Commentary

Renegade On AOL: Jeep's Adventure In Branded Video

Millennials, we are learning, are bold, outside-the-box adventurers like the world has never seen, at least since the last big age demographic group that came down the pike.

Which is why today the Fiat (FCA) Jeep division begins a custom-branded video series, SideStreets, on AOL that is aimed at attracting these new explorers, who, in Jeep’s opinion, would feel very comfortable driving a new SUV that’s even named for that attitude: Renegade.

In all, there will five episodes, each one featuring a millennial tastemaker from one of five cities. The first features Melissa Davis, author of This Is Oakland, an appropriately passionate book about a city that just now is leaving the shadow of San Francisco and is becoming known as a hip place to be, and to drive a Renegade to discover it.

Other featured cities in the series, to be unspooled over several weeks, are Portland, Tucson, San Antonio and Boulder. While the videos will show off Renegade features, mostly they’ll show off influencer city folk from those places who have that  Renegade spirit.

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“It’s more about that attitude, that transcends cargo space and MPG and things like that,” says Amy Peet, senior manager, digital media, for Jeep. “Fortunately, Jeep has always had  that adventurous ‘what’s possible’ spirit. It’s a very aspirational niche.” And millennials, of course, are a very aspirational bunch.

“The videos are a kind of sweet love letter to the cities,” says Tariq Walker, AOL’s vice president of creative development, who also had an interesting way to describe other branded video endeavors as well, that are seemingly more about the consumer than what’s being consumed. “The thing,” he explains, “is not the hero.”

AOL, which is a major creator of nonscripted videos, has become a major stopping point for branded videos. Walker says this one is about the 60th in the last four years. Brands like Jeep circulate the videos on their own sites and on social media, and hope viewers, not believing the ads are all that pitchy, will share them, too.

Peet won’t say there will be more episodes of “SideStreets.” She’s not saying there won’t be, either.

Certainly, the Jeep Renegade is not the first car nameplate to try to attach itself to an attitude (indeed, it’s hard to name one that hasn’t) but Jeep has zeroed in pretty intensely on a bracket within the millennial market. 

“It’s very millennial-focused, aimed at a very definite target. We want to get them to think about the brand and the influencers and see themselves,” Peet says. “We went looking for communities on the rise, where there’s been a resurgence, where some people are finding solutions, where people want to celebrate their city.” (Peet, who lives in down-and-out but also up-and-coming downtown Detroit, would be a good example, but she describes herself as middle aged.)

It wasn’t long ago that car makers were pretty nervous about the millennial buyer, or more accurately, worried there wouldn’t be many of them. New data suggests that’s not the case. J.D. Power & Associates reported recently that millennials accounted for 27% of new car sales last year, the second-largest group of buyers after baby boomers.

It also might mean that for all the talk about moving back to center cities, life in suburbia will continue, populated by younger people who just might be visiting the big city more often. If that armchair sociology is right, the adventurous Renegade owner might be cheered by Detroit’s recovery, but they’re cheering from places like Royal Oak, 14 miles away.

The whole Renegade campaign, to its credit, stays true to the idea. A Jeep Renegade Web site includes the video of pop song commissioned by the X Ambassadors, titled “Renegade” and including lyrics like “ long live the pioneers, rebels and mutineers” that plays in commercials, which are more about the off-road capacity of the SUV.  Renegade also sponsored a Renegade Music Award, for an up-and-coming artist in conjunction with IHeartRadio.

The iconoclast/adventurer thing even gets played out in the car design. The vehicle has an X-shaped tail light that Peet says is a reference to an explorer-like “X marks the spot” and the car has other little secret features (a hidden map for example) that Jeep refers to as the Renegade’s “Easter eggs.” So adventurous.

pj@mediapost.com

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