Tag Archives: Dodge

March Marketing Madness: Nissan, Chevy, Dodge

Nissan’s Snowy Deja Vu
  It’s certainly been a winter for record-breaking snow and nasty weather. So maybe it’s no surprise that Nissan used a snowy street scene with snowmen for a TV commercial to launch its redesigned 2014 Rogue.
The spot, which aired first in Canada and then in the USA touts the all-wheel-drive of the new Rogue compact SUV. TBWA created the commercial, dubbed “Winter Warrior.” Both the :60 and :30 versions show evil snowmen attacking a Rogue driver on a snowy street. The production resembles a thrilling movie chase scene. The motorist manages to escape, naturally, because of the AWD system.
Have a look if you haven’t seen it yet

It is a pretty fun spot that shows off the Rogue’s drivability on snow-covered roads and cleverly sneaks in its three-row seating.
The only problem is that this commercial is so VERY similar to one American Suzuki had a few years back for the all-wheel-drive version of its Kizashi sport sedan. Suzuki’s commercial, called Wicked Weather,” ran in 14 key US markets during the Super Bowl in 2011. So it got pretty good exposure. And it ran tons of other times before and after the Big Game. Even Suzuki’s snowmen, created by Siltanen & Partners, look an awfully lot like Nissan’s.
Judge for yourself

TBWA creatives could have dreamed this one up on their own. Or could it be that somewhere in the back of their brain’s memory file there was a glint recalling an ad with snowmen attacking a car with AWD?
Coincidence? We may never know, but you have to admit the executions are very, very close.
American Suzuki Motor Corp. isn’t likely to make much of a ruckus. The automaker is phasing out its car sales operations here in Chapter 11 bankruptcy court.
Chevy’s Crazy Kids
Speaking of coincidences, a Chevrolet Cruze commercial is getting lots of attention- in a good way. The spot, called “Speed Chaser,” for the Cruze broke during the Academy Awards broadcast and was made for a mere $4,000.
The :60 spot was created by South independent Korean filmmaker Jude Chun, who bested 72 other submissions from around the world in Chevy’s MOFILM , a global community of indie filmmakers. It shows children making the commercial, using props and special effects. The ad has a written on-screen disclaimer: “Children should not play in or around vehicles.” That was probably added by GM lawyers.
In one scene, one of the kids uses his hands to flip over a model-size Cruze, much to the dismay of a young female back-seat passenger. Have a peek

Many ads with cute children are well received with viewers and this one is no different. But Chevy got into big hot water in 2004 for a slick Corvette commercial that broke during the Summer Olympics. Called “A Boy’s Dream,” it showed a young boy putting the sports car through its paces, even taking the Vette airborn as a young girl behind the wheel of another Vette passes him in mid-air going in the other direction. It only ran once. General Motors quickly buckled under pressure from safety and advocacy groups afraid young kids would try to drive their parents’ cars like banchees.
It was a mistake in my mind to pull the ad from Campbell-Ewald in Warren, Michigan because it was clearly a dream sequence. If your kid doesn’t know the difference between reality and dreams you have bigger problems than this commercial.

Yes, this ad also had a written, on-screen disclaimer:  “This is a dream. Do not drive without a license. Obey all traffic laws.”
What a difference a decade makes, eh?
Dodge’s New Celeb Mouth
When it comes to Chrysler Group ads, one can expect to see celebrities.
Now here comes Joan Rivers stumping the beauty of Dodge-brand models in regional dealer ads from Doner in suburban Detroit.


They’re part of the automaker’s multi-brand “Award Season (sales) Event.”
In the spot for the Dart, Rivers touts the car’s beauty and power. “Look at the leather seats,” she coos. “They are softer than the leather on my face,” says Rivers, who regularly pokes fun at all the plastic surgery she’s had as host of “Fashion Police.”
The spots are airing through April in some 122 markets.
The comic’s appearance in the Dodge ad is shocking to a lot of people. “Are they reaching out to 70-year-olds,” wondered a Facebook poster.
The answer is no.
Rivers, whose career has spanned 5 decades, has managed to keep herself in the public eye and is winning over a younger generation. Rivers and these commercials should generate more positive buzz for Dodge.

You can follow me, Jean Halliday, on LinkedIn and Facebook

On Twitter: @jhal2001


Mystique of Dodge’s Ron Burgundy Blitz

Dodge’s over-the-top Durango blitz starring Will Ferrell, seems to be heading into the realm of cult status.

The campaign features dozens of video with the actor reprising his 2004 film role as the obnoxious 1970s’ “Anchorman” Ron Burgundy.

