In screening the latest Fiat 500 advertising among the three sections of my marketing course last week, I expected a variety of reactions and responses from the 20-something students, but only one came out loud and clear.
To explain, we were reexamining the idea of spokespeople—those models and celebrities who provided testimonials (have personal experience with the product) vs. endorsements (an association with the product). In either case, all the marketer needs is for the “ruboff” in which consumers want to be/to experience just what the celebrity is/does in the ad.
And then it became a referendum on JLo and realism in advertising.
Specifically, there had been an article in Advertising Age suggesting that the chief marketing officer and head of brand marketing communications for Fiat-Chrysler was defending not just the brand, but the creative decisions that centered around Jennifer Lopez as the endorser.
As explained, no advertising can improve or explain the lack of the “new” Fiat product line or the so-far limited sales for this single vehicle. In fact, Mr. Oliver Francois, though not a fan of using celebrities suggested that, “from time to time you have a magic association. I like to take a celebrity because the celebrity’s story fits with the story.”
But the college crowd disagreed when simply asked what it thought:
“JLo would never be driving that car.”
“C’mon, she’d be in the back of big SUV with a driver and wouldn’t be stopping in her old neighborhood even if she is ‘Jenny from the block.’”
The milllenials speak.
This generation is so marketing-saturated, so marketing-cynical that they can’t envision any advertising or promotion being sincere. They can’t be fooled and they won’t be made fools of. Be prepared to bring down their guard before promoting to them.
What was the purpose of showing this mega-star in this car, much less driving it?
Now whether or not this group was truly targeted to purchase this vehicle I do not know. But given its sticker price (about $15 to 23,000 for the base models) it wouldn’t be a great stretch to assume that this coveted demographic (18 to 34 years old) is in play for the car manufacturer.
Yet if the boys (and girls) of Detroit had done a little more homework they would have found that this beautiful woman and car, coursing though the areas of NYC was not real enough. It wasn’t about gender (though the ads run on Sunday football). It wasn’t about style of ad execution. It was about truth. This audience’s truth.