On a continent where David Hasselhoff and Jerry Lewis are considered entertainment titans, it may make sense to sell Toledo-made Jeeps by imploring people to help find missing pet tigers and leopards.
But marketing folks at Chrysler LLC understand if Americans don't quite get the jokes in ads for the European debut of the restyled 2008 Jeep Liberty, which overseas is called Cherokee.
Chrysler recently launched a guerrilla advertising campaign in Italy for this summer's introduction of the redesigned Cherokee made at the Toledo Jeep Assembly complex. The automaker hired hundreds of people to plaster posters across walls and utility poles from Stockholm to Sicily that plead for assistance in locating lost tigers, leopards, eagles, and owls.
The posters implore passersby to visit a special Web site - unique to each country and its specific language - ostensibly to help find the missing pet predators, but really to introduce the curious to what in Europe is a luxury sport utility vehicle.
"We thought this was entertaining," said Chrysler's Cole Quinnell, who specializes in international product communications. "It's still connected to Jeep attributes because its upscale and rugged, and, at least in Italy, it's effective."
And anything that effectivelyhelps sell SUVs in a place where a gallon of gas costs the equivalent of $10 a gallon can be as quirky as it wants to be. The Cherokee sold only 6,528 units in Europe during 2007 with its old body style, a drop of almost 50 percent from the year before. As in North America, Chrysler officials hope the new design - complete with its huge sky-slider sunroof - will boost or at least hold sales in a competitive market dealing with skyrocketing gas prices.
"We're not competing in Europe with how it competes here in the U.S.," Mr. Quinnell explained. "The SUV in Europe is really an upscale vehicle because it's really too expensive to be the typical family car."
Chrysler's 30-second commercial for the campaign features a "rugged-looking" young man readying for work in an expensive hilltop home. He sleeps on a bed of leaves and grass, washes his face in a stream and waterfall flowing through his bathroom, jumps over rocks to reach the refrigerator, and makes coffee over an open campfire on the floor of his kitchen.
The man, now in a suit, climbs into his Cherokee and descends a hill, only to notice in the mirror that his pet leopard has climbed into the back of the vehicle. He stops at the bottom and lets the leopard out at the side of the road and drives off to the city.
Chrysler officials said they're monitoring the quirky campaign from Auburn Hills, Mich. by watching the Web traffic to each European nation's individual lost predator. The campaign began in May in Italy - the nation in Europe where Chrysler has the greatest market penetration.
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