January 26, 2007

Pitzer Student Wins Jeep in Ad Contest

By Will Bigham, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Calif.

Jan. 26--CLAREMONT -- In the opening shot of Pitzer College student Zach Miller's prize-winning Jeep Compass ad, an unpictured object travels across rugged hillside terrain, kicking up clouds of dust in its wake.

In the next shot, the source of the dust is revealed: "The New Jeep Compass" flashes across the screen.

But as the vehicle comes into view, with heavy-metal background music kicking in, four college-age outdoorsmen fill the frame, holding at their side an 8x4-foot cardboard cutout of the sport utility vehicle.

With menacing scowls on the students' faces, the "Jeep" scales hillsides, shows off its four-wheel drive, and in the end successfully traverses the harsh landscape.

The minute-long ad, a send-up of a typical truck or SUV ad, Miller says, was favored overwhelmingly by online voters and named the winner of Jeep's Free Your Thoughts contest.

Miller's video crushed the competition with 1,856 votes -- the runner-up received only 403 votes.

"When people think of a Jeep, what do they think of? They think of a car going through the wilderness," he said. "And I sort of wanted to take your typical car commercial and sort of make fun of it in a way, but also embrace it in a different way."

Learning of the contest only three weeks before the submission deadline, Miller quickly assembled a cast and crew and filmed the video over two days in the hills of Trabuco Canyon.

Miller, a 20-year-old sophomore who doesn't own a car, was awarded a 2007 Jeep Compass, valued at $25,000, as the top prize.

The media studies major plans to sell the car to pay his cast and crew, and hopes to use the remaining money to fund his next project, and possibly buy a used car. "Maybe something with a little better fuel economy," he quipped.

Jeep is one of several companies that are now attempting to harness the skills of their customers to help promote their products through user-created advertisements.

"We were trying to get some buzz and interest in this new vehicle, and it's targeted at a different audience than we usually target for Jeep," Jeep spokesman James Kenyon said. "This is a vehicle for younger people, more urban, and this was a good way, we thought, to reach a younger demographic."

Miller's winning video can be viewed at www.freeyourthoughts.com.


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