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Chrysler to Shift Pacifica Message

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Joe Eberhardt, Chrysler Group's new chief marketer, admits the DaimlerChrysler unit stumbled by focusing on ads starring spokesperson Céline Dion.

"I don't think we should use personality affiliations of any sort to sell product short term," he said in an interview at the company's Auburn Hills, Mich., headquarters. "You need to nail the message early on that you want the public to take away."

Eberhardt said upcoming Pacifica print ads from BBDO, Troy, Mich., will focus on the SUV/minivan's features rather than Dion.

Chrysler will "accelerate" its original strategy to shift from showing Dion herself to using just her music, after dealer criticism of the campaign that came out of the $10 million-plus deal with the star, he said.

"We have a contractual relationship with Céline Dion, and we have every intention to see that through its final stage," he said.

Eberhardt, 39, evp of global sales, marketing and service, took over at the $1.2 billion advertiser on June 1, replacing Jim Schroer, who resigned. He had been president and CEO of DaimlerChrysler in the U.K. after more than a decade with Mercedes-Benz in the U.S. It was on Eberhardt's watch that the brand began taking risks with its ads, including the spot with a Janis Joplin song.

Chrysler reported its total sales through July fell to 1.1 million units, versus 1.2 million for the same period in 2002. The company sold 6,642 Pacificas in June, up from 2,471 in May but short of what it needs to reach its goal of 100,000 this year.

Eberhardt also said Chrysler should not tout its Mercedes relationship (as with Crossfire ads that broke June 12), because it causes "brand salad."