Will Ferrell was given creative control over the spots, overseeing the writing and directing the filming. (AP)
Chrysler Group LLC is breaking new ground with its latest advertising campaign, a co-promotion deal with Paramount Pictures starring comedian Will Ferrell as America’s favorite anchorman, Ron Burgundy.
The ads for the new 2014 Dodge Durango are also designed to tease the upcoming release of “Anchorman 2.” Ferrell was given complete creative control over the often-edgy spots, selecting his own crew, overseeing the writing and directing the filming.
Olivier François, Chrysler’s chief marketing officer, said he had hoped to get about half a dozen usable spots from Ferrell. Instead, he got 70. Not all of them were suitable for family television. Some were too racy even for the Dodge website. But all of them will be released somewhere.
François acknowledged that this novel approach “is a total gamble,” but it is one he hopes will pay off big for Dodge.
“Ron Burgundy is like Dodge. He’s an American icon. He has attitude. He’s unapologetic, irreverent and — without a doubt — different,” François said, adding that his challenge was finding a way to market the latest version of an already-well-established sport utility vehicle. “People think they know the car already, so you have to be twice as engaging.”
The aim was to explain the vehicle’s advanced technology “through the eyes of a guy who comes from the ’70s.” In other words, someone used to paying 43 cents a gallon for gas and using a road atlas to cross town.
“It’s not an endorsement deal. It’s not a placement deal. It’s just tailored around the movie and the car,” François said, adding that the deal required the Chrysler and Paramount attorneys to plow new legal ground. “It’s unexpected. It’s totally unique. It’s a total win-win. It’s a real partnership based on everything but money.”
Advertising experts are applauding Chrysler’s risky move and say the ads may mark the beginning of a new direction in marketing.
“I love them. I think they’re great. I think they cut through the clutter. I think they’ll sell product,” said Robert Kolt, who teaches advertising at Michigan State University.
Kolt, who organizes an annual review of Super Bowl advertising, says the only real danger with such creative advertising is “that the art gets in front of the product.”
Dodge chief Tim Kuniskis said it is a risk the company is willing to take.
“That’s exactly what we want. We want to grab people’s attention and get them to notice this ad first,” he said, adding that Dodge hopes the television ads will drive people to YouTube to see more, which will drive people to the company’s website, which will allow them to learn more about not just the Durango, but all Dodge products.
The first spots aired over the weekend. Kuniskis said they had generated more than half a million hits by lunchtime Monday.