Ford's Mercury brand reportedly hopes to change its image as the car retirees might buy, with new US advertising geared toward the smart woman driver.

According to Reuters, Mercury has introduced four television commercials for its new Montego sedan and Mariner sports utility vehicle under the tagline "New Doors Opened," its biggest brand campaign in at least a decade.

Mercury has struggled to define itself as a brand for decades and in recent years, lost ground to foreign automakers filling in the niche between entry-level and luxury vehicles. Company executives cite 12 attempts to create an encapsulating slogan for its cars over the last 25 years, the report noted.

"Our sweet spot is (women) from 35 to 50 years old," Mercury marketing communications manager Tom Grill told Reuters. "When people say Mercury right now ... it's a slightly older demographic. We're trying to introduce people to Mercury again."

The news agency said a revival will be hard won for Mercury, whose sales dropped 23% last year and 1% to the end of July.

Consumers most often put the Mercury name at the top of a "stodgy" brands list, Art Spinella, president of CNW Marketing Research, told Reuters.

In one of the new ads, a young husband and wife adopt outlandish tactics to get out of the house early in the morning, each vying to claim the wheel of their Mercury Mariner. A second commercial shows a woman dumping her date in the rain after he disparages "women drivers", the report said, adding that the ads play to several versions of a song created for Mercury by Grammy-award winning singer Paula Cole. Mercury works with ad agency Y&R Brands, part of WPP Group.

Reuters said Mercury spent nearly 25% of its campaign budget on online advertising and customer events, a sign of how automakers are shifting a large part of their spending away from television as consumers devote more time to the internet.

Company officials reportedly did not reveal the cost of the campaign.

Mercury has also unveiled its entry-level 2006 Milan sedan, geared toward younger consumers, part of a range of six new vehicles to be introduced over four years, the report said.

Spinella told Reuters consumers polled by CNW on average say they could envision buying a Mercury car at the age of 46, compared with 25 for General Motors' revamped Cadillac brand.

Mercury has done little to distinguish itself from Ford models, he told the news agency. "Their one advantage is that women tend to be really neutral regarding the Mercury brand while most men are very polarised about it," Spinella said. Appealing to women "is probably the best tack to take."