Mercury Shifts Spending Online in New Effort

  |  August 27, 2004   |  Comments

UPDATE: The company's desire to appeal to a younger demographic takes it to the Internet.

Ford Motor Company's Mercury division is kicking off a multi-year campaign in which 25 percent of spending will go to digital and experiential marketing -- with the bulk going online.

The "New Doors Opened" campaign, for which spending was not disclosed, is designed to support the launch of six Mercury products over four years. New models include the Mercury Mariner, a compact sport utility vehicle, which will debut next month, and the Mercury Montego, a new mid-size sedan.

"A strategic decision was made to employ the Internet in a way like we have never done before," said John Fitzpatrick, Lincoln Mercury general marketing manager. "For this campaign, we are dedicating nearly 25 percent of our total marketing communications budget to digital and consumer relationship events, which represents a substantial commitment when compared to prior launches."

The company wouldn't break out exactly how much would be spent online versus on experiential marketing efforts, but one executive estimated that about 16 percent of spend would go online. That's compared to between 3 and 6 percent of spending that has occurred online in previous campaigns, company officials said.

Because Mercury has long been thought of as a stodgy brand for older drivers, the new campaign is aimed at changing that image and attracting younger consumers.

"We're trying to attract a new and different type of customer to the brand," explains Linda Perry-Lube, e-business and CRM manager for Lincoln Mercury. "To build this new brand awareness, we needed to do it in new ways, not in traditional ways. Not just in the automotive space, either."

Offline, a major component of the campaign will be an original song, "It's My Life," composed and sung by Grammy winning artist Paula Cole and produced by Grammy winner Don Was. Cole is best known for singles like "Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?" and "I Don't Want to Wait," which was also used as the theme to "Dawson's Creek." Thirty-second television spots will use several different versions of the song. The company will also leverage that song online by making an MP3 version of it available on its Web site.

"Right now, that will be the way to get [the song]," said Sara Tatchio, a spokesperson for Lincoln Mercury. "It is a song not written to be a car song, but to be a song that conveys our feeling and our messaging."

Online, the "New Doors Opened" effort will revolve around a redesign for the Mercury brand's site to be launched in October. The site, which the company describes as "magazine-like" in appearance, will feature video, computer graphics, and a lot of Flash. Many of the site's video elements will tell stories and link back to the television spots.

"It will be far more photography-intensive than you would normally have, and the images will be used in a non-traditional way," said Perry-Lube. "We really kind of wanted to break out of the typical paradigm of what the automotive Web site looks like. They are, in our opinion, getting kind of commoditized and starting to all look alike."

Online advertising will begin to appear on September 13 in conjunction with a teaser brand campaign in print and on TV. Ads will appear on lifestyle-oriented Web sites like epicurious.com, foodnetwork.com, Yahoo, MSN, weather.com and others.

Media buys for the new Mariner will skew slightly female, said Perry-Lube, with more of a focus on lifestyle-oriented Web sites. For the Montego, Mercury will employ more male-focused sites like Fortune.com or Forbes.com.

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Pamela Parker

Pamela Parker is a former managing editor of ClickZ News, Features, and Experts. She's been covering interactive advertising and marketing since the boom days of 1999, chronicling the dot-com crash and the subsequent rise of the medium. Before working at ClickZ, Parker was associate editor at @NY, a pioneering Web site and e-mail newsletter covering New York new media start-ups. Parker received a master's degree in journalism, with a concentration in new media, from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

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