Driving Past the 30-Second Spot
 VP of Chrysler and Jeep
Listen to AUDIO of the Interview (30 minutes) >>

News and Info About the Chrysler Group:


If having Angela Jolie’s Lara Kraft character ride through swampland to Mt. Kilimanjaro in a spotless Jeep isn’t enough of a brand’s dream come true, how about having the Jeep Grand Cheroke rescue Matthew Mcconaughey and Penelope Cruz from peril in the Sahara desert?

Very few brands are constructing seamless and successful branded entertainment integration as well as the Chrysler Group is today. And apart from film, the Chrysler Group’s innovative and forward thinking branded entertainment strategies have landed their vehicles into the storylines of television shows, DVD tie-in campaigns, video games and most recently, mobile entertainment.

We met with Jeff Bell, VP of Chrysler and Jeep to examine his strategies for branded entertainment success, thoughts on cross-platform distribution, dealings with financial transactions and

advice for getting branded entertainment efforts in gear.

Here are Highlights of Mr. Bell’s Interview:

Jeff Bell’s Role at the Chrysler Group

  • To oversee all of the future product development and to market and sell all of the Chrysler and Jeep products today, from an overall general management perspective and that includes advertising, merchandising and other promotional elements for both brands.

Why Branded Entertainment?

  • In 2000, the Chrysler Group began to question the appropriate response to the increasing fragmentation taking place, which includes: moving from three network channels to over 500 digital channels, available by satellite or cable, the rise of the Internet, the use of portable wireless devices, etc.
  • There are so many choices available, yet there is still a finite number of people the Chrysler Group is trying to reach when marketing automobiles.
  • Branded entertainment presented an attractive alternative to the traditional push or mass communication.


Branded Entertainment Strategy

  • The Chrysler Group found that product placement is interesting and is the foundation of branded entertainment activity, but is also not enough.
  • The technique of “brand casting” was developed and means that content is naturally and organically integrated into films, shows or games, then used as part of overall branded marketing communications.
  • The best choice is having a branding and advertising agency, follow this link and find out more.


Breaking Into Films: Lessons and Successes

  • The Chrysler Group has worked with three major motions pictures and continues to learn from its film experiences.
  • The first brand casting experience was with the movie “Chasing Puppy” and the Chrysler brand. The Chrysler Group integrated vehicles into the film, provided content for the web and television — and promoted the movie and brand; however, the movie and integration was unsuccessful and didn’t connect with the audience.
  • The Chrysler Group worked with Paramount on the last two films: “Tomb Raider, Cradle of Life” and “Sahara.”
  • In the film “Sahara”: – The Jeep Grand Cherokee and the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited played heroic roles in the film. – There was a lot of footage of characters driving in the Jeep into harms way but coming out in a heroic fashion.
    – From cutting floor footage, they were able to put together a number of different content promotional elements like: web content, 30-second television spots for cable and network; photography, both in print and point of sale, in theaters and at automotive dealerships.
    – Special limited edition vehicles inspired by the film were also created and sold to dealers.
    – For both of “Sahara”‘s promotions they saw overall market increases for the Jeep and Wrangler businesses. The special limited edition vehicle models sold much faster than normal units: In less than a hundred days in both cases.
  • It is beneficial to work with a partner more than once, so that a good relationship is developed.


Do Product Sales Correlate With Box Office Sales?

  • Levels of successes can be different for brands and the motion picture industry.
  • There was some feeling that “Sahara” wasn’t a blockbuster film, but it did 100 million dollars in the domestic market and at least that much if not more in the International market, and subsequent DVD release. Therefore, it was still a very successful film.
  • Both movies (“Tomb” Raider and “Sahara”) had tremendous amounts of promotion, and both vehicle brands were a part of that promotion.
  • Sales for the Jeep and Wrangler brands were very strong, and The Chrysler Group was happy with both movie partnerships.


Developing the Creatives

  • Scripts are looked at early on, sometimes before they have a director or specific cast.
  • Storylines are identified where the automobile is naturally present and can have a special role to play in a film.
  • The Chrysler Group thought it was key to not be “control freaks” with the motion picture industry but lay out their brand’s tenor, what it stood for overall and asked to make their content look like the film’s content. This proved to be a trust builder as well as a very successful formula in terms of leveraging their media plans and overall promotions.
  • Although BBDO Detroit was involved in the promotional efforts, no advertising agency made any pitches.


How Involved Do You Get On the Set?

  • There was consistent dialogue with the film production professionals, not onsite, but through the daily’s.
  • For those scenes of the film where the Chrysler Group’s brands were involved, they were able to review the footage fairly quickly and give a go ahead. However, they did not massage or influence the film to a great degree.
  • There are some instances where brands rewrite scripts, but in The Chrysler Group’s case, there were many upfront talks so that they would not get into other peoples’ businesses, which is to make a great motion picture.


