Desktop Toolbar Puts Muscle Car Ad Messages Across Web

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DETROIT ( -- To reintroduce its iconic muscle car, the 2006 Dodge Charger, Chrysler Group has planned its most ambitious Web play yet. The automaker, which beefed up its online ad spending this year by 20% over 2004, will use a desktop toolbar as a way to point users to Charger ad messages all over the Internet, not just at one Web site.

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Julie Roehm, Chrysler director of marketing communications, called the “Unleash Your Freak” online push its “most aggressive online campaign to date.”

“It’s very different than driving people to a company URL,” Colleen DeCourcy, executive creative director of Omnicom Group’s Organic, said. “It’s unnecessary to constantly drive these customers back to”

The lead medium
The Internet is the lead medium for the campaign, said Chuck Russo, vice president and managing director of Organic’s Detroit office. Organic worked closely with its siblings on the automaker’s account, creative agency BBDO Worldwide and media planner-buyer PHD, both in Troy, Mich.

Since June, consumers have been able to download a toolbar with regular news, sports and business updates. They can earn “muscle points” to spend on ring tones, screen savers, wallpapers or music. They can also downloaded a game for Sony’s PlayStation Portable. And consumers can peruse photos, information and video clips of the Charger, which combine the new and the classic.

A online scavenger hunt launches next month that sends Web users in search of the four major attributes of the car, which are personified by animated characters who represent "passion unleashed." They are the control freak, speed freak, style freak and power freak. The Control Freak is very together, wearing a Burberry trench, hair pulled back ... until she unleashes her freak and becomes -- “I hesitate to say 'dominatrix,' but she could certainly overpower most people,” Ms. DeCourcy said.

Searching Web for freaks
Players search the Web for video ads that feature the freaks, who hang from key chains dangling from the ads. When the user clicks on the freak, they're transported to a microsite (one for each type of freak) where they try to engage their key in a virtual ignition. Those that start an engine win a Charger.

So even if a customer is uncomfortable downloading the toolbar, he or she can "still interact with this brand across the Internet,” Ms. DeCourcy said.

Of the $1.6 billion Chrysler Group spent in all measured media last year, $36.1 million was for online ads, according to TNS Media Intelligence. The marketer said its June Charger sales were 4,354 units, or 118% higher than May. The automaker reported its total Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler vehicle sales for the first half of 2005 tallied 1.18 million units, 5% higher than the same period in 2004. Dodge brand accounted for 612,532 of those vehicles compared to 623,154 a year ago.

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