Dave Rooney has a large sign above his desk. It's a quote of something he said 15 years ago. It reads: "Putting money everywhere is a way of admitting you don't know what you're doing."
Mr. Rooney, 50, an industry veteran who joined Chrysler Corp. in 1982 after five years at Ford Motor Co., is bucking that line today more than ever. As director-media operations and cross brand marketing for DaimlerChrysler AG's Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep and Mercedes-Benz brands in the U.S., his job is to develop and implement strategies and national and regional dealer media plans and buys.
He's gotten media staff involved earlier in the process from all three Michigan-based Omnicom Group agencies: buyer and planner PHD, creative shop BBDO and online agency Organic, as well as Interpublic Group of Cos.-backed multicultural shop GlobalHue.
He now views media as any contact with prospects, including events-an area under his domain in which Chrysler Group has significantly stepped up its activity.
Mr. Rooney estimates the automaker staged 650-plus events in just nine months last year via partner GMR Marketing. Adding in others done by the automaker's own local event teams, he figures 18 million people experienced the marketer's vehicles. For example, more than 300,000 people attended Camp Jeep last year.
His shows and events team studied how to keep consumers interacting with vehicles during auto shows since people would move onto competitive displays after seeing DaimlerChrysler's. The result: Jeep was the first automaker to allow consumers at an auto show into its models with an expert driver at an off-road track created just outside the Jacob Javits Center in New York, site of New York's 2004 auto show. Jeep's indoor display touted the test drives. The result: Auto show visitors averaged 21 minutes with the Jeep brand that year vs. just seven at the indoor display the prior year, Mr. Rooney says. Duplicated at this year's New York show, he says customers averaged 52 minutes with Jeep and more than 25,000 people went on the drives.
Such moves, he says, help the marketer in its goal to keep its vehicle brands on people's shopping lists months ahead of purchase.
DaimlerChrysler is no slouch in traditional media, having spent $1.8 billion last year in measured media, according to TNS Media Intelligence.
Julie Roehm, director-marketing communications for Chrysler Group, credits Mr. Rooney for developing an annual "tech day" two years ago. For this year's event, held in late July, he brought in more than 20 small marketing and technology firms that presented new ideas and technologies. "He's always trying to think more about integration," she says.