FCA’s Olivier Francois talks music strategy, Super Bowl and agency relations

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Chief Marketing Officer Olivier Francois is so obsessed with getting the automaker’s vehicles in music videos that he has a special arrangement with the nation’s largest record labels. The deals, codified in contracts, give him first dibs on putting an FCA brand in music videos whenever the need arises for a vehicle.

“When there is a car, call me,” Francois said, succinctly describing the deals during an interview on the sidelines of the Association of National Advertisers “Masters of Marketing” conference in Orlando. In exchange for the placements, Fiat Chrysler often chips in to help cover music video production costs. 

In the video interview above, Francois dishes on what he looks for when connecting a Fiat Chrysler brand — which includes Jeep, Fiat and Ram — to songs and bands. He also talks about the automaker’s decision last year to sit out the Super Bowl for the first time since 2009. And he gets into the company’s ad agency strategy, which often leads to multiple shops working on the same brand at once.

During an on-stage ANA presentation, Francois elaborated on why the company puts such a big emphasis on the product placements and other music marketing arrangements, including a recent integration deal with NBC’s “Songland.” He showed a video (below) showing dozens of Fiat Chrysler brand appearances in music videos in recent years, featuring everyone from Dr. Dre to Carly Rae Jepsen. The videos have drawn more than 23 billion views combined, which Fiat Chrysler illustrates with a running counter on the video Francois showed.

“These are real YouTube views, real eyeballs, real people choosing to click on a video that features one of our products,” Francois said.

The “Songland” deal involved Jeep getting a starring role on the NBC summer series, with songwriters competing to write a song for a Jeep commercial. Francois was included in the episode, which aired in August. On the ANA stage he played a clip to illustrate how many times “Jeep” was mentioned on the show. “The brand becomes like a character in the show, like any character in any show you connect with it … you relate,” he said.

He also touted Jeep’s recent deal with Jeremy Renner, which involved the actor attempting to boost his music career by using three of his singles in Jeep ads. Francois plugged the partnership by taking a shot at Lincoln, which uses Matthew McConaughey in its ads, including one last year showing him doing trick pool shots.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love Matthew like everyone, an amazing actor,” Francois said. “But Lincoln never gave him a chance to share his story. They show Matthew playing pool by himself in the desert. Great,” he added, sarcastically. “While we gave Jermey Renner a platform to share something real about himself.”

Francois also showed a European Fiat commercial featuring Ava Max, who tweeted it out in September.

The commercial uses a scene from Max’s music video for her song “Torn.” The ad shows the part when Max shatters a Fiat window with her high heel and cuts the seatbelt with scissors. The music video has surpassed 20 million YouTube views. “For views like that,” he said, “you can smash my windows and cut my seatbelts any given day.”

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