It used to be that you had to be a super athlete to get a bobble head doll made in your image. Play shortstop like Derek Jeter or slam home runs like Barry Bonds and fans will drop at least a sawbuck for your bobble head doll. In Bonds case, his head has gotten so large that he’s almost a human bobble head. But that’s beside the point. These days, all you have to do is become a marketing executive and you can have a disproportionately large likeness of your head bobbing on a doll. Jeep’s new television campaign for the Compass crossover suv features a cadre of bobble head dolls that are supposed to represent cool urbanites who are also close enough to their rugged and earthy side to buy a Jeep. There’s a bearded dude in a leather coat, a blues musician, a dog and a hip woman in bell bottom jeans who happens to look just like former Chrysler marketer Julie Roehm.
OK, it’s not Roehm. But it looks suspiciously like the hip, 30-something marketer who quit her job as Chrysler’s director of brand communications in January for a senior v.p. job at Wal-Mart. Roehm was both well-liked and controversial. She had a hand in the smart and successful Hemi ad campaigns. But she also took a lashing for Dodge’s Lingerie Bowl fiasco a few years ago.
When I saw the doll, I figured Julie might have had a hand in the bobble head campaign on her way out the door. She was known for being at least as good at promoting herself as she was at flogging her brands. But Chrysler says the campaign and the bobble heads were done after she left. Maybe someone at Chrysler or its ad agency, Global Hue, put Julie on the doll as a funny send off or a parting shot. Chrysler Group spokesman Jason Vines conceded that the bobble head is a dead ringer for Roehm, but he said it’s a coincidence.
That’s plausible enough. Jeep wanted to reach out to 20-somethings. So they chose as main characters a young man and woman in hip garb. “Julie” wears hip hugger jeans and sandals and the male lead has a leather jacket and well-manicured beard. In the ads, the dolls bob their heads to the catchy hip-hop tune “Steady Bounce” by KRS1. Using bobble head dolls was a way to make the advertising fun and reach out to youth, who are still way into hip hop these days.
The ad seems to be generating some buzz. Jeep has sold more than 40,000 bobble head dolls on its web site or at dealerships for $10 a pop. Poor Julie Roehm. The doll that looks like her is third in sales among the four dolls. Buddy the dog is tops, having sold 21,000 copies already. For that matter, it seems that Buddy is more popular than the car. Through September, Jeep sold 6,500 Compasses.