Fiat Apologizes to China Over TV Ad

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Someone should win a Darwin Award for this ad campaign:

Italian car maker Fiat has apologized to China over its new television commercial featuring U.S. actor Richard Gere and a reference to Tibet after Chinese newspapers carried reports about it.

Its shows Gere driving the car from Hollywood to Tibet, whose autonomy from China he supports.

Just two brief comments here, one of which is quite obvious:

1. Someone should get fired for this, and not because of the political overtones themselves. No, someone should be fired for incompetence. Through the whole vetting process for this ad, no one thought this was a bad idea? Really? (I will set aside, for the moment, the wisdom of using Richard Gere to sell anything.)

2. More important, this is another great example of globalization of information via the Internet, and the reason why multinationals can no longer hide anything these days. This ad was not shown in the PRC, but that doesn’t matter any more. MNCs need to realize that not only should their vetting procedures take into account advert laws of the jurisdictions in which the ad is being shown, but they should also include a vetting of any extra-territorial issues (particularly hot button political ones!) that make up the content of the ads themselves.

What a fiasco. Not only does this make Fiat look bad to folks in China, but their subsequent apology over this issue most likely will not win them any friends in European markets, where consumers are probably big Richard Gere fans (at least on the narrow political issue). It’s a lose-lose situation.

One response on “Fiat Apologizes to China Over TV Ad

  1. John Tantillo "The Marketing Doctor"

    I think weíre seeing the future of branding and advertising. Iíve spoken about how increasingly fragmented the advertising terrain has become. Companies and products that want to stand out have got to make a racket and one way of doing this is designing advertising and marketing campaigns that get talked about and take on a life of their own. There is probably no better way of doing this than offending one groupís sensibilities while re-enforcing and complimenting another groupís. The Fiat ad does this since it was intended for airing in Europe where Free-Tibet sentiment is high. In the European market, the adís message is sure to resonate and build visibility and goodwill for the Fiat brand.