Is Chrysler's "Dr. Z" campaign a flop?

Despite an aggressive employee-discount program and a $225 million advertising effort featuring DaimlerChrysler Chairman Dieter Zetsche ("Dr. Z"), Chrysler sales are expected to be down 17 percent in July compared with last year, according to trade publication Automotive News. There were several major shortcomings that left consumers mostly unmoved by the ads, say Chrysler dealers.

According to CNW Marketing Research, 80 percent of consumers believed Dr. Z was a fictional character, rather than DaimlerChrysler's top executive. They were also not swayed by the "german engineering" argument, say analysts. To make matters worse, most consumers didn't notice the employee-discounting message that accompanied most of the commercials.

One dealer said 70 percent of customers like the TV ads, but only half liked the radio versions. The other half said they had trouble understanding Dr. Zetsche's German accent.