Chrysler taps comic to tout ‘Dad Brand’ of new minivan

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Fiat Chrysler wants to show that the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan isn’t just for soccer moms, it’s for families.

The automaker this week launched a new ad campaign for the all-new family hauler with actor and comedian Jim Gaffigan with his real-life children and wife. The campaign is called “Dad Brand.”

The goal of the new campaign, according to Fiat Chrysler global Chief Marketing Officer Olivier Francois, is to change the conversation about the new minivan, which follows the company’s reasoning of changing the name from Town & Country to Pacifica.

“The whole story behind our minivan product, ads, everything is how to challenge a paradigm,” Francois told The Detroit News in a phone interview Friday. “An emotional pitch about families or about the fact that we invented the minivan 33 years ago, that was not enough. We had to challenge a paradigm.”

The campaign begins with four 30-second television spots and a handful of online-only variants that feature Gaffigan discussing how the Pacifica helps him enhance his own “Dad Brand.”

Francois said the initial idea wasn’t to have a celebrity, it was to show real-life experiences. Gaffigan just happened to embody both.

“We were looking for a real dad with a real point of view of fatherhood and the challenges of modern-day parenting,” Francois said. “We were not looking for famous, we were looking for the epitome of the American minivan family.”

The first spot, called “Dad Brand,” aired earlier this week with Gaffigan getting four of his children into the minivan, as he uses the vehicle’s hands-free sliding door and talks about its safety features. The kids in the back watch the comedian perform on rear video screens.

“You know who drives one of these all-new Chrysler Pacificas? A considerate and caring father,” Gaffigan says in the ad. “I mean, with all these safety features, it says behind these sea-blue eyes is a nurturer, and that’s great for my dad brand.”

The next three ads are called “Tennis,” “One-on-One Time” and “Yoga.” They will be airing in the coming weeks and months in national broadcasts including prime time, the company said. All of the spots were available on Chrysler’s YouTube page Friday afternoon.

Francois said additional ads will be released later this year with Gaffigan exploring other features of the Pacifica, which features 115 innovations from the minivan it replaces.

“A minivan is very much sold on its features, and I want Jim to explore all of the features one by one,” Francois said, adding a minivan is a “practical buy” rather than an “emotional buy” of something like a sports car. “I am not going to sell it on emotions. I am going to sell it on features, on reliability, on safety, on innovation.”

Tim Kuniskis, Fiat Chrysler-North America head of passenger car brands, said the comedic campaign was made with millennial families in mind to show the “unprecedented” level of functionality of the new minivan and “instantly adding to your ‘dad cred’ with not only your children, but also within your neighborhood.”

Focusing on a father instead of a mother may come as a surprise to some, but senior analyst Michelle Krebs said it’s a good way to expand the customer base.

“It’s a family vehicle and it makes sense to focus on not just the women, but the dads,” she said. “The minivans have gotten such a bad rap with soccer moms, they need to combat that.”

The “Dad Brand” campaign is far different from the one when Chrysler sibling brand Dodge dubbed the 2011 Grand Caravan R/T the “man van.” The goal five years ago was for a target audience (men), while the new campaign aims to appeal to families overall.

The automaker made the campaign in partnership with Southfield-based ad agency Doner Co. It is the first Chrysler campaign after Fiat Chrysler last month announced it was “parting ways” with Portland-based Wieden+Kennedy — a collaboration that spawned several renowned campaigns and Super Bowl ads since 2010.

The 2017 Pacifica is just starting to arrive in dealerships starting at under $30,000. It is built at the automaker’s Windsor Assembly Plant in Ontario.

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