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  #1  
Old 04-20-2004, 10:16 AM
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A Tad Late, Car Marketers Target Rap Fans

By SHOLNN FREEMAN
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
April 20, 2004; Page B1

The buzz started in October with a two-way pager and rap-music-star 50 Cent.

Entrepreneur Myles Kovacs, through a partner, sent the rapper spy photos of Chrysler's brand-new 300 C sedan, a car that has only now started to reach showrooms. 50 Cent, who thought the car resembled a Bentley, liked what he saw. "All you have to do is put the Bentley logos on it," 50 Cent responded.

That's when Mr. Kovacs, the publisher of a three-year-old hip-hop car magazine called DUB, started to work his back-channel connections at Chrysler, eventually snagging a 300 C. And that's how, in December, modified by the addition of fat 22-inch tire rims, the 300 C made its debut in a rap video alongside 50 Cent, a Range Rover and a $200,000 Bentley. "It's like fashion," Mr. Kovacs says of his successful product placement. "When the new gear comes out, all these guys want to have it first."

After years of puzzling over why vehicles like the Cadillac Escalade have become icons of hip-hop culture, auto-industry marketers have begun linking up with hip-hop on their own. The musical and cultural force is still alien territory for many auto-company marketing executives, but they are no longer ignoring that hip-hop loves cars with an intensity pop music hasn't shown since Chuck Berry sang about his V-8 Ford. Hip-hop fans "are car crazy," says J Mays, Ford Motor Co. group vice president for design, "and they have a completely different aesthetic taste to our [baby-boom] generation."

Chrysler hopes to create a buzz among hip-hop fans for its 300 C, which features lots of flash.

In many ways, the auto industry is just catching up with the rest of corporate America. Hip-hop's brand savvy dates back to the early 1980s, when rap innovator Run-D.M.C. started rhyming about Adidas shoes. Coca-Cola Co.'s Sprite used rap pioneer Kurtis Blow in ads in 1986. Recently, the company has tapped Ja Rule and Nelly to sell soda. "Hip-hop is an important part of Sprite's character and personality, says Susan McDermott, a company spokeswoman. "Twenty years ago, people were questioning if rap was a phase. Now it's the leader in terms of influencing culture today." Thus far, no car has benefited from hip-hop culture like the Escalade SUV. That's probably partly because Cadillac has long been a coveted brand among blacks. (Last month, on MTV's new "Pimp My Ride," in which dilapidated cars are updated at a custom body shop, show-host Xzibit referred to Cadillacs as "the king of cars.") But recently, at the urging of top General Motors Corp. executives, Cadillac has consciously heightened the Escalade's "bling" to further mine the luxury truck's hip-hop success, producing 5,000 units of the Cadillac ESV Platinum Edition Escalade, which boasts 20-inch wheels and two flip-down DVD screens.

GM has also raised its visibility at events that attract high-profile black celebrities. Amid the hoopla at the National Basketball Association's All-Star Weekend in February, GM sponsored a King of the Bling contest in which participants showcased their Escalades and Hummers.

For the Chrysler 300 C, making a connection to younger, urban consumers is critical. Its price will range from $23,595 for a V-6 model to $32,995 for a V-8 Hemi model, and the car is key to Chrysler's plan to rebuild profitability after two difficult years. Like its rivals, Chrysler needs to have its cars taken more seriously in the marketplace so that it can sell them without resorting to heavy discounting.

The 300 C was designed from the start to attract attention. In many ways, it reflects the influence of DaimlerChryslerAG's Mercedes-Benz, especially in its solid stance and the first use of rear-wheel drive in a Chrysler sedan in close to 20 years. But the car has a lot more bling than a Benz, with chrome trim on the door handles, cup holders, mirror heads, gear shift, detailing around the temperature controls and the push-push doors for the ash tray. "There's probably more of that in the 300 C than probably anything on the road," says Ralph Gilles, the 33-year-old design executive who led the vehicle's development.

Mr. Gilles says he always expected the car to do well with hip-hop fans, but he adds that "the last thing you want to do is have a big corporation try to act like its part of the scene."

That's exactly why the 50 Cent video is such a coup. Buzz about the video has popped up in Internet chat rooms and spread to 50 Cent Web sites. Alfonzo Smith, a University of Arizona undergraduate and the son of a Chrysler dealer, was watching music videos at his campus apartment before the Christmas break when he first saw the car. He immediately phoned his father. "Dad, you need to see the video," Mr. Smith remembers saying. "Twenty-two-inch wheels. It's a generation talking about [Chrysler] that we've never had before."

