BBDO Bows Mitsubishi Effort

LOS ANGELES Mitsubishi Motors North America launched the Eclipse sports car this week, ahead of its scheduled June 13 break, with a campaign that includes a spot from its new agency, Omnicom Group’s BBDO in New York, according the company.

Adopting the “Japanese Cool” pop-culture attitude demonstrated in the current campaign for the Infiniti brand by Omnicom sibling shop TBWA\Chiat\Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., the spot shows the Eclipse on a darkened stage where red-costumed Asian women beat “Kodo” tribal drums as fire leaps in the foreground, reflecting on the car’s red exterior.

As the car rolls down the street past neon lights, the spot intercuts between the stage and the cockpit gauges, wheels and cylinders pumping in time with the accelerating drumming. A voiceover boasts of the MIVEC engine and delivers the new tagline, “Driven to thrill.” The spot is airing in both 30- and 60-second versions.

“Mitsubishi has one of the most recognized logos, but we’re not known for our models,” said Dave Schembri, Mitsubishi’s evp of sales and marketing. “We’re relaunching our brand, model by model.”

Stressing the model over the brand “is absolutely part and parcel of our strategy,” said Chris Hall, evp, managing director, BBDO North America. “This was no time for an anthem theme about Mitsubishi. The models were [Mitsubishi’s] best kept secrets.”

The Cypress, Calif.-based client spent $285 million in 2004 on advertising, and $65 million through March 2005, down more than 20 percent compared to the same quarter a year ago, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Spots premiered last night and follow this week during various season finales of network shows.

Outdoor and print, which breaks today in USA Today, features the car leaving a painted trail of tribal flames. Copy reads, “You’ve practically lost your license just looking at it.”

Jim Lesser, ecd at BBDO West in San Francisco and Los Angeles, said the Japanese culture theme, translated into a beat and “tribal graphics from the street racing culture” were “inspired, in part, by … the soul of the [Mitsubishi] brand.”

Schembri declined to specify a unit sales number that would certify the launch as a success, but added a decline in fleet sales coupled with a corresponding increase in retail would be a good sign of the struggling automaker’s future.

“We want Eclipse not only to be a success in the segment, but to launch so that it becomes the halo car and sets the table for all the others,” said Hall.