In an approach that proved typical of the scaled-back ambitions and execution of Super Bowl advertising overall, Fiat Chrysler surprised few and overwhelmed even fewer with two Super Bowl ads about Jeep that—per its practice under CMO Olivier Francois—it didn’t reveal until the second half of the Big Game broadcast on Sunday.
Both 60-second spots paid homage in various ways to the Jeep brand that is celebrating it 75th anniversary this year—and the marque that increasingly is fueling Fiat Chrysler’s continued expansion of North American sales. Jeep’s US sales increased by 15 percent last month, the brand’s best January sales ever and its 28th consecutive month of year-over-year sales gains.
Jeep is carrying Fiat Chrysler’s banner in three ways: as its most important participant in the burgeoning US utility-vehicle market, as its most distinctive brand in any segment and as the hauler for its ambitious expansion plans abroad.
Over the past five years, Super Bowl viewers had gotten used to Fiat Chrysler stealing the stage in some way or another, either with a big surprise, such as the two-minute classic “Born Of Fire” ad starring Eminem during the 2011 Super Bowl, or with a grand statement, such as “The Farmer” three years ago that used a Paul Harvey speech to pay homage to American agriculturalists—as well as Ram trucks.
This year, the two ads seemed to represent notably dialed-back ambitions, at least in terms of making a statement that would reverberate beyond Super Bowl Sunday.
The two Jeep ads had a similar pastiche feel though significantly different creative. The first, “Portraits,” was an acknowledgement, as Fiat Chrysler put it, “to the many people, faces and moments that have shaped the history of the brand,” including World War II soldiers who relied on their Jeeps, trailblazers and “boundary-breaking mavericks” who have favored it, and pop-culture moments for Jeep involving celebrities such as Aretha Franklin and Marilyn Monroe as well as Hollywood uses in films including Jurassic Park and The Terminator.
In the second ad, “4x4ever,” Fiat Chrysler commissioned Sony Music artist Morgan Dorr to come up with a paean to four-wheel-drive activities and dreams that are fueled by Jeep, emphasizing Jeep’s off-road heritage.
“Each time we do [Super Bowl ads] in an unexpected way,” Francois told brandchannel recently. “But we don’t just tell a product story or a launch story. We use our lens or filter to put current products in the best possible light and create engagement. So it’s not just a matter of whether it’s a worthy product but whether it’s a worthy story.”