After an early downturn in sales, it appeared that Fiat might be distancing its 500 from the Jennifer Lopez-dominated image that hasn’t been panning out so well. With the debut of the 500 Abarth at the LA Auto Show, the ad shown above kept the sex-factor high, but focused far more on the male market. Perhaps sensing a shift in direction, Bloomberg asked Fiat/Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne last week if the brand’s boss Laura Soave would be keeping her job despite the weak sales. Still undecided, Marchionne replied in the affirmative
For the time being.
That was last Wednesday. Over the weekend, something seems to have changed…
Last night, Ms Lopez beat back the perception that Fiat was trying to move on with its marketing, by featuring a Cinquecento Cabrio in her American Music Awards performance. We’ll let the performance speak for itself, but suffice it to say that Ms Lopez broke new ground in the commercialization of the AMAs, garnering considerable attention for both herself and Fiat… and it wasn’t all positive either. Criticism began when several music stars took to Twitter to call the product placement “shameless” among other things. Questlove of The Roots provided what may have been the most widespread reaction, tweeting
Yo. I know I didn’t just see that dumb Fiat. I KNOW I didn’t just see that friggin’ Fiat.
And of course the media piled on, saying the performance “destroyed whatever credibility she had left,” a “scene [that] could have been taken from the Detroit auto show,” “the most cringe-inducing, embarrassing performance of the night,” a “miscalculation,” and “a car ad crossed with a striptease.” Considering that Lopez’s 500 ads have already been fairly widely ridiculed, it’s safe to say that this was almost certainly the culmination of the Fiat/JLo collaboration.
And even if JLo isn’t booted from the Fiat 500 marketing effort, there will be changes. Bloomberg reports that
Chrysler Group LLC’s head of the Fiat brand in North America, Laura Soave, is leaving the company and being replaced by Tim Kuniskis, a marketing executive, a person familiar with the situation said.
Jalopnik reckons the firing has something to do with
unsubstantiated rumors for a couple months now from sources knowledgeable of internal Chrysler politics that she was being investigated for a possible improper relationship with Michael D’Antonio, the CEO of former Fiat ad agency Impatto Custom Marketing.
More likely: Fiat is abandoning the disastrous JLo-theme marketing, and initiating a clean reboot of Fiat’s entire ad and brand strategies. In any case, it’s certainly tough to argue that Soave has had any real success thus far. Now the question is: can Fiat take another shot at the market? Will the market give it another shot? Or will the 500 be forever associated with JLo and this abortive relaunch marketing effort?