Fiat Chrysler uses humor, grandeur in Super Bowl ads

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

An amorous but unlucky Italian in need of a "little blue pill," horsepower-loving centenarians and a trip around the globe were all part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' three Super Bowl ads Sunday night.

Instead of any major celebrity appearances, as it has in at least one Super Bowl commercial for the last four years, the automaker used humor and grandeur for 3 1/2 minutes of commercials for the Fiat 500X, Dodge brand and 2015 Jeep Renegade.

"FCA US always strives to do something different, something unexpected yet with a purpose, for the largest television audience of the year and this year's Super Bowl videos are no exception," said Fiat Chrysler Chief Marketing Officer Olivier Francois in a statement.

Fiat Chrysler was among six automakers to advertise in national spots -- some bought regional time -- during this year's Super Bowl. Others included BMW AG, Daimler AG (Mercedes-Benz), Kia Motors Corp., Nissan Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. (Lexus and Toyota). Toyota tugged at the heart strings with a sentimental Camry ad celebrating fatherhood.

The finale for Fiat Chrysler was a scenic, 90-second spot for the Renegade -- the automaker Chrysler is attempting to make Jeep a significant international brand -- that took viewers on a world-wide journey through lyrics of "This Land Is Your Land" by Marc Scibilia — spanning the globe to locations across the U.S., Italy, Brazil, China, Spain, United Kingdom, Japan, Australia, Thailand and United Arab Emirates.

The "Beautiful Lands" ad aired during the third quarter. It featured everything from palm trees and skateboarders to deserts, elephants and kangaroos. It was filmed in more than 10 countries, and 40-plus locations over approximately 73,777 miles traveled during its 19 days of combined production. FCA had kept it under wraps until the game.

The two other 60-second ads were called "Wisdom" and "The Fiat 500X Blue Pill." Both were versions of previously aired videos that premiered during vehicle unveilings at auto shows in the past year.

"Wisdom" starred 11 centenarians thoughtfully giving advice for living life to the fullest before sinister laughter and burning rubber in a 2015 Dodge Challenger.

The slightly racy Fiat ad took viewers on the journey of a performance-enhancing blue pill that was accidently thrown out of a window. It eventually lands in a tiny Fiat 500 that transforms into the brand's new 500X crossover, which goes on sale in the U.S. in the second quarter of this year.

The ads marked four years since Chrysler Group, now named FCA US, aired its critically acclaimed 2011 "Born of Fire" commercial featuring Eminem for the Chrysler 200.

Since the two-minute ad featuring the Detroit rapper, the company has annually had a major presence at the Super Bowl with unique, long-form ads that don't necessarily focus on the vehicles themselves. Many have featured A-list celebrities who aren't usually associated with advertising, including Clint Eastwood, Oprah Winfrey, Bob Dylan and the voice of the late, legendary broadcaster Paul Harvey.

BMW returned to the Super Bowl after a four-year hiatus with former "Today" show hosts Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel driving in a "Newfangled Idea" called the i3.

The 60-second ad aired during the first quarter. It juxtaposed a 1994 "Today" show clip showing the confusion of Couric and Gumbel over the question "What is the Internet?" to the pair in 2015 trying to grasp the concept of the BMW i3, an all-electric hatchback from the German automaker.

Although GM didn't advertise during the game, its Chevy brand may have sent many Super Bowl watchers into a near panic with an ad titled "Blackout" that ran immediately before the start of the big game.

The ad showed what looked like a live game feed that went to static and then a blank screen. But it wasn't real. The ad quickly then explained that had the game gone out, viewers could have used their Chevrolet Colorado pickup 4G LTE Wi-Fi access to stream the game. The Chevrolet Colorado was the pre-game sponsor.

Karl Brauer, senior analyst for Kelley Blue Book's, gave the pre-game kudos to Chevy for its Colorado ad. "Creative commercials are always powerful, as is having a consistent, recurring message, and Chevrolet used both before the game even started. Bonus points for the simulated TV failure spot that likely had hearts stopping across the country."

"Once the game started the car commercials were pretty forgettable," Brauer said.