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The first TV advertising in 13 years for the Chevrolet Corvette features spy-theme creative inspired by "brand metaphor" research conducted by Chevy agency Campbell-Ewald.

Disappointed with traditional focus group methods, the Warren, Mich., agency developed what it calls the brand metaphor exercise. Campbell-Ewald started using the new focus-group tool a year ago for three Chevrolet vehicles that are launching now-the Corvette, Malibu sedan and Venture minivan. The shop also has used the research for other clients.


The General Motors Corp. unit and its agency publicly revealed the research tool last week when they unveiled the new Corvette advertising.

"We were frustrated with getting purely rational responses from traditional focus groups," said Bill Ludwig, vice chairman-chief creative officer of Campbell-Ewald.

Groups of up to 14 people are paired and asked to do a series of exercises for 2 to 3 hours. In one, they write bumper stickers for the vehicles. They're also asked to pick from 200 photos-including animals, landscapes and people-that express the feelings they have about a particular brand.

For the redesigned 1998 Cor-vette, groups picked photos of jungle cats like leopards and tigers.

"They're animals to be revered and parallel the sports car's power, strength and mystique," said David Hudson, senior VP-director of strategic planning at Campbell-Ewald.


The connection was so strong that the Corvette's estimated $25 million campaign-its biggest since the car's last big redesign in 1984-centers on mystique and has a spylike, secret agent tone.

The sole commercial, Chevy's first TV support for the 'Vette since '84, shows spies using sophisticated equipment trying to track an unknown object, which turns out to be a Corvette.

The spot, in a 30- and 60-second version, breaks nationally March 7 during Fox Broadcasting's "Millennium" and NBC's "Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and will also air during the March 24 Academy Awards telecast.

The five-week TV blitz will also play on select cable networks and male-skewed network sports including the NCAA men's basketball tournament and Final Four.

About 83% of the nearly 18,000 Corvettes sold last year were to men. Chevrolet wants to lower that percentage to 74%, said Brand Manager Dick Almond.

Chevy is using such media buys as the Oscars to reach a wider audience. Most print ads continue the spy theme. A manila insert is sealed with a sticker that says "Limited access. Not intended for general release."

Also, a spread will appear in April in weeklies Sports Illustrated, Time and U.S. News & World Report, aimed at subscribers meeting the $100,000 household income target for the $38,000-plus sports car. Other smaller magazine buys are Yachting and Flying. Print will continue through the year.


For the first time ever, Corvette Quarterly will be sold at bookstores. The magazine, published by Campbell-Ewald sister shop C-E Communications, also will expand its mailing to 400,000, said Lew Eads, Chevy advertising manager.

Normally, each edition goes to 250,000 people, including potential customers and 80,000 Corvette owners. Corvette owners receive the magazine free for four years

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