Magazine article ADWEEK

Celine Dion out of Sight in Chrysler Commercials: Poor Pacifica Sales Prompt Carmaker to Scale Back High-Profile Partnership with Singer. (National News)

Magazine article ADWEEK

Celine Dion out of Sight in Chrysler Commercials: Poor Pacifica Sales Prompt Carmaker to Scale Back High-Profile Partnership with Singer. (National News)

Article excerpt

DETROIT Amid a chorus of dealer complaints that spots featuring the musical stylings of spokeswoman Celine Dion came at the expense of Chrysler's new $35,000 crossover vehicle, Pacifica, the pop star's physical presence has all but disappeared from Chrysler ads.

Although some spots continue to use Dion's music, she herself is a no-show. In the first ads with the star, which launched in January, she was visible on a video screen in one model's entertainment system and singing in the back seat of a Pacifica in another. In others, she spoke and sang. In more recent versions, such as an amended dealer group ad that broke last week, Dion and her voice are notably absent.

When Chrysler signed Dion to a massively publicized, estimated $10 million-plus sponsorship deal in November, former vp of marketing Jim Schroer said it was a pitch-perfect partnership: Dion was coming off a two-year retirement with a new album (which included the song "I Drove All Night"), and Chrysler needed a high profile for its "path to premium" positioning. But some dealers felt the Pacifica, an SUV-cumminivan, was unique enough to stand on its own.

Indeed, the Celine-centric "Drive & Love" campaign out of Omnicom's BBDO, Troy, Mich., Arnell Group in New York and GlobalHue in Southfield, Mich., apparently didn't do much for the crossover car. Pacifica's first-year sales are tracking at about 30,000 units, according to Global Insight in Lexington, Mass., half of what Chrysler was projecting. Between its March launch and May, Pacifica sold 4,800 units.

"Look, Pacifica is the best car Chrysler has ever made, but consumers don't know what it is," said Marc Treiber of Rallye Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep in Monroe, N.Y. "They are selling image, but they didn't sell the car."

Chrysler dealer council chief Tom Barenboim, concurring that the campaign is controversial among dealers, said, "The direction we'll take in the future is, you'll see less of Celine, but you'll hear her music."

Said another dealer: "The [Dion] ads didn't help. It was a music video." He pointed out that Chrysler used a similar tactic in the mid-1990s when it hired then-unknown actor Greg Kinnear to pitch AMC's Eagle. …

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