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Although Pioneer Electronics' aftermarket car stereos were No. 2, they were striking a dissonant chord among 18- to 24-year-olds.

Pioneer's previous advertising had pushed features such as a removable front dash plate, but Jim Wallace, marketing communications manager, along with Senior VP-Marketing Michael Townsen and Brand Manager Michael McLain, felt something was lacking.

"We weren't considered the cool brand," Mr. Wallace says.

So he called on BBDO Worldwide's Los Angeles office to go well beyond "normal' advertising and help Pioneer strategize. Together, the marketer decided to raise its $3.8 million budget 20%, adding a TV commercial aimed directly at 21- to 26-year-olds.

The result was awesome.

In the spot, a swaying bridge suddenly is stilled when a driver ejects a CD from his Pioneer car stereo equipment. The driver's response: a shrug and, "Sorry."

"When we saw the bridge commercial in storyboards for the first time, we felt strongly that this was the one," says Mr. Wallace, 33, who calls the program "a team effort."

The commercial proceeded to win awards such as the Grand Clio and the Cannes Bronze Lion. But more important to Pioneer, "It was a rallying point for our salespeople and our dealers," Mr. Wallace says, adding that Pioneer dealers used a 15-second version within their own 30-second local commercials.

Bolstered by print ads that stressed sound quality, the campaign lifted brand awareness sharply, says Pioneer. And its research found the number of people saying they were considering buying Pioneer also jumped significantly.

Better yet, Pioneer edged out archrival Sony to be a clear No. 1 in aftermarket car CD players.

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