The thrill of the roadblock

June 14, 2005
If you wind up anywhere on Yahoo! tomorrow (6/15/2005), don't be surprised to see some ads for the new Mitsubishi Eclipse -- everywhere you go. Search engine, Yahoo! Autos, local entertainment listings. Doesn't matter, Mitsu is setting up what is known in advertising circles as a road block. It's a costly way of doing things, but the Japanese automaker is intent on regaining an audience in its effort to rebuild its brand. Mitsubishi was one of the hot nameplates around the turn of the decade, but it was largely a matter of smoke and mirrors, relying on incentive programs that were virtual giveaways. They attracted the youngest buyers in the industry -- but also plenty of kids who couldn't afford the cars they signed for. When the one-year delayed-payment periods ended, lots of buyers simply handed back the keys, saddling Mitsubishi with close to a billion dollars in credit losses. There's still a 0-interest program available, but Mitsu execs now are targeting a bit more conventional buyer, betting on products like the all-new Eclipse and an aggressive marketing campaign. Playing off the J-Cool, or Japanese Cool phenomenon, it was developed by the carmaker's new agency, Mitsubishi. "We're emphasizing our Japanese heritage, something a lot of other brands have walked away from," says new marketing chief Dave Schembri. Ironically, the Eclipse is made at Mitsubishi's U.S. assemply plant in Normal, Ill., and isn't available in Japan.
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