Yes, Chrysler Group CMO Olivier Francois is at it again, showing his penchant for using big names in advertising.

The Dodge brand’s irreverent big tone and attitude make Ron Burgundy the perfect pitchman for the new 2014 Dodge Durango,” he said.

The Dodge brand irreverent? Since when? I do recall the irreverent “that thing got a Hemi in it” Dodge ads with comic Jon Reep. But that was back in the DaimlerChrysler days. And those Hemi ads were for the Dodge Ram. Now Ram is a separate brand from Dodge.

Chrysler said it didn’t pay anything for Ferrell to appear in the campaign. That’s because this is a co-promotional deal. Every Durango ad touts the upcoming “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” movie with Farrell, arriving around Christmas. Don’t kid yourself, Chrysler is spending tens of millions of dollars in media promotion to promote this movie for Paramount Pictures.

The buzz for the Durango push has been incredible, already attracting 15 million views on YouTube since hitting national television in October. The media push includes print, Facebook and Twitter.

If you have somehow miraculously missed seeing any of these commercials from Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, here is one of the latest, posted December 7, touting the Durango’s good looks

In just 4 days this attracted almost 90,400 views.

Dodge’s ad agency, Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, worked with Farrell’s Funny Or Die website to write the spots.

The news coverage of this enormous campaign has been mind-boggling. Traffic to Durango’s web site has jumped by 80%. Most important, Durango sales have increased dramatically: 59% higher in October and 36% in November versus the same year-ago months.

And what would a major blitz be without a sweepstakes? There was also a 6-day online contest last month to win a 2014 Durango and other prizes. Visitors to Handsonronburgundy.com had to keep their “hands” (via their mouse) on the Anchorman the longest. The contest kicked off online with a YouTube video that, even though the contest is over, is still attracting views, now topping 287,000.

Are you laughing yet?

Several fellow reporters have told come to me puzzled about the work, saying “I don’t get it.” They, like myself, are baby boomers.

Simply put, this work is not for us. It’s aimed at a younger target.

My unscientific research reveals that younger people have a very different sense of humor and definition of funny than boomers. Think of TV’s “The Office.” The show is wildly popular even though plenty of us boomers don’t “get” it.

And thus it is with Mr. Burgundy and Dodge.

I must admit that the work breaks through the clutter. With some 70 executions- how could it not? The Burgundy character in his tacky outfit, bad hair and clueless attitude pulls viewers in like a magnet whether you saw or even know of the first “Anchorman” movie.This is not your father’s car advertising. The draw is similar to the “rubber-necking” effect of motorists slowing to a virtual stand still to check out traffic accidents. It’s advertising you might love to hate.

Speaking of fender benders, Ferrell called the Durango “a terrible car” in an interview with Conan O’Brien, a few weeks ago. “They gave me one for free, and I drove it four feet and the thing cracked in half,” he told the late-night host.


Doing some quick PR work, Chrysler explained that Ferrell was merely acting as Ron Burgundy and they weren’t upset.

But quite a few of online comments reacting on YouTube to the segment agreed with Ferrell and blasted Chrysler quality. Not exactly a very good thing. Not at all.

You’ve got to wonder whether Ferrell will be back as a Dodge spokesman for Anchorman 3.

My guess is no.

MAKING TRACKS: Brent Dewar joins NASCAR as COO. Dewar worked at GM from 1978 to 2010, with stints that included VP of Chevy globally and VP of marketing and sales.

MAKING TRACKS II: Gareth Kay becomes co-owner of the new San Francisco office of Minneapolis-based creative consultancy Zeus Jones and will also be founding partner of the West Coast office. Kay was chief strategy officer at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco.  His resume includes stops at Modernista, Lowe and TBWA.

Follow me, Jean Halliday, on LinkedIn and Facebook and on Twitter :@jhal2001

*This first appeared as Jean Halliday’s “AdRant” in CNWs subscriber-only, online auto industry report.

(This first ran as

Auto Ad World Loses Great Ad Man

Dick Johnson, a larger-than-life auto advertising giant, passed away this week after a long battle with cardiac issues. Johnson retired from BBDO Detroit in 2001 in his late 50s as chairman-chief creative officer, just a few years after the Germans at Daimler had acquired and taken control of Chrysler Corp.

Here he is in his BBDO creative “war room” in a photo from Paul Stenquist, who worked for Dick and remained his friend.


