Commentary

Marketing By Fiat: Cialis Santa And The Real Fizzle

So it’s a December to remember—the time of year, starting from Black Friday on, when car companies traditionally flood the airwaves with local dealer spots. Most of the commercials feature the usual low-budget, ole-timey formula of  some form of family arriving in the showroom. Hey, everyone has to make a living.   

But just two days into our 12th month, I have, at the very least, named a winner for “Worst holiday ad ever.”

I mean, is there anything cheesier than a “naughty” Santa?

Well, yes. This Fiat  “Black Friday Event” commercial manages to pack in so many sexist, culturally tone-deaf, throwback, and cringe-making elements in 30 seconds that it’s hard to know where to begin.

But how about with the lead character: Cialis Santa?  Yup, he’s a  playa. A Hugh Hefnerish/faux hipster-late-50s-ish North Pole dweller with the artisanal beard to prove his street cred, he blows into the showroom escorting two 20something, silent, blank-faced female elves, one on each arm. The elf candy were given Spock-like ears, to offer, perhaps a cute little counter-balance to Santa’s ubercreepy, inappropriate, Jeffrey Epstein-like-vibe.  

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Still, it’s horrifying to suggest that Santa, with his dated but still pretentious scarf, tight jeans, red velvet blazer, and Bruce-Wayne-like voice, is presumably having sex with his elves. It seems like a violation of workshop etiquette at the very least.  And whatever happened to Mrs. Claus?

The muy macho set-up is that much more infuriating, since Santa-Daddy is shown an array of Fiat cars, all of which, I must say, greatly appeal to me, an older woman who doesn’t usually get excited about cars.

“Never mind that women love these exceedingly cute little cars,” the ad seems to be saying. “These are Italian muscle cars for he-men who live the Playboy lifestyle, and unless you can be a silent, beard-stroking elf, no girls are allowed!”

So this young foil of a millennial salesman (no chick magnet, he!)  shows Old Beardy The 124 Spider Abarth with its ”164 horsepower turbo engine.” And here, with Creepo Santa’s response, we achieve full mortification.  “Too hot for the North Pizzle,” he responds.

No shizzle!

I imagine the creators thought this was “clever” and “funny.” But it’s bizarrely tin-eared. Snoop Dog came out with the lingo,what, like seven years ago? Can someone please ask him to sue?  

The music, by the way, is “Zillionaire,” by Flo Rida, a hip-hop star who sings about a sugar daddy buying Jimmy Choos.

The upchuck, I mean the upshot, is that Santa is shown another great car deal, and he says, “You better not be jingling my bells.”

Please, Santa, don’t mention your bells!

Then the hapless sales guy, no match for this much testosterone, has to, gulp, repeat it.

I guess I shouldn’t be so shocked that something so backward , gender-wise, could run as a contemporary commercial. There is a political corollary, with a new sheriff in town who has his own harassment problems.  But I assume the spot was created before the Presidential race.

And Fiat Chrysler, the parent company has a history of running sexist, culturally clueless spots for Fiat USA. The very best in fact, appeared on the Super Bowl and featured a protracted joke about a certain little blue pill. But it was a real crowd-pleaser and won awards because it was set in Italy and reflected an authentic Italian sensibility. Besides, it had the right tone throughout, and made fun of the guy.

Another ad was quite popular, especially appealing to men, showing the car embodied by a fiery, sexy woman. But that  “My Fiat — that bitch goddess who done you wrong" thing is such a cliche, as is "You'll never forget your first one,"  the wink-wink sexist tagline.

The company did famously create one ad in 2011 for the U.S. market with an actual female spokesperson who was in control: Jennifer Lopez. Homegirl is shown driving her cute Fiat 500 from Manhattan back to the Bronx.

There was a side scandal involving the fact that the producers reportedly used a body double for the shots of Lopez driving in the Bronx. But never mind that embarrassment. The spot was universally panned for its racial insensitivity. By the end of  Jenny from the block’s visit, passing stereotypically mean streets, with children playing in open hydrants,  and poor little black children running after her car, I thought she might throw them some dimes.

With this latest recalibration, I imagine naughty Santa returns to the Pole, takes off his beard and girdle, and passes out. Meanwhile, the arm candy elves steal his ride. Another misfire for Fiat: a jingle bell crock.

11 comments about "Marketing By Fiat: Cialis Santa And The Real Fizzle".
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  1. Dean Fox from ScreenTwo LLC, December 2, 2016 at 3:37 p.m.

    Thank you, Barbara, I had the same reaction. Two men, two women and the girls never say a word of dialogue, just pose and purse their lips.  This spot is beyond awful, and I cannot imagine any marketer in 2016, even from the reactionary automobile category, approving such a piece of garbage.  BTW, this is personal research, but most of the people I see driving Fiats are twenty-somethings, usually female. This is exactly the demographic that should be offended by this.

  2. Patrick Scullin from Ames Scullin O'Haire, inc., December 2, 2016 at 3:54 p.m.

    There's a word for spots like this: hateful.

  3. Jane Farrell from Freelance, December 2, 2016 at 4:13 p.m.

    Tacky. tacky, tacky. I guess the point is that Fiat cars are for real men, not girls? Unfortunately, it seems to fit in perfectly with the currently dominant political sensibility. It is possible, people, to be funny or even outrageous without being sleazy. Better luck next time.

  4. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, December 2, 2016 at 7:32 p.m.

    "Oh, Fix It Again, Tony..." But buy a Camaro.

  5. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, December 2, 2016 at 7:49 p.m.

    But I can see the dealer groups loving this ad. And the agency saying, "It's their money." Not surprising they'd use Flo Rida. I know who he is, which means he is not current.

  6. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2017ac.com network, December 2, 2016 at 8:14 p.m.

    It's nice to see that others were as creeped-out by this ad as I was.  As I said to my wife as we watched it; "Just think. In a few days thousands of parents will be lining up, waiting to have their kids sit in THAT guy's lap at Macy's." 

  7. Mark Van Patten from Retired, December 2, 2016 at 8:54 p.m.

    As crappy as these ads are they can't compare to the lame obnoxious, and predictable local dealer ads. To a one, the are all sad.

  8. Mark Van Patten from Retired replied, December 2, 2016 at 8:55 p.m.

    Yup. What he said...

  9. Claudia Caplan from MDC Partners, December 3, 2016 at 6:51 p.m.

    Best Fiat spot by Doner featuring two guys wandering the desert who think a four-door Fiat and P. Diddy are mirages.  Check it out.  Hilarious.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-0EJ5Vqik8

    As far as the sexism of this particualr spot, haven't you ever heard Eartha Kitt sing "Santa Baby?"

  10. Penelope Wolfe from Penny Wolfe Creative Services, December 3, 2016 at 9:11 p.m.

    Brava Ms. Lippert. Women do buy and most I know find sexist spots infuriating, generally taking our dollars elsewhere.

  11. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, December 4, 2016 at 10:46 a.m.

    Claudia-- 


    Eartha Kitt's "santa baby is a classic. The song was written in 1953.

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