Still, top Chrysler marketers say they have to tread carefully. For one thing, 50 Cent is a controversial figure. His lyrics are riddled with profanity and he boasts about his gangsta past, including an incident in which he was shot.

"What we don't want to do -- and this is important -- is to be buying our way in," says Jeff Bell, vice president of marketing at Chrysler and Jeep. "Everything I know about what is cool is that it's got to be natural."

Both Mr. Bell and Mr. Kovacs, the magazine publisher, insist that Chrysler didn't pay anyone for the placement of the 300 C in 50 Cent's video. But Chrysler may become a sponsor of DUB magazine's six-city celebrity car-show tour in the spring and summer, and Mr. Kovacs says DaimlerChrysler, as well as Ford and GM, are buying ads in DUB this summer. (Nissan Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.'s Scion youth brand began advertising last year.)

Mr. Kovacs has also helped Chrysler get exposure for another new car, the Dodge Magnum, on MTV's "Cribs" series, which features houses and other possessions of hip-hop stars and athletes.

Meanwhile, Chrysler dealers say they are getting a lot of inquiries about the 300 C. Leon Scott, a 29-year-old teacher and musician in Houston, first saw pictures of the 300 C on the Internet, then caught it in the 50 Cent video. He says he's interested in buying the car and was impressed that it made it into a rap video. He also likes its looks, especially when the bigger wheels are added.

"The car looks expensive, but it's not expensive," Mr. Scott says. "You know everybody wants to fake the funk."
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  #2  
Old 04-20-2004, 10:16 AM
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Klaus Klaus is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2002
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Posts: 2,509
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Default

A Tad Late, Car Marketers Target Rap Fans

By SHOLNN FREEMAN
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
April 20, 2004; Page B1

The buzz started in October with a two-way pager and rap-music-star 50 Cent.

Entrepreneur Myles Kovacs, through a partner, sent the rapper spy photos of Chrysler's brand-new 300 C sedan, a car that has only now started to reach showrooms. 50 Cent, who thought the car resembled a Bentley, liked what he saw. "All you have to do is put the Bentley logos on it," 50 Cent responded.

That's when Mr. Kovacs, the publisher of a three-year-old hip-hop car magazine called DUB, started to work his back-channel connections at Chrysler, eventually snagging a 300 C. And that's how, in December, modified by the addition of fat 22-inch tire rims, the 300 C made its debut in a rap video alongside 50 Cent, a Range Rover and a $200,000 Bentley. "It's like fashion," Mr. Kovacs says of his successful product placement. "When the new gear comes out, all these guys want to have it first."

After years of puzzling over why vehicles like the Cadillac Escalade have become icons of hip-hop culture, auto-industry marketers have begun linking up with hip-hop on their own. The musical and cultural force is still alien territory for many auto-company marketing executives, but they are no longer ignoring that hip-hop loves cars with an intensity pop music hasn't shown since Chuck Berry sang about his V-8 Ford. Hip-hop fans "are car crazy," says J Mays, Ford Motor Co. group vice president for design, "and they have a completely different aesthetic taste to our [baby-boom] generation."

Chrysler hopes to create a buzz among hip-hop fans for its 300 C, which features lots of flash.

In many ways, the auto industry is just catching up with the rest of corporate America. Hip-hop's brand savvy dates back to the early 1980s, when rap innovator Run-D.M.C. started rhyming about Adidas shoes. Coca-Cola Co.'s Sprite used rap pioneer Kurtis Blow in ads in 1986. Recently, the company has tapped Ja Rule and Nelly to sell soda. "Hip-hop is an important part of Sprite's character and personality, says Susan McDermott, a company spokeswoman. "Twenty years ago, people were questioning if rap was a phase. Now it's the leader in terms of influencing culture today." Thus far, no car has benefited from hip-hop culture like the Escalade SUV. That's probably partly because Cadillac has long been a coveted brand among blacks. (Last month, on MTV's new "Pimp My Ride," in which dilapidated cars are updated at a custom body shop, show-host Xzibit referred to Cadillacs as "the king of cars.") But recently, at the urging of top General Motors Corp. executives, Cadillac has consciously heightened the Escalade's "bling" to further mine the luxury truck's hip-hop success, producing 5,000 units of the Cadillac ESV Platinum Edition Escalade, which boasts 20-inch wheels and two flip-down DVD screens.

GM has also raised its visibility at events that attract high-profile black celebrities. Amid the hoopla at the National Basketball Association's All-Star Weekend in February, GM sponsored a King of the Bling contest in which participants showcased their Escalades and Hummers.

