Fiat is sticking with a pan-European TV and cinema commercial for the Stilo, filmed in New York shortly before the terrorist attacks. The Manhattan skyline is not featured.
The commercial is integral to a £10m UK promotional campaign for the Bravo/Brava replacement which reaches dealerships here in February. The Stilo launch in key European markets opens a huge programme to raise the profile of the Fiat marque and the American setting was planned months ago.
Roberto Zuccato, Fiat marketing director, said: “New York is a major centre of western civilisation and a cosmopolitan symbol of innovation. We do not mean to be frivolous but the ad was – and is – intended to entertain. “We're convinced we need to use good taste when presenting things and not hurt anyone.”
Fiat is embarking on a five-year, £8.7bn brand renaissance programme with £562m allocated to the Stilo, a rival to VW's Golf, the European C-sector best-seller. Stilo marketing will cost £194m up to the end of next year.
In Britain, Fiat will spend around £10m on marketing and advertising the Stilo. Its total media spend is unlikely to rise much above last year's £28m budget.
Fiat wants 400,000 Stilo sales in Europe in 2003, well above Bravo/Brava's 1996 peak of 296,000 (22,000 in the UK). By last year, the hatchback had slumped to 150,000.
In 2000, the VW Golf/Bora led with 771,000, followed by Opel/Vauxhall Astra/Zafira (746,000 units), Renault Megane/Scenic (617,000), Ford Focus/Escort (555,000) and Citroen Xsara/Picasso (361,000).
The Stilo ad for UK screens opens with a group of four young musicians boarding the car outside a New York tenement.
It majors on the rhythms or “music of technology” generated by operating Stilo equipment and switch gear, from door locks and adjustable rear seats to the satellite navigation system and concertina sunroof.
Poster and press ads reflect the “fast forward and forward thinking” campaign theme denoted by three horizontal arrows. One shows a newly-born baby wearing a high-tech watch in contrast to the hospital tags on two counterparts' wrists.
Another has a cave painting displaying a pre-historic golfer, while contemporaries hunt with spears.
Barry Cook, managing director of D'Arcy in London, Fiat UK's media advertising agency, said: “There is a knack in producing universally successful European ads. The UK sense of humour does not always travel and the same is true of other nationalities.
“One of the central Fiat appeals is that ordinary cars get you from A to B. Fiats get you from A to B with a smile on your face. The Stilo ads do that.”
Juan Jose Diaz Ruiz, Fiat sales and marketing executive vice president, spoke stridently at the launch of the marketing campaign of the “energy and smiles” embodied in the Stilo ads. It fitted in with Fiat's “life in primary colours” promotional philosophy, he said.
Fiat Auto UK hopes Stilo will help to reduce its traditional dependency on the B-segment Punto (60% of sales). It plans around 30,000 Stilo sales next year.
From 2003, volume should climb as an estate version arrives, to be followed in 2004 by a compact MPV, which could be run alongside the more radical Multipla.