©2007 Publications International, Ltd.
Clever marketing helped the Mercury Cougar get off to fast sales upon its 1967 debut.
Mercury's advertising agency at the time, Kenyon & Eckhardt, kicked off the campaign with what would turn out to be its most memorable line: "Mercury Unleashes Cougar . . . Untamed Elegance!"
While Cougar was sometimes compared with Jaguar by the automotive press, the British firm never had a copywriter who scored like the one who wrote those words. They summed up the new ponycar's delightful split personality better than a thousand photographs ever could.
A less memorable 1967 headline made this point: "Mercury believes a man shouldn't have to buy $800 worth of ocean to get the European look. Meet Cougar."
Was this an attack on Jaguar or all upscale imports? Whatever the target, it was spot on. Long before such comparisons became de rigueur, Mercury Cougar promotion took on the Europeans with equal doses of flair and common sense. In fact, this line would work well today -- apart from its chauvinistic tone, that is.
Lincoln-Mercury also knew when to let someone else do the talking. Consider this quote lifted verbatim from a Motor Trend magazine test and used in a 1968 ad: "Driving comfort is so groovy, owners might just want to move 15 or 20 miles farther from work just for the pleasure of the ride back and forth each day. Would you believe five?"
Granted, it's a little ragged around the philosophical edges and very dated in its "slanguage," but it suggested that even the most objective observers recognized Cougar's place in the automotive jungle.
By 1970, the message was muscle: "New Cougar Eliminator. Spoilers hold it down. Nothing holds it back." Clear and simple, no? Just what the monster-car boys wanted to hear down at Joe's Bar and Grill.
The name Eliminator was a masterstroke all by itself. It related to drag racing, of course, but what better choice for this combination muscle/ponycar -- or psyching out the driver in the adjoining lane at a stoplight?
Events quickly rendered such machismo chest-beating passé, and it wasn't long before the thrust of Cougar advertising switched from hot-blooded horsepower to personal plush, thus coming almost full circle.
Consider this brag from 1972: "Mercury Cougar XR-7. No other car in its class can match our standards." This is clever stuff. Without even defining what that "class" was, the ad implied Cougar was at the head of it by that clever play on the word "standards" -- as in measures of excellence, as in no-cost amenities.
Sporting motorists may not have bought this reasoning, but it made perfect sense -- or at least the agency thought so -- to luxury-car buyers looking for something just half a crank toward the sporty side of the road.
Words of praise by the thousands, and perhaps millions, have been heaped on Jordan and Volkswagen advertising, clearly the most memorable automotive promotions ever conceived. There have been few campaigns that even came close to matching their romance and effectiveness, but Cougar's was one. If you don't believe it, just drop by "the sign of the cat."
Check out the specifications of the Mercury Cougar on the next page.
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