For the Chrysler 300 C, making a connection to younger, urban consumers is critical. Its price will range from $23,595 for a V-6 model to $32,995 for a V-8 Hemi model, and the car is key to Chrysler's plan to rebuild profitability after two difficult years. Like its rivals, Chrysler needs to have its cars taken more seriously in the marketplace so that it can sell them without resorting to heavy discounting.

The 300 C was designed from the start to attract attention. In many ways, it reflects the influence of DaimlerChryslerAG's Mercedes-Benz, especially in its solid stance and the first use of rear-wheel drive in a Chrysler sedan in close to 20 years. But the car has a lot more bling than a Benz, with chrome trim on the door handles, cup holders, mirror heads, gear shift, detailing around the temperature controls and the push-push doors for the ash tray. "There's probably more of that in the 300 C than probably anything on the road," says Ralph Gilles, the 33-year-old design executive who led the vehicle's development.

Mr. Gilles says he always expected the car to do well with hip-hop fans, but he adds that "the last thing you want to do is have a big corporation try to act like its part of the scene."

That's exactly why the 50 Cent video is such a coup. Buzz about the video has popped up in Internet chat rooms and spread to 50 Cent Web sites. Alfonzo Smith, a University of Arizona undergraduate and the son of a Chrysler dealer, was watching music videos at his campus apartment before the Christmas break when he first saw the car. He immediately phoned his father. "Dad, you need to see the video," Mr. Smith remembers saying. "Twenty-two-inch wheels. It's a generation talking about [Chrysler] that we've never had before."

Still, top Chrysler marketers say they have to tread carefully. For one thing, 50 Cent is a controversial figure. His lyrics are riddled with profanity and he boasts about his gangsta past, including an incident in which he was shot.

"What we don't want to do -- and this is important -- is to be buying our way in," says Jeff Bell, vice president of marketing at Chrysler and Jeep. "Everything I know about what is cool is that it's got to be natural."

Both Mr. Bell and Mr. Kovacs, the magazine publisher, insist that Chrysler didn't pay anyone for the placement of the 300 C in 50 Cent's video. But Chrysler may become a sponsor of DUB magazine's six-city celebrity car-show tour in the spring and summer, and Mr. Kovacs says DaimlerChrysler, as well as Ford and GM, are buying ads in DUB this summer. (Nissan Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.'s Scion youth brand began advertising last year.)

Mr. Kovacs has also helped Chrysler get exposure for another new car, the Dodge Magnum, on MTV's "Cribs" series, which features houses and other possessions of hip-hop stars and athletes.

Meanwhile, Chrysler dealers say they are getting a lot of inquiries about the 300 C. Leon Scott, a 29-year-old teacher and musician in Houston, first saw pictures of the 300 C on the Internet, then caught it in the 50 Cent video. He says he's interested in buying the car and was impressed that it made it into a rap video. He also likes its looks, especially when the bigger wheels are added.

"The car looks expensive, but it's not expensive," Mr. Scott says. "You know everybody wants to fake the funk."
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  #3  
Old 04-20-2004, 10:16 AM
Klaus's Avatar
Klaus Klaus is offline
Hummer Guru
 
Join Date: Nov 2002
Location: CSA
Posts: 2,509
Klaus is an unknown quantity at this point
Default

A Tad Late, Car Marketers Target Rap Fans

By SHOLNN FREEMAN
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
April 20, 2004; Page B1

The buzz started in October with a two-way pager and rap-music-star 50 Cent.

Entrepreneur Myles Kovacs, through a partner, sent the rapper spy photos of Chrysler's brand-new 300 C sedan, a car that has only now started to reach showrooms. 50 Cent, who thought the car resembled a Bentley, liked what he saw. "All you have to do is put the Bentley logos on it," 50 Cent responded.

That's when Mr. Kovacs, the publisher of a three-year-old hip-hop car magazine called DUB, started to work his back-channel connections at Chrysler, eventually snagging a 300 C. And that's how, in December, modified by the addition of fat 22-inch tire rims, the 300 C made its debut in a rap video alongside 50 Cent, a Range Rover and a $200,000 Bentley. "It's like fashion," Mr. Kovacs says of his successful product placement. "When the new gear comes out, all these guys want to have it first."

After years of puzzling over why vehicles like the Cadillac Escalade have become icons of hip-hop culture, auto-industry marketers have begun linking up with hip-hop on their own. The musical and cultural force is still alien territory for many auto-company marketing executives, but they are no longer ignoring that hip-hop loves cars with an intensity pop music hasn't shown since Chuck Berry sang about his V-8 Ford. Hip-hop fans "are car crazy," says J Mays, Ford Motor Co. group vice president for design, "and they have a completely different aesthetic taste to our [baby-boom] generation."

