuzu just wants to reach people who play hard. Instead of hitting prime-time network TV shows, Isuzu will aim more for alternative cable, magazines and Internet sites frequented by rock climbers, surfers and endurance bicyclists.

Isuzu expects the consumers it reaches to be more receptive to its hardcore-recreation image.

The creative approach also will change, said Mark Darling, VP-marketing.

Isuzu had tried to prove its vehicles' toughness by showing them performing rugged off-road tasks. But too many other sport-utility vehicles use the same "dirt roads and mud holes" recipe, Mr. Darling said. So, as an SUV specialist, Isuzu will playfully mock the competition.


For example, one proposed TV spot will show a group of giggly sorority girls unloading a canoe from a generic sport-utility and floating down a gentle river. Voice-over then would intone: "Some sport-utilities only go so far." Then two athletic women roar past and plunge down through some rapids, loading their raft into an Isuzu.

The "We go farther" will continue.

Isuzu feels its intended customers will relate to this sort of campaign. Fewer than 10% of SUV buyers are believed to take their vehicles off-road; Isuzu said 20% of its owners do.

Mr. Darling added that the new message won't alienate the mainstream because few people recognize themselves as belonging to the demographic group being parodied.

Not that Isuzu will abandon the mass market. It still will run ads on network TV and in major magazines. And its VehiCross will be featured in Walt Disney Co.'s "Mission From Mars" next summer.

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