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DaimlerChrysler breaks a $30 million-plus national campaign Sept. 26 for its newest brand -- the Five Star dealer-quality program.

Though meant to convince consumers the automaker has upgraded dealerships for Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Plymouth, the campaign has a secondary target.

A.C. "Bud" Liebler, DaimlerChrysler senior VP-marketing, said the campaign will pressure dealers that have not yet met Five Star certification standards in employee training, procedures, equipment and facilities.

"They're going to look down the street and see the competition, the other Chrysler dealer, is Five Star," Mr. Liebler said. "They've heard us talking about this at meetings; now they're going to see it advertised. That's a real strong message."

With the ads, Five Star dealers should reap an advantage in vehicle sales and maintenance work.


Currently, about 1,600 of DaimlerChrysler's 4,450 dealers are hanging Five Star flags in their windows. Those dealers represent about 60% of sales volume, Mr. Liebler said.

"There are some big dealers out there who are desperately trying to get on Five Star," Mr. Liebler said. "They'd prefer that we delay this advertising, but they understand what we're doing. We're just doing what we said we would all along."

The program, initiated in March 1997, represents the DaimlerChrysler strategy for making dealers more consumer-friendly. Unlike Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp., which have either bought up dealers or sought to open other distribution channels, DaimlerChrysler is sticking with independently owned franchises, Mr. Liebler said.


Joseph Casola, VP-marketing operations, said other vehicle-sales methods, such as online shopping, still send buyers to dealers to pick up cars. "We decided that if we could elevate our dealers to a competitive advantage, that's a lot better," Mr. Casola said.

National TV breaks with two spots from FCB Worldwide, Southfield, Mich., on NFL telecasts. Print will include buys in USA Today and The Wall Street Journal as well as magazine spreads.

The two initial spots, "Keys" and "Drill," take a light tone while showing "seamless, effortless teamwork, like the Harlem Globetrotters" among dealership personnel dedicated to treating the customer well, Mr. Liebler said.

The tagline is "Five Star. It's better. We'll prove it." Heavy saturation is planned, Mr. Liebler said.

"Blind date," a follow-up spot, uses an analogy of a teen boy constantly asking his date how he's doing, finally saying, "Hey, if you think of anything else, get back to me in the morning." Other ads will break later this year, with the campaign continuing into first quarter 2000.

Early executions from FCB were redone, Mr. Liebler said.

"The first couple renderings were rejected," he said. "It's not like advertising a new car. It's a process."

Mr. Liebler added: "This is not something we intend to stop advertising. It's

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