A Shared History in Detroit Is an Ad Inspiration

/// A Shared History in Detroit Is an Ad Inspiration

March 1, 2013  |  Blog

The Chrysler Group is bringing to life the advertising theme for its Chrysler brand, “Imported from Detroit,” through an innovative partnership with a coming Broadway show that bears the Detroit-inspired name of one of the most famous brands in music.

The partnership unites Chrysler and “Motown: the Musical,” about the musical legacy of Berry Gordy and Motown, the record label he founded that is now owned by the Universal Music Group. The musical, scheduled to open on April 14 at the Lunt-Fontanne Theater, is the beneficiary of an elaborate promotional initiative by the Chrysler brand that supplements the show’s own efforts to encourage ticket sales.

The centerpiece of the Chrysler brand’s support is a television commercial that has been running nationally since December, featuring Mr. Gordy riding in a Motown Edition of a Chrysler 300C sedan as the seminal Motown song “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” plays on the soundtrack.

The commercial, created by a Chrysler Group agency, GlobalHue in Southfield, Mich., begins with Mr. Gordy at the original “Hitsville U.S.A.” Motown headquarters building in Detroit and ends with him arriving at the Lunt-Fontanne and declaring: “We are Motown. And this is what we do.” As Mr. Gordy enters the theater, the Chrysler slogan appears, altered to read “Imported from Motown.”

The words “ ‘Motown: the Musical’ on Broadway March 2013” appear, referring to the start of previews on March 11, and the address of the show’s Web site, motownthemusical.com, along with the Chrysler brand Web address, chrysler.com.

The commercial is believed to be the first time that a Broadway show has had such paid national television exposure as it prepares to open in New York. The commercial is in addition to a commercial that the producers of “Motown: the Musical” are running on stations in the New York market; the local commercial was created by SpotCo in New York, part of Reach4entertainment Enterprises.

The Chrysler brand will also buttress the show’s marketing with colorful signs to go up in coming days in Penn Station and Times Square. The signs display a Chrysler 300 Motown Edition, the Chrysler logo, the logo of “Motown: the Musical” and photographs of cast members of the show like Brandon Victor Dixon, who portrays Mr. Gordy.

The Chrysler Group is spending an estimated $6 million to $8 million to promote “Motown: the Musical.” The budget for the ads from the show’s producers, Mr. Gordy, Kevin McCollum and Doug Morris, is estimated at $2 million.

The automaker’s efforts extend beyond the product placement and sponsorship agreements that have become increasingly prevalent on Broadway as theater enters the realm of so-called entertainment marketing with television, movies and video games. Unlike the provisions of many of those deals, the Chrysler name is not being added to a lyric of a Motown song, nor are there plans to park a car in the lobby of the Lunt-Fontanne.

Rather, the partnership is about “merging both journeys, the journey of the Chrysler brand and the journey of Mr. Gordy and his music,” said Olivier François, chief marketing officer at the Chrysler Group.

“Motown is the most exported from Detroit of any music and, in this case, imported to New York,” Mr. François said. “It’s putting together the sound and the drive of Detroit. We were meant to meet.”

That thought is expressed in the national commercial, in which a narrator proclaims, “Because if cars are our city’s heart, music is its soul.”

That the partnership is centered on music is no coincidence. Mr. François, a producer of pop music in his native France in the 1980s, described the Motown catalog as “part of the American patrimony” that “will live forever.”

“And so is Chrysler,” he said hopefully. “Regardless of my passion for the Motown music and my respect for Mr. Gordy, I would not have pushed to tie a brand to Motown if there wasn’t this new Chrysler story,” Mr. François said, referring to “Imported from Detroit,” which was introduced in 2011 with a Super Bowl commercial featuring another famous Detroit music figure, Eminem.

“The Motown name has a huge value,” he added. “Does it have a huge value for any car? Maybe not.”

Mr. McCollum, whose Broadway credits include “Avenue Q” and “Rent,” invoked another musical to explain how the show and the Chrysler Group came together: “Kismet.”

“About a year ago, we flew to Detroit and sat down with Olivier and his team, and they pitched the idea,” Mr. McCollum said. “It’s about a collaboration between these two great American industries that came out of one place.”

Besides, he added, Mr. Gordy was “highly influenced by his early days working in an auto plant, learning that you have to put something out there people want.”

Mr. McCollum said he was glad to join Mr. François and Mr. Gordy in “celebrating Detroit when you’d think it’s contrarian thinking” to do so because Motown, Chrysler and “Motown: the Musical” are all about “the power of the American dream.”

The SpotCo campaign for the show — and a public relations effort by Boneau/Bryan-Brown in New York — play that up. The local commercial, for instance, extols Motown’s songs as “the soundtrack that changed America, the beat of a generation, the soul of a nation.”

The goal is “less transactional,” said Ilene Rosen, associate chief operating officer at SpotCo, and “more about synergizing the Motown and Chrysler brands to elevate both.”

As much as other Broadway producers would probably welcome a deep-pocketed partner like the Chrysler Group, the unique circumstances that produced the partnership may make it difficult to emulate, she added.

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