Dodge turns the clock back on 'Talladega Nights' in latest ad

The Fiat Chrysler brand, which has long used movie tie-ins, turns back the clock to tout its J.D. Power ranking during a time when few new blockbuster films are out

Published On
Oct 05, 2020

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Dodge goes with movies as much as it does with drag racing. The Fiat Chrysler brand has long used blockbuster tie-ins in its marketing, from the “Fast & Furious” franchise to “Anchorman II.” But as the coronavirus has put a damper on new film releases, the brand is going back in time for its newest campaign, channeling the 14-year-old “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.” 

A new spot from GSD&M recalls the 2006 movie with a scene in which Gary Cole plays a younger Reese Bobby chasing after his 10-year-old son Ricky Bobby, who was played by Will Ferrell in the original Nascar spoof movie. Ferrell does not appear in the ad, nor does John C. Reilly, who played Cal Naughton Jr. (A man who looks like Reilly makes a cameo, but it’s not him, according to a brand representative.)

Instead, younger actors portray the two characters as kids in the year 1981. The ads steal memorable lines from the flick, such as “wake up in the morning and piss excellence,” and “if you ain’t first, you’re last.” The latter line is used to plug Dodge’s No. 1 ranking in a pair of new reports from J.D. Power, including Dodge’s first place in the product review service’s annual ranking of new-vehicle quality.

Fiat Chrysler Chief Marketing Olivier François has a history of striking deals with movie studios that simultaneously plug their blockbusters and automaker’s brands. Dodge has long used the “Fast & Furious” franchise in its marketing. In 2013 Dodge was part of a tie-in for the Ferrell flick “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” that included dozens of pieces of content.

The “Talladega” reprise comes as new movie-tie ins remain limited, with the pandemic forcing the delay of several blockbuster releases including the latest “Fast & Furious” movie, “F9.”  

Asked if the lack of Hollywood options played a role in Dodge’s choice to use Sony Pictures' “Talladega,” François says, “It’s a good moment to develop some win-win synergies with the studios so we can help them, they can help us.” He adds: “It’s more of a consequence of a lack of movie inventory and the whole situation, than really part of the strategy.” 

The automaker declined to release financial terms of the partnership with Sony. There is one new element in the ad, albeit from an aging rock band: The soundtrack is “Shot in the Dark,” the first release from AC/DC in six years.

The ad, which will be distributed mostly on digital media, could serve to spark new demand in the film—which is still available on-demand—while giving Dodge a pop-culture connection that brand execs say are a good fit for a brand known for not taking itself too seriously. “We are kind of the People magazine of brands—we like to have fun,” Tim Kuniskis, who oversees Dodge as Fiat Chrysler’s head of passenger cars, told reporters Friday during a presentation with Francois about the new campaign. 

At first, Dodge marketers struggled with how to tout its first-place ranking in the J.D. Power Initial Quality Study, which was released in June. Dodge tied for first with Kia and became the first domestic brand to take the spot in the award’s history.

This is “a big deal—we need to be serious, mature, respectful,” Kuniskis said, recalling the brand’s original thought process. But instead of hiring a serious actor “that everyone of you would call us out for and say that guy would not drive a Dodge,” the brand opted to stick to its roots and “pull out our tuxedo t-shirts and celebrate this award in a way that our brotherhood would appreciate.”