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Ford Motor Co.'s Mercury, looking to lure younger drivers to its redesigned 1999 Cougar coupe, is turning to the Internet.

In one of the biggest-ever online pushes from a Ford unit, a new Web site ( went live over the weekend. The site, created by Wunderman Cato Johnson, Detroit, offers product information and "Word of the Web," a promotion that gives visitors a chance to win one of two Cougars.

Visitors can register on the site for the sweepstakes by sending an electronic postcard of the car to someone. Both the postcard recipient and sender are then registered for the sweepstakes.


Mercury is running banner ads to promote the new Cougar Web site on e-mail and lifestyle sites.

The newest version of the "cat" nameplate, first launched in 1967, goes on sale in mid-May; it debuted last week at the Detroit auto show.

The new car-the first vehicle unique to Mercury, without a look-alike version at sister Ford Division-is expected to get about $40 million in media support this year.

A second promotion started at the Detroit show over the weekend. Wunderman, working with Intel Corp.'s new Create & Share Camera Pack, is taking photos of show attendees with the car. Within a minute, the photo is sent in postcard form via the Net, said Nick Stoyanoff, VP-director of interactive at Wunderman.

Participants can win the new Intel product in weekly drawings.

The program will run at other auto shows, including Chicago's next month and New York's in April.

Mercury expects to send up to 100,000 postcards from the Detroit show from Jan. 9 through Jan. 19, said Al Giombetti, group brand manager of Mercury. The carmaker will do follow-up direct mail to both show and Web participants.


Jim O'Connor, general manager of Ford's Lincoln-Mercury Division, said that national ads from Y&R Advertising, Detroit, will use some elements of "big cat" ads from the late 1970s that employed a live cougar and the "Sign of the cat" theme.

The new executions, arriving in a few months, won't use the cat as predominantly but Mr. O'Connor hinted there may be cat paws.

Ford is trying to attract a younger crowd than the average Mercury owner, who's in his late 50s. The four-cylinder Cougar GS is expected to attract 25-to-40-year-olds, about 60% of them women, Mr. O'Connor said. The six-cylinder LS will be targeted at 35-to-40-year-olds, with an even split between men and women buyers.

Ford can make 50,000 of the new Cougars annually. It sold 30,516 in 1997, down 15% from '96.

Consultant David Kalmus, president of Auto Quest Services, said other marketers of two-door cars like the new, four-seat Cougar have been having a tough time selling them. Baby boomers favor sport-utility vehicles and two-seat roadsters.

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