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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles tonight dedicated two 60-second Super Bowl ads to its surging Jeep brand. The ads kick off a yearlong campaign celebrating the vehicle's 75th anniversary, which is poised to get significant marketing support.
The ads mark the debut effort for two agencies the automaker has not previously used: Omnicom Group's DDB Chicago handled one ad called "4x4ever," (below), while Cheil Worldwide's Iris New York worked on an ad called "Portraits" (above).
The two ads make referernces to Jeep's anniversary, but each spot strikes a different tone.
"Portraits," which aired during the halftime show, looks backwards, weaving in references to Jeep's 1941 roots as a military vehicle created for Allied soldiers in World War II. The spot uses 60 images from around the world, including photos of famous people who have links to Jeep, such as Marilyn Monroe, Jeff Goldblum and BB King, according to FCA. Also shown are pop culture moments linked to Jeep, including movies like "The Terminator." Ms. Monroe -- who also starred posthumously in a Snickers Super Bowl ad this year -- is connected to Jeep via a honeymoon trip she took to Korea with Joe DiMaggio in the wake of the Korean War. The couple rode in a Jeep, according to FCA. Mr. Goldblum -- who also starred in a Super Bowl ad for Apartments.com -- rode in a Jeep in "Jurassic Park."
"It's a global community formed in 1941 that has made the Jeep brand what it is today -- from the brave soldiers of World War II, to boundary breaking mavericks of the past and the trailblazers of the present -- every person has an incredible story to tell about how the Jeep has enabled them to see, feel and do," FCA said in a statement describing the spot.
The "4x4ever" ad, which ran in the fourth quarter, is more contemporary and set to original lyrics and a music score created specifically for the spot and sung by Morgan Dorr. The ad "celebrates the formidable story of capability that has transcended time and designs, and reimagines the idea of 4x4 to mean living a life that is without boundaries," the automaker stated.
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Jeep's anniversary year comes at an opportune time for FCA, as sales of trucks and SUV's continue to propel the auto industry, thanks in part to low gas prices. Jeep brand sales were up 15% in January, which offset declines in FCA's Chrysler and Fiat brands, enabling the automaker to post a 6.9% total sales increase, Automotive News reported last week.
So it was not a surprise that FCA-Global Chief Marketing Officer Olivier Francois and his team chose to dedicate its Super Bowl buy to Jeep in its anniversary year. "We are going to be more prolific than ever in 2016 with the Jeep creative," Mr. Francois told Ad Age in early January.
He has been less clear about which agencies would benefit from the new investment.
FCA recently handed Jeep work to Interpublic's FCB Chicago, which also was awarded Fiat work, Ad Age reported in early January. That, however, was no guarantee that FCB would create every high-profile ad, like those for the Super Bowl. People familiar with the company's process said it often has agencies, even lead agencies on a brand, pitch against one another for high-profile work. Translation was also awarded work, although the scope is unclear.
DDB Chicago earlier in the year was given work for the Alfa Romeo brand, but more recently was awarded the Super Bowl spot. The Super Bowl assignment is a coup for the agency, which has never before worked for the automaker. The same holds true for Iris. Cheil has had a majority ownership stake in the agency since January 2015.
But the Super Bowl ads do not guarantee that DDB and Chiel will land future Jeep work. That is because Mr. Francois prefers to move assignments around to various shops and opposes the use of agencies of record. "Clearly, I think the worst answer would be one agency fits all. That doesn't work," he said in the January interview.
Creatively, Mr. Francois is associated with sweeping and convention-breaking Super Bowl ads like 2011's "Imported from Detroit" starring Eminem and 2012's "Halftime in America" spot with Clint Eastwood.
He is also known for keeping his Super Bowl strategy close to the vest. While many CMOs with Super Bowl ads gave multiple interviews last week, Mr. Francois laid low. And FCA, as usual, did not release any of its ads early. Teasers were out of the question and the company did not even confirm its ad buy until late last week. That left viewers and ad critics waiting until game day to judge whether FCA's latest work met the high bar set by its previous Super Bowl ads. The verdicts, undoubtedly, will soon roll in.