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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The World's Worst Weatherman...

All-wheel drive is to North End Subaru's brand identity what cheesecake is to Junior's. And that has a lot to do with why the brand has been so strong, traditionally, in snow states. But in recent years, Subaru has made inroads in other regions as it has focused as much on cars on the Legacy platform as on its core Forester and Outback crossovers for which the brand has been known.

Now the Cherry Hill, N.J. automaker is making its symmetrical all-wheel drive underpinnings central to a humorous new campaign that makes light of nature's vicissitudes, or at least the TV weather announcers who bring us the predictions.

The campaign, "The World's Worst Weatherman," has the central idea that you can't count on predictions, but at least you'll be able to get around if you have a Subaru. Via AOR Minneapolis-based Carmichael Lynch, it includes TV, the home page at, Facebook, mobile applications and YouTube.

The ads feature a borderline incompetent weatherman, reminiscent of the Ted Baxter character on "The Mary Tyler Moore" show of the '70s -- who can't even get his geography correct, much less talk turkey about weather. In one spot, he starts to talk about weather in Washington, "our nation's capital," except he's pointing to the state. He mispronounces Boise but is obviously proud that he knows the city is in Idaho. In another video, he has absolutely no idea what the temperature numbers mean on the weather map, and the newscasters roll their eyes.

There are also Subaru-produced videos at that position Subaru against Toyota, Ford, Nissan and Honda for harsh-weather handling. The site also has games: "Conversation Starters," offering opening lines having to do with other things than the weather; "Time Wasted," a calculator for how much time you spend worrying about the weather; and "Weather Odds" that works out the probability of a person encountering inclement weather in their current location.

Alan Bethke, director of marketing at Subaru, says the campaign has a role in expanding the brand beyond the snowbelt, which has been Subaru's traditional stronghold.

"It's about getting people to understand what the Symmetrical AWD System can do for them, regardless of where they live -- not just in snow and ice. It's good for any road condition. Even for a dry road, it enhances the way the vehicle handles." He says that the brand, which has had three record sales years, recession notwithstanding, has also seen its share grow in the southern states.

Melissa Schoenke, account director at Carmichael Lynch, says the campaign includes five national TV ads that are also available for dealers. "There are also ads more appropriate to certain parts of the country," she says, adding that the creative will reflect the season. "Right now there's an emphasis on rain." Rather than a one- or two-month effort, the campaign will be extended and reflect the changing seasons, per Bethke. "We see it as something long-term; with fall and winter coming into play we see it as something with a long shelf life."

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