BBDO Breaks Push for Eclipse

LOS ANGELES As it prepares to launch new Eclipse creative through BBDO West today, Mitsubishi Motors North America is mounting a comeback and sees a dramatic differentiation in sales of models it has advertised versus those where support is minimal, according to Matt Mendez, national retail marketing manager.

Campaign spending was undisclosed, but Mitsubishi has lifted its first quarter spend 172 percent to $55 million, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus, with an emphasis on the Lancer and the Outlander SUV, both of which are selling disproportionately well compared to other Mitsubishi models.

A new Eclipse spot (“Switch”) from BBDO here and San Francisco features a couple driving along a highway. The woman in the passenger seat keeps flashing the man provocative looks until he pulls to the side of the road and leans in for a kiss. At that point the woman slides under him into the driver’s seat.

Mendez said that Eclipse spot follows other campaigns in featuring “emotional” rather than “rational” dynamics. Recent Lancer spots showed young men looping around a tight cloverleaf, just for thrills, in some respects reminiscent of creative done by Mitsubishi’s former agency, Interpublic Group’s Deutsch/LA, during the brand’s best-selling period in 2000-02.

Though the initial Eclipse spots featuring Japanese drummers have made a return appearance to television, BBDO’s “J-cool” style has largely given way to young people having fun in their cars to hip music, a hallmark of Deutsch’s advertising.

Mendez said that the new spots show young people experiencing the vehicle’s “fun to drive DNA.” The overall goal was to “start speaking ‘human’ again and get consumers interacting with the brand,” he said.

“The new spots bookend the earlier Lancer campaigns. Then there was a period when Lancer was treated as a value-focused car,” Mendez said. “But with the styling and content of the car, Lancers have become aspirational, not cars [young people] have to buy.”

Mitsubishi said June sales, up 30 percent to 13,000 units compared to the same month in ’06, are the best in four years. “We’re very pleased with outcome in both the Outlander and the Lancer campaigns,” said Mendez, attributing the sales increase to a “fully integrated plan” that included microsites such as lancerproject.com, outeverything.com, CRM and direct initiatives, as well as working more closely with dealer leads.

Mitsubishi is up 21 percent for the year through June to more than 70,000 units, according to Car Concepts. The two models most heavily advertised led the charge: Lancer, up 79 percent on the year to 18,000 units, and Outlander, up 163 percent to 14,000 units.

Some other Mitsubishi models are languishing, however. The new Raider truck, for which there is little marketing support, has sold only 2,000 units through June; in comparison, the Dodge Dakota, based on the same platform, has sold 29,000 units, and even that’s down 28 percent on the year, per Car Concepts.

Last year, the client in Cypress, Calif., spent $140 million on measured media, down 40 percent from 2005, according the Nielsen Monitor-Plus.