Financial Models

  • The concept of two great brands coming together means that it’s not much of transaction based situation but a relation based situation.
  • In the past, to the great discredit of great brands, people were cutting big checks to get into a film as if it were an endorsement, which is fundamentally not the appropriate model according to the Chrysler Group.
  • The movie industry makes most of its money from selling tickets and DVDs, not from sponsorship checks.
  • “Cat in the Hat,” “Matrix” and “Terminator 3” were final straws of the model where brands wrote big checks and didn’t get a return on that investment. This old model has been put to rest.
  • What is most appropriate is that brands and movies create content, distribute it and co-promote it together.


TV Integrations

  • In the past, a more traditional product placement role has been taken on television because the Chrysler Group’s products weren’t as interesting as they are now.
  • With new “cool, hip and desired” vehicles like Chrysler 300, 300C or PT Convertible and the Jeep Commander, television writers are a lot more interested in bringing these products into scripts.
  • There were great integration into the TV show “ER” with the Chrysler 300. Vehicles also appeared in the first “The Apprentice.”
  • Most recently, to forward the Jeep Commander launch, the Chrysler Group integrated the vehicle on BET’s new reality series, “Dame Dashes Ultimate Hustler.” In the show, new, young talent will be taking on challenges with a Jeep Commander.
  • “Dame Dashes Ultimate Hustler” just debuted last week but has had very positive and critical ratings, however; they will have to see how it plays out overall.


DVD Strategies

  • One big challenge is that the DVD/home entertainment business is generally run separately from the major motion picture or the television side of business.
  • The Chrysler Group has never done a DVD deal that was part of a whole branded entertainment strategy, but they have done one-off DVD promotions.
  • There have been two DVD promotions that have worked well with Disney: One involved putting the characters from “Monsters Inc.” into a Dodge Mini Van commercial, where they introduced the monsters Inc DVD. The second involved putting Timon and Pumbaa from the “The Lion King” into a commercial promoting the mini van and DVD release of the “The Lion King”.
  • According to Mr. Bell, Pepsi did a fantastic commercial and natural integration with the Top Gun VHS, and such home video/DVD integrations have never been done as well.


Advertising in Video Games

  • Since 2000, The Chrysler Group has been very active in video games.
  • They have over 42 video games titles related to Dodge Chrysler and Jeep with over 3 1/2 million registered users.
  • Most of their video game activity is online or in downloadable format. They also have some retail games.
  • Games like “Gran Turismo” or other driving games use a traditional product placement model.
  • Currently, The Chrysler Group receives revenue from firms to license the likeness and activity of their products.
  • They have expanded from driving games into Tony Hawk franchises, where products are inside the games so a gamer can skateboard or do handstands over a Jeep, etc.
  • With “Tony Hawk Underground II”, a unique area in the game where an individual user can create a rail park and a Jeep is integrated into this area on a branded basis.
  • They also did a special Nielsen test with “Tony Hawk Underground II”, where games were watermarked and in certain houses, game exposure was measured. They are awaiting results of this measurement data.
  • Most of the work they do is focused on lifestyle. For example, clearly a game like “Rockstar Dub City” will feature a Chrysler 300C because it is a hot street rod and adds legitimacy to the game.
  • A question that always comes up is, “Are you crossing the line of he gamer?” They have received information that indicates that gamers want to see real products in games, and there are appropriate integration that are based on reality and not fantasy.
  • Chrysler is involved in golf games.
  • Jeep is involved in most action sports whether it’s snow boarding or skateboarding.
  • Dodge has been involved in the hockey games.
  • They have developed puzzle games personality tests which are geared more toward women.


Mobile Entertainment

  • The Chrysler Group has just started to experiment with mobile from a gaming and content standpoint.
  • They are talking about promoting content from the show they created, “Jeep King of the Mountain” airing on CBS, which deals with snowboarding, ski racing and mountain biking, into mobile or wireless units in short bursts.
  • They are starting to do some work with ESPN to provide sports content on wireless products that are sponsored by Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep.


Budget Basics

  • Mr. Bell advises that brands have to take some financial risks.
  • What the Chrysler Group found was when they invested in branded entertainment, they got a very positive and measurable return.
  • In the past five years, the amount of time and money that they have put forward in branded entertainment has grown and it will continue to grow even further in all of the areas discussed.
  • This is represented by a new program called, “We Are the Muds”, which involves an online family that are the proud owners of a Jeep Commander. This campaign includes webisodes, purposed through mobile wireless devises. On the web there are sweepstakes, games, go-cashing through google maps and in the future, blogging activity for the characters.


Advice for Brands Getting Started

  • Just get started, even in a small way. Do something so you can learn and hopefully succeed and grow.
  • Make sure you can take advantage of measurement. Being able to capture response is critical.
  • Make sure that whatever you do is natural and that you have an alignment between the values of your brand and your partner so that your jointly created content doesn’t seem awkward, forced or unnatural.


The Future of Branded Entertainment

  • In 2006, there will be a lot of movement into blogging, RSS, movies and brandcasting.
  • Content will be created and distributed in means other than the 30-second commercial. Other types of entertainment content that showcase brands will continue to grow.