Brands: Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep (DaimlerChrysler)
Execution: TV, Web
Link: Click Here
Target: Science-minded car buyers
A series of TV spots featuring Dr. Dieter Zetsche, the current Chairman of DaimlerChrysler. The spots show Dr. Z seriously answering questions about American car brands Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge. The spots poke fun at Dr. Z (in one spot a rough working-class director fumes “actors” when Dr. Z misses a line) in a good-natured manner.
It’s good that Dr. Zetsche appears to have a sense of humor and passion for the brands Daimler aquired during the supposed ‘merger of equals’ between Daimler-Benz (the maker of Mercedes-Benz automobiles) and Chrysler. The brands are featured prominently and – for better or worse – this is ownable advertising that competitors are unlikely to copy.
Steve Miller at BrandWeek noted last week that Chrysler will continue this campaign, which broke in July, through the end of the year. While there is little great or awful enough in this campaign to merit comment, this advertising blog feels that the use of Chrysler Chairman Dr. Dieter Zetsche as the spokesmodel for the campaign raises a relevant and interesting question. Namely, when should the CEO or Chairperson of a company front the advertising.
Our answer is “never.” Why not? After all, companies like Wendy’s built their franchise with personal messages from Dave Thomas. And the CEO often has the most to gain or lose from the success or failure of the company. If these men and women have both a track record and a stake in the outcome, why shouldn’t they speak directly to the cameras?
Because there is nobody to tell them when the result is awful, as it is in this case. Is the ad agency going to tell the Chairman of one of the world’s largest automobile company that he is a disaster on film? Pity poor BBDO here because that’s the position they’re put in by this advertising strategy, even if they came up with it in the first place.
When you storyboard an idea and it seems to work and then film it and it doesn’t, you can always shelve the film and try again. Unless your CEO is the star.
Dr. Zetsche is a shrewd individual, but corporate Chairmen don’t get to that position without a strong belief in their ability to make things happen personally. In this case, Dr. Z is trying to promote Daimler Chrysler’s middle-class American brands Dodge, Jeep and Chrysler. The rationale is probably that Dr. Zetsche represents German engineering which is something Americans understand and would appreciate in their American cars. But by reminding the heartland audience that their beloved brands are controlled from Germany, Dr. Zetsche is doing untold damage to the brand positioning for at least Jeep and Dodge, both of which have painstakingly built their Americana credentials over more than half a century.
Beyond this, these spots are unfocused and confusing. The entire campaign seems to promote the good humor of Dr. Z. more than any specific brand attributes of Chrysler, Dodge or Jeep. This advertising blog also disagrees with the practice of advertising more than one brand in a single spot. Multi-brand advertising for DaimlerChrysler implies that Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge are interchangable. This is a bad move for DaimlerChrysler because U.S. carmakers already have significant positioning and differentiation problems with their brands. The problem was created by the U.S. automotive industry’s practice of marketing the same car under two different brand names such as the Ford Taurus and Mercury Sable.
So we urge Dr. Zetsche to retire quickly and gracefully – at least from the small screen.
Branding Bottom Line:
Why is this German dude talking about our Dodge Durango?