Corporate Branding: Chrysler plays up summer style for convertible push

Last year, Chrysler added a PT Cruiser convertible and a Crossfire roadster to a roster of other convertibles it offered in the US.

Last year, Chrysler added a PT Cruiser convertible and a Crossfire roadster to a roster of other convertibles it offered in the US.

The automaker wanted to become known as America's convertible company and decided to use PR to drive home that positioning, while at the same time drawing attention to its latest convertibles. Chrysler began stressing this desire during the 2004 Detroit auto show. "The concept for this campaign was to take advantage of some news we had at the auto show," where the PT Cruiser convertible had been displayed, says Carrie McElwee, senior manager, marketing and PR program, regional communications, with Chrysler Group.

"That was a message they communicated to the automotive media, and we thought it was a very fitting message to take beyond the auto media to the consumer media," agrees Andrea Wood, GM of ClearBlue's Chicago office.


The effort was set to concentrate on spring and summer, key times for people to think about and want to buy convertibles. The PR staff decided to seek out a spokesperson to help grab media attention and get added credibility. While the auto press had written about Chrysler's latest convertibles, "We were looking to get into the consumer media," McElwee explains.

All elements in the campaign would be focused on driving traffic to a newly created website,, that in turn would drive people to the Chrysler Group brand websites for more information on various convertibles.


Carson Kressley of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy was recruited as the campaign's spokesman to talk about hot accessories for summer looks. A satellite media tour featured Kressley, as did a VNR. "We were looking for somebody that would have fun with this, more of a third-party talking about style, rather than us talking about style," says McElwee.

A special media mailing was sent out to the top 20 convertible markets across the country, and nationally distributed press releases discussed the "Top 10 Top Down Style Tips" to kick off the campaign, which launched on May 21.

Visitors to the campaign's website were asked to take part in a survey about the best songs to listen to when driving in a convertible. They could also match convertibles to their personalities and download post cards and screensavers. An online game offered the chance to win a PT Cruiser convertible. An e-mail blast went out to current Chrysler owners and convertible enthusiasts, directing them to the site.

The survey results provided information for a follow-up press release.


The initiative resulted in more than 340 stories and 12 million impressions. Coverage lasted throughout the summer and was largely favorable.

The website recorded 539,236 unique users, and 3,356 of those completed favorite song surveys. The game involved in the PT Cruiser giveaway was played 1.7 million times.

The SMT and VNR together garnered 7.2 million impressions, with 58 TV station placements, nine placements in top 20 media markets, and seven in top 20 convertible markets.

Radio coverage generated 1.6 million impressions, while print coverage accounted for 1.3 million impressions. Online exposure generated 1.8 million impressions, thanks to 21 online placements.


Chrysler plans a 10-market tour this spring with celebrity hair stylist Ken Paves promoting the Crossfire roadster while discussing hair styles. Paves last year gave tips on the campaign website. This year, the goal is to get him on morning shows to talk about great hair styles for riding in convertibles, says Wood. Chrysler hopes to use the fashion approach in other vehicle publicity efforts, as well.

PR team: Chrysler (Auburn Hills, MI) and ClearBlue (Chicago)

Campaign: Top Down Days

Time frame: May to August 2004

Budget: $350,000

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