The Fiat 500 is stylish, fun to drive, great on gas and hilariously easy to park. It's one of the best small cars currently on the market. So why is Fiat continually so bad at advertising it to U.S. audiences?
Fiat's latest ad campaign for the Cinquecento is, like its many predecessors, terrible. In fact, it may be the worst one yet. Since tired celebrity endorsements, an eye roll-inducing parody of the American Revolution and a poorly thought-out Gozdilla tie-in didn't do the trick, Fiat has decided ditch the gimmicks and simply show off the 500's unique features in a way that is funny, compelling and memorable.
No wait, I'm sorry. That's what they didn't do.
Instead they went with .GIFs, twerking, horse masks and Internet memes, everything their ad agency must think "The Millennials" are into these days.
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Take a look at the new campaign, "Endless Fun," and see what I mean.
Pretty bad, huh? You may want to sit down, because they get worse.
Tell me, do YOU want to go out and buy a Fiat 500 after you watch those? Of course you don't, because now you have a migraine and you need to lie down a while.
Olivier Francois, Chrysler's chief marketing officer and head of Fiat, commissioned some .GIFs for the brand's Tumblr page but liked them so much he had them made into TV spots, according to Adweek. He explained himself thusly:
The 'Endless Fun' campaign is one that only Fiat could do. This is how marketing and pop culture meet. Airing these GIFs as commercials, while a bit irreverent and unexpected, captures the uniqueness of the Fiat brand and the power social media plays upon it."
Buzzwords! buzzwords! .GIFs! Social media! They threw all the Internet Things at the wall here, so why didn't it work?
The problem is that .GIFs and memes are only funny when they spring up organically on online communities like Reddit and forums and commenter-heavy sites like Jalopnik, not when an ad agency for a multinational conglomerate sits down and deliberately tries to come up with them for a new campaign.
This is the advertising equivalent of when your parents try to bump and grind at your high school dance. It's mortifying.
I also think it speaks to a larger issue as well: the fact that just because something works in the online sphere doesn't necessarily mean it works in legacy mediums like broadcast television. But that's beside the point.
The point is that Fiat keeps lobbing misfire after misfire when it comes to U.S. ad campaigns for the 500. It all started with the universally-panned Jennifer Lopez ads when the car launched in 2011, continued with those "The Italians are Coming" and Charlie Sheen groaners, and kept the streak going strong with the recent Godzilla ads for the 500L. That last one was a real head-scratcher.
Okay, sure, everyone liked those Catrinel Menghia ads for the 500 Abarth, but that woman could sell ice to eskimos. That stands as probably the one truly great ad campaign Fiat has managed to pull off.
I don't really know why Fiat keeps making these duds when they have such a great little car. I'm not sure they understand the American market, or feel like the car's strengths — its size, its cuteness, its European-ness — are liabilities that need to be covered up in favor of cheap gimmicks.
I wouldn't have any issue with Fiat's new campaign if it was clever, original or funny, but it's none of these things. Heck, even J. Lo is better than the insane music and the horse masks. Does anyone still have her contact info?