Mitsubishi kicks off 2001 campaigns

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Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America will spend a combined $45 million on multimedia pushes for its 2001 Eclipse Spyder convertible and Montero sport utility vehicle.

The marketer introduces the 2001 Eclipse Spyder tonight in new commercials on national TV. A new spot for Montero breaks April 24.

The b&w executions continue the brand's image as cool-looking and hip, started in summer 1998. The spots are generous with special effects, including fast-forward shots of the vehicles.

The spots for the two vehicles "communicate Mitsubishi's compelling brand proposition -- spirited cars for spirited people -- while encouraging consumers to experience the exhilaration of driving our exciting, stylish vehicles," said Pierre Gagnon, chief operating officer at the marketer.

Mr. Gagnon projected sales for each vehicle this year of 12,000 to 15,000 units. Mitsubishi wants to sell a total 280,000 vehicles in 2000.

Last year, it sold 261,254, a 34% jump from 1998, according to Automotive News.

Deutsch, New York and Marina del Rey, Calif., created two 30-second spots for the Spyder, each aimed at a different demographic.

SHAFT VS. FRIDAY

The spot dubbed "Chat Room" pokes fun at singles who puff themselves up online to impress the opposite sex. It's targeted at 24- to-34-year-olds. The other -- dubbed "Shaft," complete with the '70s song of the same name -- is pointed at 40-to-50-year-olds. The spot compares Shaft with the less cool Joe Friday character from the TV series "Dragnet."

"How many `Dragnet' episodes end with Joe Friday surrounded by beautiful women -- in a hot tub?" asks voice-over by actor Hector Elizondo. Mr. Elizondo started narrating Mitsubishi spots last summer and narrates all the new ones.

One Montero commercial compares quarterback Joe Namath to the less cool Johnny Unitas. "Only one quarterback was ever seen on the sidelines, in a full-length mink coat," voice-over says.

All spots, and accompanying b&w print ads, continue the tag "Wake up and drive."

"We found people don't want to sacrifice a youthful image of themselves just because they have new responsibilities in life," said Eric Hirshberg, exec VP-executive creative director at Deutsch. Although families needing a seven-seat vehicle have a lot of options, "coolness is pretty much absent" in the minivans, station wagons and other sport utilities.

In the sports car category, while many marketers tout handling, the Sypder ads try to show how the convertible makes a driver look and feel.

The print buy includes Architectural Digest, Fast Company, Food & Wine, Golf, In Style, Men's Journal, O, Smart Money, Travel & Leisure, Vanity Fair and auto enthusiast books.

Mitsubishi has found "a fairly clever way" to talk about their stylish cars in ads, said Jack Trout, president of Trout & Partners, a marketing strategy company. "Mitsubishi is driving the good-looking styling message and delivering on it" with the products, he said.

"Not a lot of people are talking about styling in that category."

He said Toyota Motor Sales USA's Camry TV commercial with the song "I'm Too Sexy," doesn't work because the car is known for its reliability, not styling.

FUTURE INVESTMENTS

Separately, Mr. Gagnon announced Mitsubishi will spend more than $1 billion through 2005 on the next generation of vehicles for the U.S.

Unlike past and current models, those vehicles will be designed and built in the U.S. to better suit American tastes.

The first product under the so-called Project America will be the Montero Sport SUV, due in 2003, he said. "This increased product [line] represents a major commitment by Mitsubishi to our dealers and our customers."

Mr. Gagnon bragged about the marketer's record U.S. sales last year and its rebound in sales, increased brand awareness and shopper consideration.

"We are a contender in America" he said, "so keep your eyes on Mitsubishi because we're just getting started."

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