No. 1001
June 19, 2019

About The UjianNasional

Peter M. DeLorenzo has been immersed in all things automotive since childhood. Privileged to be an up-close-and-personal witness to the glory days of the U.S. auto industry, DeLorenzo combines that historical legacy with his own 22-year career in automotive marketing and advertising to bring unmatched industry perspectives to the Internet with, which was founded on June 1, 1999. DeLorenzo is known for his incendiary commentaries and laser-accurate analysis of the automobile business, as well as racing and the business of motorsports. Author. Commentator. Influencer. The Consigliere. Minister of the High-Octane Truth. DeLorenzo is considered to be one of the most influential voices commenting on the business today.

DeLorenzo's latest book is Witch Hunt (Octane Press  ). It is available on Amazon in both hardcover and Kindle formats, as well as on iBookstore. DeLorenzo is also the author of The United States of Toyota.

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By Peter M. DeLorenzo

Detroit. As longtime readers of this website know, I have the utmost respect for those toiling in the advertising business. Having worked in the business myself for more than 22 years, it is one of the toughest and at times one of the most enjoyable pursuits a person can engage in. Not that the ad biz is a touchy-feely stroll through Lollipop Land, by any means. The ugly reality is that it is also a constant battle fraught with clashing egos, blatant ineptitude and pitiful political theater that plays out in excruciating fits and starts. And this is only magnified in automotive advertising, where serial incompetence - usually on the client side - plays a prominent role.

After saying that, I reserve particular ire for those in the advertising pursuit who squander opportunities by letting unbridled hubris get in the way of creating advertising worthy of its biggest stage. What FCA unleashed on the Super Bowl in four out of five spots (more on the one that mattered later) was simply unmitigated crap brought to you by the self-appointed smartest guy in the room, none other than Olivier “I’m a genius, just ask me” Francois, Sergio Marchionne’s handpicked Guy Friday of Marketing. 

Now to be fair, Francois has been responsible for some terrific spots over his tenure, my favorite being “” from a couple of years ago, which used the stirring words and voice-over of the late Paul Harvey to great effect in a Ram truck spot. “Farmer” was an example of what great advertising in its most glorious form can be: Powerful, stirring and memorable. But what Francois unleashed on this year’s Super Bowl wasn’t even close to that, in fact, Francois demonstrated unequivocally that his time in the marketing arena has come to a much-needed close, as FCA proceeded to stink up the joint with spots that either were grossly ineffective, pegged my personal advertising Wince Meter, or both.

Starting with a spot for Ram trucks called “," which used words from Martin Luther King Jr., Francois went to the well one more time in search of this year’s “Farmer.” Except it backfired, horribly. Why? FCA’s agency cherry-picked Dr. King’s own words from a sermon that he delivered 50 years ago at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, which was, remarkably enough, a diatribe against rampant consumerism, particularly mentioning overspending on cars. He even went so far as to chastise those who “are so often taken by advertisers.” Uh, WTF? Francois offered up a lame excuse that he had the complete approval from the Martin Luther King Jr. estate, but that is no excuse. The outcry and outrage on social media was deservedly swift and unrelenting. This was a complete disaster of a spot, one that upon closer inspection was shockingly cynical and blatantly offensive.

Then there was “” for the Jeep Cherokee, which FCA said in a release. “… quietly draws an interesting parallel between roads and the idea of operating within someone else’s expectations.” Except that the highfalutin words in the release attempted to make more of the spot than was actually there. In fact, there was no “there” there.

Another spot, “” actually used borrowed interest - and Jeff Goldblum - from Jurassic World to sell Wrangler, and it was instantly forgettable. By the time I saw this spot, a slow smoldering rage was beginning to build, because FCA had simply blown untold millions on a disastrous marketing effort on the Super Bowl, and it was embarrassing.

But nothing prepared me for the out-and-out disaster that was “” for the new Ram truck which, more than any other spot, spoke to Olivier Francois’s unbridled hubris and woefully flawed thinking. The release from FCA was telling, in that it said the 60-second spot was filmed in Iceland “to ensure authenticity, given the country’s natural and heroic scenery, which was complimented by its low light and frigid look.” Really? What they should have said is that “the agency came up with an idea that would burn an atrocious amount of cash and give everyone a free trip to Iceland” because that would have been closer to the truth. Tell me what the net takeaway of this spot was supposed to be again? Anyone? Bueller? It wasn’t clever in the least and it wasn’t heroic by any stretch of the imagination. Instead, it was an overblown, overhyped, self-indulgent mess; and an egregious waste of time and money and a pathetic misuse of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” to boot. This is exactly the type of spot that gives the advertising profession a bad name. Nicely done, you unmitigated hacks.

And finally, there was one spot – out of five – from FCA that was actually worth seeing. The “” spot for the new Wrangler was brilliant in its 30 seconds of simplicity, actually demonstrating the romance of capability in an immediate, powerful way. 

Directed by Jeff Zwart (RadicalMedia) for Arnold Worldwide, the voice-over was spare and to the point: “How many car ads have you seen with grandiose speeches over the years … making claims to some overarching human truth? Companies call them ‘manifestos’. There’s your manifesto.”

It’s funny, but those words slam Olivier Francois right between the eyes. Spots with grandiose speeches making claims to some overarching truths? Those are exactly the kinds of spots that light Olivier Francois’s fire and speak to his massive ego, only this time the joke is on him. Nicely done, in this case. 

There were other auto spots on the Super Bowl, but they were all instantly forgettable, a mishmash of messages and non-messages that signified nothing. (The Kia spot with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler for the Stinger was a complete waste of time and money, with a USA Today cover wrap, too, in case you missed it. That Kia marketing operatives continue to think they’re going to move the needle with that car is astounding and remains one of the current mysteries of the marketing world.)

Ah well, there is no accounting for taste in the ad biz. When marketing and agency types get it right, it’s pretty damn great; but when it all goes horribly wrong, it’s excruciating and embarrassing. 

Olivier Francois’s considerable ego got in the way this time around. In fact, it blinded him to the point that after spending massive amounts of money on five spots for the Super Bowl, only one was worth the time of day. 

And that’s the High-Octane Truth for this week.