Mitsubishi Aims to Drive Home ‘Feel’

LOS ANGELES Playing off the tagline of Deutsch/LA’s cliffhanger “See What Happens” efforts, Mitsubishi Motors will detour from network TV with a 10-city ride-and-drive program called “Feel What Happens,” said Ian Beavis, client senior vice president of marketing.

“We’re working with AMCI, who did the testing used in our commercials, putting drivers in Galants and Endeavors and taking them through the same tests,” said Beavis, noting the program begins in late July in as-yet-undetermined cities.

The road show is part of the struggling company’s new marketing mix as it continues to pull out of network TV [Adweek, April 12]. “We’re pretty much out of network television and much heavier in cable and spot advertising,” Beavis said. “We’ve significantly increased print. This is the first road show for the company in many years.”

In 2003, the Cypress, Calif.-based Mitsubishi spent $160 million of its $260 million ad budget in network TV alone, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus. A source estimated the cost of a typical 10-city road show at $2-5 million.

A client rep said Deutsch is working with its print-media partners to drive consumers to the show, which will “bring the commercials to life and show in real time how we beat the competition,” as well as build dealer relations. Interpublic Group’s Deutsch could not be reached.

“The biggest indicator that ride-and-drives are working is that so many manufacturers are doing them and investing more money in them,” said Jack R. Nerad, co-host of radio’s America on the Road, citing the success of programs like GM’s Autoshow in Motion, Mazda’s pay-to-race Rev It Up program, and the Lexus Taste of Luxury tours. “I’ve driven [Galant and Endeavor]. They’re good products. Getting [Endeavor and Galant] in the hands of people who otherwise wouldn’t consider them can only be good for Mitsubishi.”

The company reports May-to-May sales numbers on all models are down 20.5 percent, but that the subject of Deutsch’s comparison ads are moving units, with Galant and Endeavor up 16 percent and 4 percent respectively.

“I don’t know if ride-and-drives can turn around a brand,” said Nerad. “They reach tens of thousands of people, but not millions. But they will continue to become bigger parts of most companies’ marketing arsenal.”