The Buick Encore is no dinosaur -- it's only a couple months old -- but General Motors is launching a major advertising campaign for the subcompact crossover with a nod to the Jurassic Period.
GM showed its first Encore commercial, one of the company's most important product introductions in 2013, which will get plenty of air time in the coming month.
The ad features the small crossover vehicle dodging a stegosaurus and navigating through the legs of a brontosaurus in an urban environment. Buick will give it frequent exposure throughout the NCAA Tournament for men's basketball, which Buick is sponsoring again. It will debut Sunday on ESPN's "30 for 30" program and launch broadly during the tournament games on CBS, TNT, TBS and TruTV.
GM is betting that March Madness will give Encore the boost it needs to increase awareness for a vehicle type that is new to Buick.
"This idea of maneuverability, the idea of having all the luxury amenities in a right-size package is really the theme," said Tony DiSalle, vice president of U.S. marketing for Buick and GMC.
Ad agency Leo Burnett made the commercial with computer imaging by Berkeley, Calif.-based Tippett Studio, which created the velociraptors and Tyrannosaurus-rex for the 1993 film, "Jurassic Park."
The Encore reflects GM's latest effort to attract younger buyers to Buick, which was once known in the 1950s and '60s as the "doctor's car," DiSalle said. The company sold 1,571 Encores in February, its first full month of sales, with dealers taking an average of 12 days to sell each vehicle.
With the help of the late-2011 introduction of the Buick Verano compact sedan, the average age of Buick buyers is now 57, down from 64 several years ago.
The Encore, which starts at $24,950, has a base 1.4-liter, 4-cylinder engine with estimated combined fuel economy of 28 m.p.g.
DiSalle said GM has identified two groups of consumers for the Encore: young professional couples, perhaps with a young child, and baby boomers who have recently become empty-nesters.
"These are two distinct, yet very common groups when it comes to need," DiSalle said. "They're looking to right-size."
Edmunds.com analyst Michelle Krebs said the Encore is entering a segment with little competition, but one that is drawing interest from the German automakers.
"I think the Encore is going to appeal to empty-nest women -- especially those in urban areas," Krebs said. "They got used to driving SUVs, they want to be up a little bit, but they want something small and maneuverable."
Buick's March Madness campaign marks the third straight year the brand has tied its marketing hopes to the basketball tournament. This year, the brand is also spending heavily on digital marketing, sponsored games for fans at the Final Four and a philanthropic initiative called Buick Human Highlights Reel.
GM's deal includes TV ads on all the March Madness networks and various in-game sponsorships.
DiSalle declined to say how much the company is spending on the ad push.
Here's a YouTube video of the Encore in action:
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