Chevy Aims Malibu at Camry, Accord

DETROIT The new Chevrolet Malibu will be positioned as “The car you can’t ignore.” The goal is to capture some of the 700,000-plus consumers who buy a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord each year.

“We are the underdogs,” said Kim Kosak, general director of Chevy advertising, at a press preview at the Warren, Mich., office of Campbell-Ewald, which handles the campaign.

“This is not a silver-bullet car and this won’t be a silver-bullet launch. But we have scrutinized the landscape and we are after a different target, one that is highly skeptical of domestic car brands,” Kosak said.

The hope is to poach buyers of cars such as the Kia Sonata and the Nissan Altima and work up the sales ladder toward the marquee sedans in the midsize segment.

To do so, Chevy will launch a three-pronged effort to support the ambitiously remade sedan, which has been plagued by its reputation as a frequent rental car and its overall dull appearance. The new model gets to dealers early next year.

“We’re going to act like Lexus, only in a friendly, invitational way,” said Bill Ludwig, chief creative officer at Campbell-Ewald.

Separate demographics are targeted in the campaign, divided into four discernable groups: upper-class couples or singles with household incomes of $150,000; suburban families with similar incomes; younger single buyers just starting out with incomes of $45,000; and beginning families with the same incomes.

The first wave of advertising debuts Oct. 17 and features a full day of Web-page takeovers projected to reach 80 percent of Internet users, hitting the biggest sites, including Yahoo!, and MSN. That same day, the Malibu will have a presence on every page of USA Today and 15-second broadcast spots will begin to appear.

On Nov. 7, a second Web takeover will take place, along with more broadcast spots and print featuring third-party endorsements used in the ad copy, including friendly reviews of the Malibu from books including Car and Driver and Motor Trend.

Beginning in Q1, a more traditional campaign begins with wide broadcast and print buys.

In one spot, a female jogger runs through some leafy suburban streets and suddenly slams into a parked sedan that looks like the old Malibu. The premise is that it is invisible. In another spot, several masked men flee from a bank after an obvious robbery, jumping into a bland sedan, bills falling out of their satchels. Police arrive, draw their guns and run past the parked sedan, which then eases away, again invisible.

Partnerships include a presence at the Country Music Television Awards next month and a union with Conde Nast in a campaign targeting female consumers.

Building wraps, out-of-home elements and a slew of tags that zing rivals, including “We’re tired of being a foreign car in our own country,” will make the campaign an obvious play, or plea, to lure Toyota and Honda buyers.

Media spending for the campaign will be comparable to the last Silverado launch. Chevy spent $180 million on Silverado ads last year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

The effort in some ways echoes Ford’s attempt to sway Toyota and Honda owners to buy its Fusion. That push includes a campaign in which drivers cite the Fusion as more fun to drive than the Accord and Camry.