   I met Johnson in 1999 during an interview scheduled for an hour in his spacious BBDO office, then in Southfield. It lasted 5 hours. We drank a lot of Pepsi while we talked and watched a lot of reels. He started the session with his early years. His fifth grade teacher told him he had talent after seeing a poster he did. He took that to heart. “I’m not a natural leader. I’m a complainer,” he quipped, telling me his high school year book dubbed him as “a big letter man” (he played 4 sports) who “complains about everything.”

Johnson majored in English at Bucknell in Pennsylvania, where he also played football. Johnson, recalling having to watch game videos of himself and his Bucknell team, told me “if you don’t run your pattern everyone laughs, so you’re really playing for the camera.” He added “a good way to live your life is act as if you’re being videotaped.”

After graduating, Johnson taught composition at the prestigious Parsons School of Design in New York for a year before coming to Detroit as a copywriter in 1964 for Ross Roy Communications.

Johnson didn’t suffer fools lightly and he wasn’t a fan of New Yorkers trying to handle car accounts. He was a smart and witty ad man who worked at eight ad agencies on various car accounts, including Buick and Pontiac, as well as non-car brand like Texaco and Tampax. He had three tours of duty at BBDO.

“The hardest thing I do is guys fill the room with their work and I go over it script by script,” he told me. “I have to find the merit in the work and what’s harder is if it’s not there what can we do to get it there.”

Johnson said his first big campaign presentation to a client was in 1977 for the Dodge Omni, when he pitched the Big Idea “It Does It All.”  But in 1979, BBDO lost the Chrysler account, when Chairman Lee Iacocca moved it to Kenyan & Eckardt. Johnson moved to Doner’s Baltimore office.

He came back to BBDO Detroit in 1982 on the Dodge account and wanted to use all red cars in ads. He didn’t win that battle then. He quit in ’85 and joined Saatchi & Saatchi Compton as creative director on AMC’s Jeep account. He started a “no people rule” for the launch of the new Jeep Comanche because “I wanted to make Jeep a magical brand.” He said “if you try to define a brand by the characters of the drivers, you’ve lost the magic.”

He brought that philosophy to BBDO Detroit when he returned in 1991 as vice chairman and chief creative officer on the Dodge accounts. His challenge: to launch the all-new Intrepid in 1993. That was the start of red cars and title cards for Dodge, with “This Changes Everything” as the campaign’s theme in eight TV spots. They hired actor Ed Herrmann as narrator and he hardly ever appeared on screen. Nearly every ad was shot in a studio no matter which model.

Here’s one for the Durango

Back then, Johnson was doing what most of the other car companies weren’t smart ad campaigns with a consistent look and feel. Sounds simple, but lots of other automakers had very different-looking ads for the same models. Johnson also convinced Dodge officials to get regional dealer ad associations to use the same national work for a more unified brand message. Again, sounds simple, but many carmakers had different shops doing work for the retailers’ regional groups.

When Chrysler called a big shoot-out for the 1994 launch of the ’95 Plymouth and Dodge Neon model, Johnson and his team bested Bozell, which handled Chrysler, Plymouth, Jeep and Eagle. Chrysler used BBDO’s friendly “Hi” blitz for both brands’ look-alike Neons. Johnson said BBDO’s two years of Gen X research gave the creative team the right insight for the ads. Take a look

By the later part of the ’90s BBDO was winning all kinds of recognition for its Dodge advertising, including Effies, Mobius, and International Broadcast Awards. More importantly, Johnson & his band of creatives were helping to rebuild the Dodge brand. He was promoted to president of BBDO Detroit, a job he told me he didn’t really want, but took it “because I didn’t want someone over me.”

He described his management style as giving his creatives “a gymnasium to play in instead of a closet.” And Johnson believed “clients shouldn’t be creative directors; they should be satisfied with their agency making very accurate recommendations based on fact.”  He also told me “one of the greatest sins in this business is the piracy of taking credit for something you didn’t do.” Yes, he had high standards and ethics – for himself and his team.

Maybe that’s why the guy was so well liked.  BBDO grad Stenquist recalled that Johnson was” loved by both his clients and staff” and  knew how to get the best from his creative team. Stenquist added Johnson would “stay out of our way until he sensed it was time to get involved, then he’d simply say ‘let’s gather.'”

Perhaps Brad Thomas, CEO of Jupiter, a creative rep firm  outside of Detroit said it best: “We have lost an advertising legend.”

