Fiat casts Sean Combs in desert spot highlighting 500L

Fiat is hoping the ad raises awareness of the larger 500L while staying true to the brand.

UPDATED: 2/12/14 10:05 am ET - adds video

DETROIT -- Fiat-Chrysler's Fiat brand will kick off a marketing campaign Thursday for the 500L to help differentiate the four-door hatchback from the smaller two-door Fiat 500 minicar.

The campaign begins with a national 60-second commercial on TV and online called "Mirage," featuring entertainer Sean Combs.

In the spot created with independent ad agency Doner, two distressed men are shown trudging across a hot desert landscape. Two Fiat 500Ls drive by, loaded with women and Combs, who offers them bottled water. But the men dismiss the cars as a mirage brought on by the beating sun.

Later, when the men find the Fiats and their passengers partying in a desert oasis, they again don't believe their eyes because the Fiats parked there have four doors instead of two. The desperate men stumble away without accepting aid.

Jason Stoicevich, head of the Fiat brand in North America, said the commercial raises awareness of the larger 500L while staying true to the brand.

The Fiat 500L was introduced in the United States in June. Through December, its sales gains were mostly matched by volume declines in the smaller Fiat 500.

In January, through increased marketing and dealer and consumer cash, Fiat kept sales of the 500 flat while posting a 29 percent increase for the overall brand from incremental sales of the Fiat 500L.

"Too many people discover the 500L through the 500. That's what we have to solve for here," Stoicevich said. "It's awareness. We know it, we understand it, and we had to find a creative way to deal with it."

The mirage campaign is the first in a series by Fiat to increase consumer awareness of the 500L, Stoicevich said, though he declined to lay out future plans. He said the desert-themed spot "is the first splash to get the car rolling for this year."

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at -- Follow Larry P. on Twitter: @LarryVellequett

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