Launches Own Project to 'Reduce Air in People's Heads'

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DETROIT ( -- The head of a Detroit ad agency started a personal crusade last week against an anti-sport utility vehicle ad
Photo: Ameen Howrani
Marcie Brogan of Brogan & Partners has launched a counter offensive against the anti-SUV campaigns with the stated goal of reducing 'the air in people's heads.' Click to see full image.

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campaign that has received broad press coverage in recent weeks.

Marcie Brogan, managing partner of Brogan & Partners, sent e-mails to 800 people in her database opposing the Detroit Project's TV spots that link SUVs to terrorists. The Detroit Project, a coalition headed by syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington, broke a spot Sunday in four local markets, mostly during the broadcast of Meet the Press, that portrays SUVs as gas guzzlers that aid terrorists.

'Air heads'
In her e-mail, Ms. Brogan said she is starting the Hollywood Project, to "help reduce air in people's heads."

The online missive shows a photo of Ms. Brogan, whose agency doesn't have a car account, under the headline "You can huffington and you can puffington, but you can't blow my Hummers down." The ad executive is pictured with her shop's two Hummers -- the new yellow H2 made by General Motors Corp. and the 1996 red Hummer made by AM General Corp.

The push by the Detroit Project comes as federal regulators are working to raise fuel economy standards. Light truck (SUVs, minivans and pickups) standards were last increased in 1996 to 20.7 miles per gallon. Since then, SUVs have become one of the most popular segments of the industry.

The Detroit Project's ads are running in Detroit, Los Angeles, New York and Washington. After the initial buy on Sunday, ads will then air on local cable through Jan. 28.

Stations refuse ads
"A lot of stations are refusing to run the commercials," Ms. Huffington said. The media buy cost roughly $200,000.

In Detroit, the only major TV network affiliate to accept the spot was WWJ, a CBS affiliate.

Bob Sliva, general sales manager of WXYZ-TV, an ABC affiliate, called the two commercials "totally inappropriate." He said he didn't know of a single local Detroit station that accepted them.

Joe Berwanger, vice president and general manager of Detroit's WDIV, an NBC affiliate, also refused the buy for its local broadcast of Meet the Press on Sunday. "I thought it was an incendiary message," he said. "To make the claim that suv owners are aiding terrorism is bizarre to me."

No consumer backlash
Auto analyst James Hall, a vice president at AutoPacific, said he knows of no significant consumer backlash against SUVs. "There are vehicles with worse fuel economy," so why go after SUVs, he asked.

Project Detroit "is getting a lot of bang for their buck" in free news coverage, said Jim Sanfilippo, executive vice president of Omnicom Group's AMCI, an auto consultancy.

He also called the executions "a rip-off" of the anti-drug campaign from WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather.

Will the campaign stop Americans from buying suvs?

"The real question," said Mr. Sanfilippo, is "will Americans demand more economical, earth-friendly SUVs. Yes."

Ms. Brogan, meanwhile, told that she is uncertain about her project's second phase, saying she may mail out a postcard version of the e-mail. "I can afford to do an e-campaign, and I will do one." She said she got her first donation Jan. 10.

Seriously peeved
Said Ms. Brogan: "Am I tongue in cheek? Yes. Am I serious? Yes. I will continue as long as my state of peevishness" continues.

She said she is offended by the Detroit Project's campaign on three fronts -- as a Detroiter, Hummer owner and advertiser. Ms. Huffington "took the wonderful anti-drug campaign and twisted it to her own air-headded point of view."

"I am seriously cranky" about the Detroit Project, she said.

Ms. Huffington, for her part, said her group's Web site is getting pledges from thousands of people who say they plan to give up their SUVs.

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