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Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America launches its 1998-model advertising today, the start of an expected $150 million push.

The car importer continues its effort to build brand awareness. The first spot, for the Montero Sport sport-utility vehicle, shows nearly a full-screen logo shot before the Mitsubishi name at the end.

"We want to make sure people know the Montero Sport is a Mitsubishi," said Frances Oda, VP-marketing services at Mitsubishi.


G2, a Santa Ana, Calif., unit of Grey Advertising, created the four commercials for the national effort, all directed by Leslie Dektor.

Print ads arrive in February magazines.

Ms. Oda described this year's campaign as an evolution of last year's but with bolder executions using humor to demonstrate product features.

Also new: Mitsubishi expects more bang for its media buck with a strategy of expanding regional dealer ads while boosting spot TV buys to air national brand and product advertising.

The increase in spot TV won't come at the expense of national buys, Ms. Oda said.

The marketer spent $69 million in measured media from January through September 1997 and $135 million in all of 1996, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

Mitsubishi is increasing the number of its regional dealer ad associations, from 11 to 40, with their total spending expected to total $80 million. The dealer groups must pick either Deutsch, New York, or Grey/ Zimmerman, the new venture between Grey and Zimmerman & Partners, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for their advertising.

Industry observers long have speculated that G2 was in trouble on the national account. Ms. Oda last week denied a report from an executive close to the situation that Mitsubishi has hired a consultant for a national agency review.

A Mitsubishi dealer close to the carmaker said G2 "might be in better shape now than they've been in a while."


The first of the new national spots shows two rugged cowboys in a Montero pick up a third. The new passenger begins putting on lipstick and plucking his eyebrows. The front-seat passenger puts on a woman's wig, and it is soon evident they're rodeo clowns.

"It's the rugged SUV with the smooth ride . . . one of the sport- utility vehicles from Mitsubishi," says voice-over. The base $18,030 price and year-old tag "Built for living" appear at the end.

The second spot breaks in late January, featuring the carmaker's product line; a spot for Diamante, arriving in late February, touts the car's European styling and luxury performance. The fourth bows in late March or early April, touting the Eclipse sport coupe.

Later this year, Mitsubishi expects to "turn up the steam" for the "major launch" of its new Galant sedan, said Ms. Oda.

Contributing: Alice Z. Cuneo

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