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Unlike many observers, Joel Ewanick believed Porsche Cars North America needed to advertise the 1997 Boxster, the German auto marketer's new model.

Four months before the car went on sale in February, Porsche already had 18,000 U.S. orders-triple the number it planned on selling in the U.S. in its first year.

Yet Porsche is trying to change negative U.S. perceptions.

"We were seen as very cold and kind of old," says Mr. Ewanick, general marketing manager of Porsche and the man who oversaw the Boxster's marketing. He credits agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, for helping Porsche become a more approachable, friendly brand.

"People became a much larger part of our advertising and we installed tongue-and-cheek humor to let people know we're not taking ourselves so seriously," Mr. Ewanick says.

The niche marketer advertised the Boxster during the 1997 Super Bowl-partly for awareness, partly to help change Porsche's image. The media buy has expanded beyond auto-buff books to more mainstream consumer publications.

"We want to give people permission to approach the brand," he says.

To stretch its limited ad budget, Mr. Ewanick set out to build momentum that would last more than a year. Porsche expects to spend 10% more this year than 1996, when it spent $10.2 million in measured media.

The bulk of this year's push will be in TV and direct mail because it's difficult to communicate emotion in print, Mr. Ewanick says.

But things are looking up for Porsche. After selling 7,152 cars in the U.S. last year, 1997 sales have been brisk, with Boxster accounting for 2,199 of the 4,744 total units sold through April.

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