Jag, Land Rover in bid to boost images

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Ford Motor Co.'s troubled British marques, Land Rover and Jaguar, hope to improve their fortunes with new models and ad campaigns breaking today on national cable and spot broadcast network TV. The two brands aren't profitable globally (Ford has cited currency issues as a prime contributor) and their U.S. vehicle sales are slumping.

Jaguar Cars North America is facing what George Ayres, VP-brand marketing, calls a misconception of poor quality. Jaguar's quality has improved significantly in recent years, he said, citing its third-place ranking behind Lexus and Cadillac in J.D. Power & Associates' 2004 Initial Quality Survey last spring.

The new campaign, for the 2005 XJ L sedan, doesn't directly address quality, although the marketer notes its quality improvements in ads. The spots are themed "temptation," using the seven deadly sins, such as lust and envy, to show off the features of the XJ L. The brand addresses the quality issue instead in online materials and first-hand consumer experiences at its Born to Perform drive tour, Mr. Ayres said.

the quality issue

Land Rover North America also has to overcome the quality issue, which is very difficult, said Susan Jacobs, president of consultant Jacobs & Associates. She said both Jaguar and Land Rover have limited lineups, making it harder to compete. Jaguar's communications weren't effective letting people know about its move downmarket with its entry-level luxury X-Type sedan in 2001, which she said "didn't fully realize its promise."

Both Land Rover and Jaguar are niche brands with small ad budgets in a category of the nation's biggest spenders. In the first five months of 2004, Jaguar spent $35 million; Land Rover, $20 million in measured media, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. Mr. Ayres said his fourth-quarter ad budget is up only slightly vs. the same period in 2003, when CMR said Jaguar spent $19 million. Land Rover said its fourth-quarter ad spending will jump 20% or more this year because of the launch of the LR3, which succeeds the Discovery sport utility. According to CMR, the marque spent $14 million in the year-ago period. WPP Group's Young & Rubicam Brands, Irvine, Calif., handles both Jaguar and Land Rover.

Natalie Bow, advertising and media manager at Land Rover, is trying an interesting approach to attract newcomers and build awareness. Six humorous 15-second commercials developed by independent movie screenwriter and director Jared Hess ("Napoleon Dynamite") don't show any vehicles or its logo. They instead direct viewers to a Web site, FindYourAQ.com, which stands for "adventure quotient." Once on the site, visitors will be designated one of 10 different adventure types after answering 15 questions in an adventure-personality test. Consumers who opt in by providing personal data continue to a more detailed test. Ms. Bow said she hopes to get 25,000 prospect names for dealers.

Each of Land Rover's spots show a character out of place: a backpacker in a sumo-wrestling ring and a bodybuilder in a karaoke bar. The media buy is male-oriented, with a presence on ESPN and CNN.

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