MITSUBISHI, AUDI REMOVE FAMILY FROM FAMILY CARS: GALANT, A6 ADS TELL PARENTS THEY CAN STILL DRIVE SPORTY VEHICLES

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Family vehicles are going incognito in new pitches from Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America and Audi of America.

One of the six spots for Mitsubishi's redesigned Galant midsize sedan, breaking Aug. 1, reveals "No one will ever notice the baby seat." An Audi print ad for its A6 Avant wagon boasts: "It doesn't scream family. It just screams."

LARGEST-EVER LAUNCH

The $44 million campaign is the first national car work from Deutsch, New York and Marina Del Rey, Calif. Mitsubishi described the Galant launch effort as its largest and most important ever. It serves as a relaunch campaign for the automaker and introduces the tagline "Wake up and drive." Actor Noah Wyle of "ER" provides the voice-over.

McKinney & Silver, Raleigh, N.C., created the Audi ad, and a TV commercial that broke on national network and cable earlier this month. Print is breaking in national newspapers now and breaks in national enthusiast and consumer magazines in late August.

Audi is spending an estimated $8 million in measured media for the push, running until yearend.

The campaigns aren't family un-friendly. In fact, both automakers' ads mention soccer, an increasingly popular children's sport.

"The other soccer moms will talk," notes one Galant spot. Copy in the Audi print ad says the A6 Avant "dares to go beyond soccer practice and supermarkets," while the TV spot's voice-over reports, "Soccer practice will never be the same."

CAN BE GOOD-LOOKING TOO

Mitsubishi wants to change the image of family vehicles by convincing consumers they can be good-looking, spirited cars, said Peg Dilworth-Hunt, director of marketing communications.

"It's the idea that each one of us, whether we admit it or not, wants to look attractive," she said. "It's the vanity, vitality, look and feel alive kind of thing."

The Galant competes with the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, both of which have solid reputations for dependability, quality and reliability -- "DQR" in auto industry lingo.

"We'll never out-DQR Camry or Accord," admitted Mike Sheldon, exec VP-general manager at Deutsch's West Coast office. But those cars' designs are "perhaps a little bit boring, perhaps a little staid," he said.

`GOT KIDS . . . AND GOOD LOOKS'

Galant's styling says, " `Yeah, I have kids, I have a job . . . but it doesn't matter. I still look young. I still look attractive.' That's what we're really trying to convey," said Eric Hirshberg, exec VP-creative director at Deutsch's Marina Del Rey office.

Audi is also trying to change the image of the family car. The marketer has sold Avants in Europe since 1977 but introduced the name last fall in the U.S. for the A4 wagon.

"We had the A6 before" in the U.S., a spokesman said, "but we called it a wagon. We dropped wagon."

James Hall, VP-industry analysis at consultancy AutoPacific, said wagons have a negative connotation for many consumers.

"People developed a bad taste for wagons because baby boomers fled to minivans because they didn't want to drive what their parents drove," Mr. Hall said.

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