It’s taken about two weeks of being subjected to those horrendous, horrific and heinous ‘Dr. Z’ DaimlerChrysler TV commercials to ‘drive’ me to vent. So, ok, I’ve had it. I surrender, Dr. Z. You win. But, in addition to providing my name, rank and serial number, can I also ask a rhetorical question: ‘has there ever been a more ill-conceived, more poorly executed campaign in advertising history?’
In case you’ve somehow been lucky enough to miss the spots, DaimlerChrysler CEO Deiter Zetsche (aka "Dr. Z") stars as the bold, brash and very Bavarian spokesperson for Chrysler cars. In the initial spot, he’s collared by some sort of pseudo journalist who asks the obviously harried ‘Herr Doktor’ if he has a few minutes to answer some questions. Dr Z grunts an Aryan grunt, hurls the reporter into a Chrysler and proceeds to zoom away in a Blitzkrieg-like driving exhibition that ends up with the CEO plowing the car into a wall and derisively asking the trade hack, "Any more questions?" I almost expected Dr. Z to also ask: "Und, may I zee your papers as vell?"
Wow! This Dr. Z. is a character straight out of "Stalag 17," "Casablanca" or "Hogan’s Heroes." He’s brusque, authoritarian, menacing and has a thick German accent. He even looks a little like Colonel Klink. So, why in God’s name, would Chrysler invoke such negative, subliminal emotions?
The campaign is a harebrained attempt to link Chrysler’s questionable quality with that of the primo Daimler car line, Mercedes. Instead, the spots and accompanying web campaign have only helped to muddle both brands. In fact, Chrysler’s sales have slumped badly in the wake of the Dr. Z offensive, diving faster than the legendary German Stuka divebombers of WWII infamy.
So, here’s hoping Dr. Z is relieved of his command forthwith and banished to the Russian front (or wherever it is that unsuccessful auto execs are banished to these days). Chrysler needs to return to its American roots and stop confusing people with mixed messages from a scary, dictatorial-type figure. This campaign would be funny if it wasn’t meant to be serious.