Fiat will air its first national TV commercials today.
Laura Soave, head of Fiat North America, says the commercials will receive extensive play on national TV and cable networks.
"Simply More" is the tag line for the campaign, which will combine broadcast, print, digital and special events.
"We're tipping our hat back to history. It's important for us to tell the consumer who doesn't know about Fiat that we're a brand with a strong heritage," Soave said in an interview Friday. "The 500 is more than just a new car. It's a car that once was and is here again."
The TV campaign is welcome news to Fiat dealers, who have mostly been advertising the 500 locally with their own money since the cars went on sale in March. Soave said Fiat now has enough U.S. dealerships open — 93 as of Friday — to justify rolling out the campaign. Chrysler expects to have 130 dealerships open by year end.
The first 30-second TV spot, called "Drive In," opens with black-and-white footage of an original 1957 Fiat 500 driving along a road to the tune of Elvis Presley's hit from that year, "Jailhouse Rock."
The camera pans back to reveal that the film is being played on a screen at a modern-day drive-in theater. Now in color, the film shows a couple parking their 2012 Fiat 500 at the drive-in as the beat of the Elvis tune morphs into a contemporary electronica version.
Drive-in theaters, enjoying a resurgence in some cities, figure prominently in the campaign as a symbol of cultural icons that disappeared and have now returned, just as the Fiat 500 did.
For the weekend of Aug. 13 and 14, Fiat will occupy space in New York's Times Square, where prospective customers can sit in Fiat 500s and watch movies on a drive-in screen.
The drive-in commercial will serve as an introductory brand launch spot and will be followed by two others showcasing the 500's features.
Print ads will highlight the 500's simplicity with lines that include:
- "Form & Function meet. And begin a torrid affair."
- "Bigger isn't better. It's just harder to park."
- "Life's newest simple pleasure."
- "139.6 inches. Every one tells a story."
- "On a scale from 1 to 10, it's a 500."
Meanwhile, Chrysler is lending some management expertise to Fiat to help with product marketing and to help dealers open Fiat stores.
- Tim Kuniskis, head of Chrysler brand product marketing, will oversee product marketing and help Fiat build its product plan. He will retain his Chrysler job.
- Pat Dougherty, head of fleet for Chrysler, will join Fiat to help push dealer network development. Fiat plans to open the other 37 dealerships by year end. Store openings are behind schedule. Dougherty also will keep his Chrysler job.
"We will push on getting the rest of the dealer network up and running," Soave said.
Since its launch, Fiat has been active in social media and has about 200,000 fans on Facebook and 13,000 Twitter followers. And Fiat just launched the "Fiat Source," an iPad application.
Fiat has two models on sale in the United States: the 500, a coupe; and the 500C, a convertible. An Abarth sporty version of the 500 is due in 2012 along with an electric 500, followed by a four-door, high-roof 500 in 2013.