Chrysler hopes to create a buzz among hip-hop fans for its 300 C, which features lots of flash.

In many ways, the auto industry is just catching up with the rest of corporate America. Hip-hop's brand savvy dates back to the early 1980s, when rap innovator Run-D.M.C. started rhyming about Adidas shoes. Coca-Cola Co.'s Sprite used rap pioneer Kurtis Blow in ads in 1986. Recently, the company has tapped Ja Rule and Nelly to sell soda. "Hip-hop is an important part of Sprite's character and personality, says Susan McDermott, a company spokeswoman. "Twenty years ago, people were questioning if rap was a phase. Now it's the leader in terms of influencing culture today." Thus far, no car has benefited from hip-hop culture like the Escalade SUV. That's probably partly because Cadillac has long been a coveted brand among blacks. (Last month, on MTV's new "Pimp My Ride," in which dilapidated cars are updated at a custom body shop, show-host Xzibit referred to Cadillacs as "the king of cars.") But recently, at the urging of top General Motors Corp. executives, Cadillac has consciously heightened the Escalade's "bling" to further mine the luxury truck's hip-hop success, producing 5,000 units of the Cadillac ESV Platinum Edition Escalade, which boasts 20-inch wheels and two flip-down DVD screens.

GM has also raised its visibility at events that attract high-profile black celebrities. Amid the hoopla at the National Basketball Association's All-Star Weekend in February, GM sponsored a King of the Bling contest in which participants showcased their Escalades and Hummers.

For the Chrysler 300 C, making a connection to younger, urban consumers is critical. Its price will range from $23,595 for a V-6 model to $32,995 for a V-8 Hemi model, and the car is key to Chrysler's plan to rebuild profitability after two difficult years. Like its rivals, Chrysler needs to have its cars taken more seriously in the marketplace so that it can sell them without resorting to heavy discounting.

The 300 C was designed from the start to attract attention. In many ways, it reflects the influence of DaimlerChryslerAG's Mercedes-Benz, especially in its solid stance and the first use of rear-wheel drive in a Chrysler sedan in close to 20 years. But the car has a lot more bling than a Benz, with chrome trim on the door handles, cup holders, mirror heads, gear shift, detailing around the temperature controls and the push-push doors for the ash tray. "There's probably more of that in the 300 C than probably anything on the road," says Ralph Gilles, the 33-year-old design executive who led the vehicle's development.

Mr. Gilles says he always expected the car to do well with hip-hop fans, but he adds that "the last thing you want to do is have a big corporation try to act like its part of the scene."

That's exactly why the 50 Cent video is such a coup. Buzz about the video has popped up in Internet chat rooms and spread to 50 Cent Web sites. Alfonzo Smith, a University of Arizona undergraduate and the son of a Chrysler dealer, was watching music videos at his campus apartment before the Christmas break when he first saw the car. He immediately phoned his father. "Dad, you need to see the video," Mr. Smith remembers saying. "Twenty-two-inch wheels. It's a generation talking about [Chrysler] that we've never had before."

Still, top Chrysler marketers say they have to tread carefully. For one thing, 50 Cent is a controversial figure. His lyrics are riddled with profanity and he boasts about his gangsta past, including an incident in which he was shot.

"What we don't want to do -- and this is important -- is to be buying our way in," says Jeff Bell, vice president of marketing at Chrysler and Jeep. "Everything I know about what is cool is that it's got to be natural."

Both Mr. Bell and Mr. Kovacs, the magazine publisher, insist that Chrysler didn't pay anyone for the placement of the 300 C in 50 Cent's video. But Chrysler may become a sponsor of DUB magazine's six-city celebrity car-show tour in the spring and summer, and Mr. Kovacs says DaimlerChrysler, as well as Ford and GM, are buying ads in DUB this summer. (Nissan Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp.'s Scion youth brand began advertising last year.)

Mr. Kovacs has also helped Chrysler get exposure for another new car, the Dodge Magnum, on MTV's "Cribs" series, which features houses and other possessions of hip-hop stars and athletes.

Meanwhile, Chrysler dealers say they are getting a lot of inquiries about the 300 C. Leon Scott, a 29-year-old teacher and musician in Houston, first saw pictures of the 300 C on the Internet, then caught it in the 50 Cent video. He says he's interested in buying the car and was impressed that it made it into a rap video. He also likes its looks, especially when the bigger wheels are added.

"The car looks expensive, but it's not expensive," Mr. Scott says. "You know everybody wants to fake the funk."
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