"Customers told us Monte Carlo helps transform their normally mundane commute into a pulse-quickening experience," said Don Parkinson, brand manager for Monte Carlo. "Taz embodies that transformation."
Arthur Mitchell, senior VP-creative at Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich., said GM's positioning of Monte Carlo -- "classy with a wild streak" -- led to Taz.
"We didn't take the character and build advertising around it," he said.
HALF TO MOTOR SPORTS
The Taz ads come as Chevy splits its '98 Monte Carlo ad budget of about $35 million equally between motor sports and general-market media. That's a big jump from 1997, when motor-sports-related ads got about 25% of the budget.
The first Taz spot tied to motor sports was set to break next week, but Chevrolet General Manager John Middlebrook pushed it up to play off the commercial's other star, Monte Carlo driver Dale Earnhardt, who won the Daytona 500 Feb. 15. The commercial broke Feb. 22 during TNN's broadcast of Nascar's Goodwrench 400 in Rockingham, N.C.
In the spot, Mr. Earnhardt turns into Taz as he sits in the car at a pit stop. Taz eats a tire and slurps an air hose like spaghetti before transforming back into a burping Mr. Earnhardt.
"This year, we're very hungry," the narrator says, referring to Team Monte Carlo's desire for Nascar victories. The spot will also air during the NCAA's March Madness on CBS and other sports programs.
A second spot shows a similar Taz transformation, but with a typical Monte Carlo owner. That spot is due in mid- to late March.
Industrial Light & Magic blended Warner Bros.' animation with the other footage.
Monte Carlo has been part of the motor sports scene since the model made its debut in 1970, but had a hiatus from 1988 through 1994 when Lumina replaced it.
Terry Dolan, assistant brand manager-marketing for Monte Carlo, said using the character in general and motor sports ads should get more bang for the marketing dollar.
Taz will appear in all Monte Carlo communications, including an upcoming direct mail drop, outdoor, print, the Web and on Chevy dealership displays. Chevy is also wrapping up licensing deals for Monte Carlo-Taz merchandise to be sold at Warner Bros. stores and other outlets.