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BBDO's Strategy Moves Eclipses

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LOS ANGELES The executive vice president of sales and marketing for Mitsubishi Motors North America has given the thumbs up to the critical launch of the Eclipse sports car and the campaign by Omnicom's BBDO.

"Usually we measure the success of a launch in three years, but the early results are positive," said Dave Schembri at the automaker's Cypress, Calif., headquarters. Schembri said early estimates of 900 unit sales were more than doubled.

MMNA sold about 2,400 Eclipses in June (1,900 were 2006 models), according to Car Concepts, Thousand Oaks, Calif. "The orders have exceeded our expectations, so now we're trying to get our dealers more cars," Schembri said.

The Normal, Ill., plant added overtime hours to increase production, and two recalls for brake problems have not slowed sales, Schembri said. "The media plan delivered results we'd forecast to reach the core consumer of fun-seeking strivers," he said. "We looked at attitude and lifestyle, versus age and income."

Schembri said the launch period, which runs through the end of the month, delivered the Eclipse message an average of 24.5 times to the core consumer.

"It's been a home run as far as we're concerned," said Chris Hall, evp of BBDO North America, as well as president and CEO of BBDO in Atlanta. "The goal was to launch Eclipse as the hot sporty coupe that it is, be the leader of the class, and jump-start the Mitsubishi so it could become the halo for the brand."

Mitsubishi effectively did only national and local dealer advertising last year, but "tier two" regional advertising group ads were now "starting to kick in for marketing momentum," according to Hall.

Hall said the agency implemented a major change in strategy in highlighting individual car attributes to make the models themselves meaningful, rather than showcase the Mitsubishi product line. He said the client agreed that raising the value of individual models would have the cumulative effect of raising the overall brand image.

Schembri said the halo effect is not clear yet, but he expected "to see sales follow the early research results, where intentions and consideration are up, and impressions of the brand are better."

"Our Eclipse strategy was twofold: to launch the product and provide a connection back to the brand, where people had a propensity to think of Mitsubishi, which is performance," Schembri said.

Schembri said he would measure Eclipse success not by unit sales but by whether Mitsubishi could sell all it manufactured and end up leading its class of sports car.