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Mitsubishi today begins its biggest car campaign ever, an estimated $40 million yearlong effort for a new version of its best-selling Eclipse.

In the ads, Mitsubishi Motor Sales of America's $14,500-to-$23,000 sport coupe comes across as entirely alien-by design. Special effects-laden 15-and 30-second teaser spots show the car's fiery birth and rise from a solar eclipse. The car is red and hot.

Three other 30-second spots, beginning in late August, in serial form chart the car's adventures with civilization, as Eclipse races along a highway and even stops to refuel itself.

"Like every alien, everything it touches is transformed in some way," said Jon Stone, VP-creative supervisor at G2, the Huntington Beach, Calif., agency Grey Advertising set up last November to handle its Mitsubishi business.

The '95 Eclipse, aimed at 18-to-34-year-olds, is more powerful than the original '89-'94 series and costs about $2,000 more.

Mitsubishi is pushing Eclipse through a marketing tie-in with MTV:Music Television that includes a sweepstakes, use of the car on MTV programming and sponsorship of the MTV Music Video Awards show on Sept. 8. The campaign also will air in prime-time network programming.

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