DETROIT -- A series of 70 new Dodge Durango spots featuring comedian Will Ferrell as fictional anchorman Ron Burgundy turns traditional automotive advertising on its ear.
The commercials, which debuted Oct. 5, tout the Durango's features -- but the pitchman is a clueless 1970s-era newscaster. Burgundy explores the 2014 Durango's major and minor attributes, such as a glove box "comfortable enough to hold two turkey sandwiches or 70 packs of gum."
In another spot, Burgundy is convinced that the female voice of the Durango's navigation system is a woman trapped behind the dashboard.
So far, the campaign's risky approach is paying off, although it's too early to say if it will significantly boost demand for the vehicle. First, the spots have gone viral, receiving huge viewership on YouTube and elsewhere. And Dodge shares the costs of the spots with the film's producers because the campaign doubles as a promotion for the sequel to the first Burgundy film.
Just five days into the campaign, the first spots had been viewed more than 2.7 million times, according to Visible Measures, which tracks advertising across social media. The numbers put it on par with Automotive News' top viral video for 2013, Volkswagen's "Get Happy."
Reaction online has been positive, but not universally so.
Created jointly by Wieden+Kennedy of Portland, Ore., and Ferrell's FunnyorDie.com team, the commercials also promote the upcoming sequel to 2004's Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, called Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.
Olivier Francois, Chrysler's chief marketing officer, told Advertising Age, a sibling publication of Automotive News, that Ferrell and his Hollywood creative team exercised almost total creative control over the spots.
"So the idea of the campaign is very simple -- hiring a guy who comes from the 1970s. And he's going to look at our advanced technology through the eyes of a guy who comes from the '70s," Francois said. "That was the creative design. That was the big idea."
Dodge brand head Tim Kuniskis, who Francois credited with having the original idea to approach Ferrell, said the spots are giving the whole Dodge brand buzz.
"The general public is responding so positively to the commercials that Dodge has become a headline topic of conversation. And what they've seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg; there's so much more to come," Kuniskis said.
The Burgundy Durango spots cost less than a similar automotive marketing campaign because of the tie-in with Ferrell's upcoming movie. Ferrell wasn't paid for appearing in the spots, Francois told reporters, though Chrysler is paying for the airtime to broadcast them on TV.