If Jennifer Lopez singing, shaking and driving her way through the Bronx in a cute Fiat 500 was too girly, the marketing gurus at Chrysler have come up with a fix: Charlie Sheen.
A commercial for the Fiat Abarth -- the "bad boy" version of the Italian brand, more powerful and less precious than the 500 model -- breaks tonight on network TV. The spot, called "House Arrest," features the charming but somewhat erratic Mr. Sheen racing a black Abarth inside a luxurious mansion. When he screeches to a stop in the lobby, he emerges -- wearing an ankle monitor -- and embraces a sexy young woman. "I love being under house arrest," he says. "What do I get for good behavior?"
The text superimposed on the screen reads: "Not all bad boys are created equal."
Careful watchers of Fiat's marketing campaign will note that the woman, the cappuchino-foam-dripping Catrinel Menghia, last strutted her stuff in the first ad for the Abarth, called "Seduction," created by The Richards Group. The ad ran online in November and was later booked for last month's Super Bowl.
"The Fiat 500 Abarth is the 'small but wicked' personality of the Fiat 500 and this spot captures that attitude and spirit," said Olivier Francois, had of Fiat Brand worldwide and chief marketing officer, Chrysler Group, responding to questions from Ad Age . "Our campaign with Ms. Lopez was very successful and helped to increase the awareness of the brand. Clearly Abarth, at the opposite of the spectrum, gave us a chance to complete the J. Lo campaign with a different kind of messaging."
Mr. Francois said the spots were created by two of Chrysler's agencies, Doner and Richards Group. Automotive News said "House Arrest" had initially been slated for the Super Bowl. The company said today that "House Arrest" had been a Super Bowl contender, but the spot wasn't ready in time for the game.
Tim Kuniskis, who was appointed last year to succeed Fiat Brand Manager Laura Soave in the U.S. market, said the "Seduction" spot was originally not intended for TV. "It was born for the Abarth reveal at the L.A. Auto Show," he said. "We streamed the video live, it grew organically and achieved 1 million hits in less than a week. With all of the positive feedback that we received not only from consumers and dealers, 'Seduction' was the perfect choice for Super Bowl to generate brand awareness." It has received almost 8 million hits in YouTube.
Mr. Kuniskis said Fiat "will also have new commercials in the pipeline that will begin running in the next few weeks for the Fiat 500," and that the company plans to "continue with the advertising strategy that we have set in place for 2012 which includes advertising for both the Fiat 500 and the Fiat 500 Abarth."
Besides the J. Lo fiasco -- which Mr. Francois conceded earlier this year was a miscue -- Fiat has been troubled by a delayed dealer rollout in the States and by a lack of new products. Mr. Francois said that dealers "were looking for us to build a plan that supported their local-markets efforts in terms of marketing and advertising to accelerate awareness. And this is exactly what we are doing."
Unit sales of the Fiat 500 were up 69% to 3,227 units in February compared with the previous month, the company said. The sporty Abarth goes on sale later this year at a base price of $22 ,000.