2005 Chicago Auto Show Index by TCC
“So, how fast do you have to be going to launch this
puppy into the air?” This is not the question the test driver wants to hear as
he pulls a Wrangler up to the 20-foot peak that is the highest point on the
Chrysler Group display at the
It’s not merely an off-road re-enactment we’re sampling here. It’s a four-station, Disneyesque dabbling in “experience” marketing that resulted in what Chrysler says was the largest test track ever constructed for an auto show. And though the Chicago show for 2005 is history, you can be sure that Chrysler is looking at a bigger and better experience for '06.
Taking up 156,000 square feet — about the size of three and half American football fields — the course is split into four sections. A half-mile “test track” in the middle splits the off-road Jeep section from the Dodge truck towing area and the Chrysler driving areas. Jeep anchors one end of the display, while the 28-foot-tall ram’s head illuminates the other, signaling either Dodge’s supremely American brand or some bizarre satanic ritual meeting spot.
The statistics don’t make any rational sense. The display is composed of more than 115 semi trailers full of material, 1100 cubic yards of topsoil, boulders, gravel, concrete and timbers, almost eight miles of electric cable, and seemingly, enough plasma-screen TVs to outfit the Tate Modern. Those aren’t real boulders strewn about the Jeep area, they’re plastic ones wired for sound outfitted with fans to keep the car exhaust circulating.
The entire affair takes six days to assemble and four to
and it’s the duty of John Tulloch, senior
vice president for client relations at George P. Johnson to make sure it flows
smoothly. Tulloch’s company produces much of the Chrysler Group’s media
displays, everything from auto-show stands to press drives to the popular
In the last day before an estimated 1.2 million people
descend on the auto show (maybe more, since the weather’s improving to 50
degrees for the opening weekend), Tulloch is in perpetual motion, handed off
from one PR person to the next, suited up and welded to his walkie talkie. But
he’s done this before on a smaller scale, so there’s no rush and drama —
just final tweaks before the doors open at
The idea for the humongous test track —
which looks surprisingly small in
Tulloch set to work and his team produced a 300-page proposal — “this thick,” he gestures hands six inches apart. “I know more about air quality than I care to,” says Tulloch, whose proposal won the day, earning him the right to run herd over mechanical engineers, safety engineers, creative engineers, and a staff of drivers to drive around showgoers. By the end of the show, Jeep had 36,000 guests escorted around the track and had 300,000 people walk through its displays.
The expansion of the
The exercises are compelling enough to bring potentially 75,000 or more guests through the Chrysler display at the show. And because it’s a “sticky” exercise, meaning that it holds people’s attention, the company expects visitors to linger around the booth for a good 20 minutes, versus the seven minutes usually observed by time-lapse cameras that capture the crowd footage in Chicago (and in New York, where they also captured a security officer making off with plasma displays for his own personal collection).
Tulloch expects visitors to wait less than 20 minutes for their brief thrill. His company learned a lot from Disney and MGM Studios in planning the lines, obeying the old adage, “If there’s no line, pull up the stakes” — if no one wants to wait, it’s not good enough, he explains. But the waiting isn’t the hardest part for patrons, because Tulloch’s company has ladled on plenty of side attractions to keep them interested. There are squadrons of video games, displays like the Jeep Hurricane concept where pictures of visitors are taken and are offered online at Chrysler Web sites for free downloading. There’s a device that cranks U.S. pennies into smiley face ovals with the Jeep logo, and there’s also live entertainment — 40 local bands playing sets for the duration of the public hours of the show, a sort of indoor-outdoor Lollapalooza.
Those thrills, Tulloch and
Chrysler are banking, were to be enough to boost the number of visitors to the
stand far higher than in