Doner’s Mazda 3 Ads ‘Rethink What’s Possible’

LOS ANGELES Independent Doner will launch a new campaign for Mazda 3 the day after Christmas in cinemas and on television starting New Year’s Eve during Fox’s America’s Party.

The spot is the start of a strategic effort to skew the car to a younger, male and possibly first-time buyer, said Mike Belitsos, creative director. Mazda declined to comment on spending, but a source estimated that the automaker will spend about $120 million advertising Mazda 3.

The 60-second movie iteration of the same creative idea (“Twins”), by Doner’s Newport Beach, Calif. office, shows a young man along a desert road, wondering in a voiceover if he will ever find a car that excites him. A Mazda 3 appears, and suddenly he’s driving it, with the car’s features intercut. He’s soon racing with a double of himself, driving a sports-package version of the model. “Two cars, the same, but different, kind of like those twins I met in Chicago,” he thinks aloud, as a road sign for Chicago appears. The campaign’s standard “Zoom, zoom” tag is supplemented with a temporary line, “Rethink what’s possible.”

After the premiere during 2003’s final half hour on Fox, the ad will run on the Capital One Bowl and on ESPN on New Year’s Day, and continue heavily in the first quarter, said a Doner rep.

“We’re trying to not just talk about image, but about substance, that these two cars are loaded with features,” said Belitsos, whose team included Jim Amicucci (copywriter) and Larry Donabedian (art director). “It’s not just playing a rock song that the target can groove to.”

Belitsos said that Doner’s focus groups showed “the target was pleasantly surprised that they could get all this on the car at its price— the moon roof, six-CD player, xenon headlights, navigation system. The younger, hipper target has the mind-set that ‘the first car I get might be just a stripped-down box on wheels.'”

The spot is the last creative approved under the Irvine, Calif., client’s director of marketing, Kristen Simmons, who left for Gateway in June and was replaced by Eric Johnston. It is also the last Mazda ad produced before Ford Motor Co.’s commercial cost-cutting guidelines, which also impact associated brands such as Mazda, went into effect. The regs restrict production company markups and stipulate production and post-production procedures [Adweek, Oct. 13].

“Twins” was directed by Steve Ramser as a freelancer for Visitor Films, Los Angeles. A source said the commercial, bid in August and shot in September, cost less than $1 million to produce at an aggregate markup of about 20 percent. Travel and pension-and-welfare markups were under 3 percent, significantly lower than the prevailing industry norm.

—with Karl Greenberg