Dodge is launching a big third-quarter campaign for its Durango SUV that features a total of 10 spots, 6 on TV and at least 4 online. The effort, via Portland, Ore-based Wieden + Kennedy, says the muscular SUV is back and not afraid to kick ass. The campaign, which also takes aim at Ford's Explorer SUV, avoids off-roading beauty shots and people unloading kayaks and mountain bikes for an unusual tactic: positing the SUV as a race car. The move aligns with the Dodge brand, however, which uses racing as a subtext to talk up performance.
The digital and TV campaign touts the SUV's driving range, power and towing capacity, seating for seven, vehicle refinements, and technology -- such as a radar that can control forward distance from the nearest vehicle. An anthem spot laments the putative death of muscular performance as an automotive virtue.
The "Long Lost Performance" ad, set at an abandoned racetrack, has a familiar, edgy voiceover saying: "There's more than one of these dilapidated racetracks in America today. This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Not when you look at the kind of cars people are making, the kind people are buying. Performance, evidently, is no longer a priority ..."
After the VO talks about the need to cue the sad music, blowing leaves and torn checkered flag, two Durangos roar across the infield onto the track as the voice says: "Sounds like performance returning to the stage."
If that voice is familiar, it's because it belongs to actor Michael C. Hall, Dexter Morgan from Showtime's "Dexter," and David Fisher in HBO's "Six Feet Under." Jason Russ, head of Dodge advertising, said the voiceover is intended to be edgy and confident. "We are so confident in our brand and products, we are using that voice to express that. It's a recognizable voice; it breaks through. It's something we try to do consistently: breakthrough creative that also entertains and captivates."
Forthcoming spots focus on specific Durango product features. One has the voiceover telling a joke: a fuel economist and a performance enthusiast walk into a bar, while the two Durangos roll along the track. The fuel economist talks up the fact that his goes 500 miles on a single tank of gas. The other says his has a V-6 engine with best-in-class-towing and power. Says VO: "The punch line is: they are both driving the new Durango. Get it?"
In a spot about the vehicle's seven-passenger seating, seven race car drivers run toward the Durango in slo-mo while the voiceover says: "The good news is the new Dodge Durango is a performance SUV that can comfortably seat seven professional drivers. The bad news is, only one of those seven is in the driver's seat."
Other ads talk about towing and the vehicle's interior, comparing the amenities with those of an Italian automaker "whose name rhymes with Merarri." One ad calling out Explorer has Durango towing motorcycles, watercraft, more watercraft, and finally the Ford competitor. The other one has the two vehicles chained together but heading in opposite directions, with the Durango winning the towing match.
The media schedule includes a broad buy on national television and cable channels, but all of the ads are on Dodge.com and on Dodge's YouTube channel.
Russ said the campaign is the largest for the Dodge brand in the past year. "Obviously, fuel economy is one of the biggest concerns today but when we talk performance we are also talking about capability: we want to speak to best-in-class driving range, fuel economy, and at the same time best-in-class towing."
He said the company's decision to set the ads at the abandoned Middle Georgia Raceway in Warner Robins, Ga. (where Bobby Allison once won a Grand National NASCAR title) -- rather than, say, Moab, Utah -- was aligned with the Dodge brand. "Dodge speaks to American performance, and we thought the racetrack was a good demonstration of that."
Evidently the raceway, which closed in 1984, was a regular on the NASCAR circuit until the late 1960s when authorities found a moonshine still under turn 3. Of course, NASCAR came from moonshine running, so they should probably have kept it open and sold the moonshine as fuel. Now that's American performance.