It's also Jeep's first brand effort in four years, and it's by BBDO's Omnicom sibling, San Francisco-based Cutwater.
The effort, launching on Sunday, touts Jeep's lineup with a focus on fun and advertising that mixes a heritage pitch about the brand's 66-year history and the joy of driving a Jeep. The implied message is that, since the brand includes mid-sized and small crossovers, Wranglers, and SUVs, there's probably a Jeep for everyone who wants to have a good time in a car. Tag: "Have fun out there. Jeep."
The three-phase push starts with Internet teasers, a web page at HaveFunOutThere.com, and outdoor ads on billboards, buses and other spaces in 12 major metro areas including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., New York and Chicago, plus four 15-second spots. All of the first-phase work shows immense "Fun wheels," namely nine recreational objects d'art like soccer balls, camping tent, fishing lure and kayak, on wheels.
This is a big change for the brand, which has historically allied its brand equity with the ability of every Jeep to navigate the infamous Rubicon Trail of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The brand began moving away from Rubicon in late 2003 when it launched the "Jeep Trail Rated" campaign, including a badge worn by vehicles like Wrangler, an effort to wrap the brand around a series of Rubicon-esque parameters -- traversing water, surmounting physical obstacles, vertical climbs, etc. -- against which Jeep vehicles had to prove themselves.
Jay Kuhnie, director of Jeep communications, says the new effort isn't meant to reflect a distancing of the brand from its heritage in off-road capability but to extend it. "What you'll see is an evolution from the last 18 months of Jeep advertising, which was basically about launching new vehicles -- Commander, Compass, Patriot, Wrangler and Wrangler Unlimited. So now we think it's time to get back to Jeep," he says.
"I would argue there isn't as much a shift as a focus on what Jeep means to the consumer and what does Jeep bring to the owner experience: it's the idea of fun. It really is focusing on what the Jeep vehicle means emotionally, so it's a more inclusive idea -- it doesn't mean it has to be off road, it can be on-road, on the beach, it may be taking the top off of the Wrangler and sitting in the parking lot after a hard day. That's what Jeep allows you to do."
In mid-July, the brand will launch a heritage element to the campaign with a 60-second and 30-second "Jeep Heritage" TV spot on shows like "Desperate Housewives," NBC's "Medium," "ER," and "My Name Is Earl" and major cable networks.
Magazine ads in books like GQ, Maxim, National Geographic and Fortune show a picture of a Wrangler two-door with the headline, "Fun. Headquartered and manufactured in Toledo, Ohio." Ad copy explores Jeep's history.
In early August, Jeep will roll out the third phase of the effort, which features the first ads in years showing Jeep's full lineup. The ads, which show a giant sandbox in which Jeep vehicles play, use the headline "7 vehicles. 1 purpose."
The company will begin applying the new brand mantra to vehicle-specific ads in the fall with the launch of the 2008 Jeep Liberty.
Kuhnie says BBDO remains AOR, managing Jeep business and serving as "the center of all agency partners, overseeing overall strategy and day-to-day," adding that lead creative is driven by Cutwater, working in concert with Organic, Jeep's interactive agency.
He says the effort will be infused into grass roots and sponsorship events, including the current national tour of country-music stars Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, and the "Go Anywhere, Do Anything" tour.