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General Motors Corp.'s Buick division, with the first major redesign of its Century in 15 years, will support the marque with its first national advertising push in a couple of years.

The campaign for the 1997 midsize sedan breaks today on network and cable TV with the tagline, "Discover a little luxury in this Century."

Buick said it will spend nearly $50 million this year on Century, about 75% of that in TV.

The model is targeting younger buyers and Buick's ads take direct shots at Ford Motor Co.'s Taurus (the best-selling car in the U.S. last year) and Toyota Motor Sales USA's Camry.


"Our biggest opportunity is with Taurus buyers because some of those people want a very practical vehicle," said Century Brand Manager A.H. Tony Derhake. "The No. 2 opportunity I see is Camry because of our price point and content and value."

The base Century, priced at $18,395, is about $1,800 less than Camry's LE sedan and $1,100 less than the Taurus GL.

The TV spot breaking this week shows talking cows commenting on the passing Taurus, Camry and Century, with the latter preceded by a rolling red carpet on the road to illustrate the car's touches of luxury. "Camry drivers, take special note" copy in a print ad says.

The agency is McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Troy, Mich.

The 1997 Century is positioned as a practical, affordable family car. Advertising will list or mention the automobile's $19,400 sticker price, which includes popular options.

Buick will shoot for an equal split of male and female Century owners from its current 60% male.

Today's average Century owner is 68 years old, with an annual household income of $35,000, but the new Century targets buyers from 45 to 60, with incomes of about $52,000, Mr. Derhake said.


One of the five Century commercials uses special effects to show Martians enjoying the car's "spaciousness," while a spot using a penguin and baby chick shows off the dual-control heating and cooling system.

A three-page, launch print ad is due in newsweeklies in early April, and other page ads are being planned along with banner-ad buys on Web search engines, said Jack Bowen, Buick's advertising director.

The Internet Factory, Birmingham, Mich., is helping Buick upgrade its Web site (http://www. buick.com) for the Century launch.

McCann Direct, New York, handled a direct mail program to 260,000 Century owners that wrapped up this month. The shop will do another program this summer.

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