Brand-a-palooza: Dodge vs. Ram

Back in November 2009, at a seven-hour meeting at its headquarters with the press, Chrysler Group’s new Italian management revealed that there would be a new brand, Ram, split off from the Dodge brand.
Attendees were skeptical, since it came at a time when General Motors was eliminating brands from its stable and Ford was selling off brands.
The plan, according to Ram President-CEO Fred Diaz, was to spin off the Ram brand is for trucks, with plans to expand in the commercial truck arena. He also told us back then Ram’s annual sales would jump to 415,000 by 2015 from about the 280,000 he expected to sell in 2010.
Ram didn’t quite hit that target last year, tallying sales of almost 213,000 units in the U.S.- a 7% jump from 2009.
Meanwhile, Dodge would be repositioned from rugged to refined and youthful, the brand’s President-CEO Ralph Giles told us back in 2009.
But what are we really seeing with the brand?
At the Chicago Auto Show earlier this month, Giles just unveiled a slew of go-go R/T performance models, including for the Grand Caravan “man-van” minivan, and announced the return of the Dodge Charger SRT8 for the 2012 model year.
Giles also unveiled Dodge’s new ad theme at the Chicago show: Never Neutral.
In one of the first TV commercials to use the line, Dodge pokes fun of Mitsubishi’s virtual, online test drives, with this spot for “real test drives” of the new 2011 Charger:

Dodge’s new line, from Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Oregon, is fine, and we like the flags snapping in the breeze at the end that brings motorsports to mind. W+K is a damn good agency, but this new approach isn’t any big departure from Dodge’s longtime positioning of bold that’s been around for more than a decade.
That’s a good thing, since the brand’s positioning shouldn’t shift just because there’s new people in charge of Chrysler Group and a new ad agency.
There should still be some institutional knowledge inside Chrysler Group from 2005 that Dodge does well when it markets to men and still doesn’t turn off women. Make no mistake this new ad theme is full of testosterone.
But the automaker has its hands full trying to separate Ram from Dodge. The Dodge Ram pickup name has been around since 1981 and Americans are used to it.
Dodge’s website is still http://www.dodge.com and Ram now has its own dedicated web site at http://www.ramtrucks.com
That’s cool. But when you search for dealers, their store names and the signs outside them still say Dodge.
Giles told me in Chicago the Ram dealers are just starting to change their store signs.
But it will take a long time- and a lot of ad spending- to change the way Americans talk about Dodge and Ram.

MAKING TRACKS : Turns out retired Chrysler Group Executive Steven Landry isn’t retired at all. After joining the board of ATCO, a Canadian public utility company, he’s risen to managing director and COO of ATCO Energy Australia and is leading the team down under. Congrats, Steve.
SHOULDA WOULDA COULDA : Suzuki should have shown the Swift concept in Chicago. It would have gotten LOTS of coverage instead of getting lost in Geneva.
VOLVO-LUTION: Hooray for Volvo, which will spend more on advertising in the fist quarter of this year than it did in ALL of 2010 — and will then spend that same amount in the second quarter.
Find me on TWITTER @jhal2001

Grand Caravan’s Sharp Turn

Minivans copped a bad rap earlier this decade. As SUVs became the industry’s darling growth segment, giving owners the feeling of cool, active, outdoorsy hipsters, the family hauler was maligned as mom-mobiles driven by soccer moms. Sales plummeted and GM and Ford exited the category.
Now here comes Dodge with a new twist on minivan advertising, usually depicted by young families with smiling kiddies, in three TV commercials from Dodge’s new creative shop Wieden + Kennedy in Portland.
To say Wieden’s new work is different is an understatement. (By the way- remember when the Dodge brand actually used “Different” as ad ad tag in 1999? It didn’t last long).
The minivan is black, driving across a desert in two spots. One spot has all men in it; another all men with a female driver. The music and overall look are in the spy genre.

This one, called “Kittens” is downright creepy:

This one, dubbed “Turncoats,” is mystifying:

This is the best of the bunch :

That one’s called “Why.”

Why, Indeed?

Well, Dodge is repeating something Pontiac (remember Pontiac?) tried in the late ’90s for its minivan in a move to attract more men or at least more male approval. First called the Trans Sport, Pontiac changed the model name to Montana, formerly just a trim level, for the ’97 model year.  D’Arcy, Masius, Benton & Bowles’ Detroit office created ads for the minivan with cowboys, themed “Life’s More Exciting in Montana.” Voiceover by late actor Robert Mitchum.

The strategy worked.

In a survey of families shopping for minivans in June 1999 by CNW Marketing Research, Montana was far and away the top choice by men, topping Detroit’s rivals’ top three models.

We wish Dodge the same results.