Jeep Goes Viral for Compass Launch

NEW YORK Jeep attempts to cash in on the karaoke craze and reach the under-30 crowd through a site promoting its new SUV.

Starting today, visitors can create an avatar (a 3D graphic persona) and choose from three songs to perform. The site displays the lyrics on screen, while users sing into a computer microphone (or the phone, using a 1-800 number). Voice files are uploaded and synced with the avatar’s lips.

The song choices are: Madonna’s “Borderline,” “Hey Mickey” by Toni Basil or “I Ran” by Flock of Seagulls. Users can then e-mail their creation to friends, who can vote for the best performers.

The site is jeepcompasskaraoke.com.

DaimlerChrysler and BBDO created the site, built by avatar firm Oddcast, as the first phase of a launch campaign for the Jeep Compass, a smallish SUV aimed at expanding the ranks of Jeep customers.

TV and print ads, which bow later this month, support the viral effort.

While Jeep brands typically appeal to baby boomers, the Compass, priced under $20,000, is aimed squarely at young adults, particularly females, said Jay Kuhnie, director of client communications.

“It’s a way for us to break the ice, build some relationships with them and allow the individual to be comfortable with us,” he said.

Rather than run ads for the karaoke site, DaimlerChrysler today sent out e-mails to 50,000 “hand-raisers” who requested Compass information, counting on them to spread word of the site to family and friends.

That’s part of the appeal of such programs: Creating the site costs under $200,000, a fraction of the production cost for the typical TV shoot; thanks to the viral-dominant strategy, media costs are close to zero, Kuhnie said.