For Chrysler, New German Campaign Ist Nicht Gut

Ad Age reports that Chrysler’s new campaign featuring “Dr. Z” isn’t helping their sales:

The automaker won’t report July sales until later this week, but independent auto-information site forecasts Chrysler Group’s U.S. sales will slide 17% vs. July 2005. The drop reflects one fewer selling day than last year.
There are other reasons why the employee-discount program, which moved tons of metal last time, isn’t cutting it now. Jesse Toprak, executive director-industry analyst at, said history has shown that incentives don’t work well the second time around. He noted that consumers may have figured out that 0% financing is actually a better deal than employee discounts because of high interest rates on new-vehicle loans. Others fault rising gas prices, which are taking a toll on the entire industry.
But some of the blame must be left at the feet of the bespectacled Dr. Z. Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing Research, said the spots just aren’t what the doctor ordered: Fully 80% of new-car intenders thought he was a fictional character. Instead of luring buyers who intended to buy competitive brands, CNW found the employee-discount ads pulled ahead sales from people who had planned on buying a Chrysler Group product later in the year. And while the German-engineering pitch made more potential buyers consider Chrysler in the Northeast, if failed to sway them in the South and Southern California.

Hey, I got an idea: Bring back Lee Iacocca–and put him in lederhosen. Hey, sales can’t get that much worse, could they?

About Dan Goldgeier

Blogging on AdPulp since 2005, Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. In addition, he is a regular columnist for Dan published the best of his columns in a book entitled View From The Cheap Seats: A Broader Look at Advertising, Marketing, Branding, Global Politics, Office Politics, Sexual Politics, and Getting Drunk During a Job Interview. Look for it on Amazon in paperback and e-book editions.


  1. Interesting news. But I wonder if the drop in sales could be due to the high gas prices? I’d hate to be a car dealership right now. I hate even thinking about driving (I live in the public transit friendly Chicago, but have a car).
    Analyzing results has always been a tricky thing. I’ve spent the last few years working in direct response (between gigs now). As an agency we always banged our heads wondering why our ads weren’t working as well as last year. For example, at our agency one of our big clients (in home refinancing) wasn’t giving us the same results as the previous year. We changed offers, changed scripts, etc. Bottom line is that the housing market changed dramatically from one year to another.
    I’m just playing devil’s advocate, but I always question why something is working or not. And not having ever worked at an Integrated agency I’ve always wondered how you really measure success on a campaign.

  2. Tim,
    I’m guessing the campaign didn’t work because it really sucks. Just a thought.

  3. theo kie says:

    I agree with both Tim and HighJive. You can’t always lay sales at the feet of advertising. Even so…I was completely confused by the whole German spokesman thing – particularly given all the Germanesque stuff on the air for Volkswagon.
    If someone’s buying Chrysler, I’m guessing it’s in part because they want to “buy American”. I saw the Jeep spot and thought, “Jeep is made by Germans?” The name itself came from a sort of well-known war against Germany. Dr. Z simply leaves me scratching my head wondering what the connection could be.

  4. I didn’t say that I think the Chrysler creative was good–I just wanted to bring up the point that many factors determine the success or lack of success of a campaign. Number crunchers will always compare results vs. last year’s results and the numbers don’t always tell the whole story.

  5. I think the decrease of their sales should be viewed as a part of a world negative tendences. It’s not only Chrisler that suffers.

  6. Pat Kappes says:

    From my perspective, “Dr. Z.” is a turn-off, from the word ‘go’. All he conjures up (to me) is the Gestapo, WWII, and the Holocaust. Anything else that Chrisler tried to get across to the public from this (lame) commercial, did not transmit, (to me anyway). (and the crashing scene where Dr. Z. crashes the car into a wall, is….well, what’s a word 100 x worse than lame??, pathetic, bad role model, etc.)
    Mrs. Average American

  7. Well, Pat, I will agree that the campaign is lame. But to say that a person of German background conjures up imagery of the Gestapo and the Holocaust is even more disturbing to me. Hopefully, you don’t represent Mrs. Average American. All the best.

  8. Not this American.
    Though, if you know a German businessman/engineer the Dr. Z thing is not entirely lame. Just probably doesn’t resonate with many, but everynow and then I get what they were aiming at and chuckle.
    I wonder if the creative team that put that together had even considered running with Doctor “Dieter” instead and doing the last name bit like that Steve (what was his last name again) which is recently getting some play here?

  9. Dr. Z. is not German. He was born in Turkey. That is in Europe, but not even close to Germany.

  10. under jeder Abdul ist ein deutscher?
    und -Deutsh sein- das ist schwer?
    Aber Zigeunerschnitzel ist lecker!

  11. What?

  12. Lost in translation: reworking of lyrics from Die Toten Hosen song.
    Now the intersect of the set of people who titter at the Dr. Z spot comedy with the set of people who commit the lyrics of that song to their memory may be quite infinitesimal in that someone may not want to bother with that niche, nook, or cranny.
    Hello? Is there anybody out there?

  13. In other words, I do not know if the person from Turkey working the line in Gaggenau intersects or identifies with the person from Turkey heading the company in Detroit, but it would be in great taste to come together for dinner or even just a moment.

  14. MyGIG: Merely because Zetsch was born in Turkey doesn’t mean that he’s a Turk or that he’s not German. Plenty of Americans are born in Germany, parented by military personnel stationed there, but that does -not- make them ‘Germans.’
    Pat Krappes: I must say, the fact that you make an immediate connection between Dr. Z and the Holocaust in your mind is pretty laughable and quite sad for you.

  15. not sascha again. says:

    Why did someone bring this post up from the past? Could it be that Julie worked at Daimler Chrysler? Could it be that in the time that Julie was fired from WalMart, there were also dismissals and shuffling going on at Daimler Chrysler marketing department again that every body ignored?

  16. In a globalized world nobody looks back in history to use it against progress. So it goes with Japanese and German cars – the former WWII US enemies. Today most car components are manufactured in China, and assembled around: in the USA, Canada, or Mexico. Now only the market car price, style, gasoline price, designs, new appeal in technology, reliability and durability, alternative diesel fuel use and/or natural gas, hybrids, good fuel mileage account for a real success. Indeed the Chrysler cars have to prove their market for themselves not through commercials. These ads may be good for unified Europe but does not appeal within North American market. In Europe the German car technology stands far apart from WW II and Nazi which is not true in the USA. Moreover Germany now is heart of the new unified European Union where each nation has its own image as a brand. Namely German cars technology is a notorious part of this image for Germany. Thus a “good” commercial in Europe using this strong point can prove to be a failure across Atlantic Ocean.