Fiat 500: new car, new medium

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Fiat 500There was a time when the web was still a minor ‘add-on’ to a car launch campaign, but with most new cars being researched online before a decision is made about the brand (let alone the purchase), every motor manufacturer has had to refocus their efforts to the web. Five years ago BMWFilms.com set a new standard in web content, fusing together the genres of entertainment films, product placement and video demonstrations. They raised the bar so high that few motoring brands have come close since. However, this month’s launch of the Fiat 500 from digital specialists AKQA is a worthy contender. They’ve built 21 short movies with a personality that’s on brand and production quality that would stand up in cinema.

BMWFilms.com raised the bar  |  Watch more on Fiat.co.uk  |  Check out more work from AKQA

The films are only 40 seconds but packed with product shots and strong imagery. Comedian Danny Wallace stars in them and while the budgets were clearly orders of magnitude less than BMW’s 15 minute shorts with Madonna et al, they’re rich in creativity, strong on sales messages, and perfect for building the brand of what’s already car of the year.

AKQA’s James Hilton is in the director’s seat and the media plan included MSN, Lycos, MTV, Timesonline and YouTube, as well as Fiat’s own site. Hilton is clear that the brand warrants the campaign strapline of ‘Everyday masterpiece’: "Many day-to-day items come and go. Few, however, have the enduring appeal of the subjects celebrated in the short films produced by AKQA to support the UK launch of the Fiat 500. It, too, has all of the essential indispensable qualities needed for it to qualify as an Everyday Masterpiece."

Update: A week or two after writing this we caught up with an Italian media group attending one of our Digital Publishing Strategy Academy sessions in London. When they talked through the campaign in the domestic market, it was fascinating to hear about the differences in perspective. In Italy the launch of the 500 was huge, so huge that this iconic Italian car grabbed the headlines of every newspaper and dominated TV motoring shows for so long that conventional advertising buying simply wasn't needed. So the irony is that more was spent in online media in markets outside the core market than would ever have been considered at home. For media planners and marketing strategists there's a powerful lesson here: adjust the models to fit the market needs, and even if the offer, the demographic and the brand positioning is consistent across Europe, look out for the differences in market structures and audience expectations that can demand radically different approaches.

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