Dust off that Member's Only jacket, and spike up your Flock of Seagulls hairdo—the DeLorean is back in a big way. The marketer of the iconic '80s sports car is taking advantage of its splashy exposure around the 25th anniversary of Back to the Future by signing a flurry of licensing deals that are putting the brand in toy aisles, hipster boutiques and sporting-goods shops. DeLorean Motor Co., based in Humble, Texas, is working with Mattel, Nike, Gateway Global, Microsoft and others to fuel the resurgent interest in all things '80s, specifically the car that epitomized new-money success/excess. There's a DeLorean Nike Dunk limited-edition sneaker (above), launched on Black Friday and already popping up on eBay for upwards of $350; a DeLorean Hot Wheels car; branded clothing at Urban Outfitters; placement on Facebook's Car Town (the gearhead version of Farmville); and a role in Ubisoft's Driver 5 video game. And from Hollywood, there are more than a few movies kicking around in development about John DeLorean's life and times (and arrest for coke dealing), which will revolve around his sleek and speedy creation. The privately owned DMC says core DeLorean enthusiasts have helped keep the brand alive all these years, and no doubt loyalists and nostalgia have stoked the fire. But the automaker is showing that, when you do it right, licensing can be the best marketing.
An ad in Berlin for the all-new 2012 Audi A7 Sportback looks fairly normal—except it was created with spray paint and takes up 10,800 square feet. Translated to English, the billboard reads, "Nothing is more inspiring than a blank sheet of paper. It is the opportunity to create something unique." The A7 Sportback is the German automaker's answer to the Porsche Panamera. Of course, that seemed like a good idea at Audi before its parent company, Volkswagen AG, actually decided to buy Porsche AG this year.
A year ago, Chrysler and Fiat chief marketing executive Olivier Francois drew fire in the U.S. for running an ad shot at the 10th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates. The ad, which showed Fiat's Lancia vehicles, also featured the Chrysler 300 sedan, as well as focusing the viewer on the plight of Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, who was imprisoned in Burma. Francois wasn't drawing criticism in some published news reports and blogs for using the imprisonment of pro-democracy San Suu Kyi to sell cars, but for using an Italian ad agency to make the ad just months after taking a U.S. taxpayer bailout and firing longtime U.S. agency BBDO. Flash forward one year. Francois had Italian agency Armando Testa shoot another ad at the 11th annual summit in Hiroshima, Japan, earlier this month. The ad was meant to, again, spotlight the plight of San Suu Kyi. While in flight between Detroit and San Francisco, though, Francois got an e-mail from the Burmese foreign minister alerting him to the fact the San Suu Kyi would soon be released. The ad was then edited to turn it into a celebratory spot (above), with Francois dictating the edits from his flight.
We've now seen the first brand integration into Conan O'Brien's late-night TBS talk show, and if this is any indication of how marketers like AT&T and Microsoft will share the screen with the lanky host, we say bring it. General Motors, one of the flagship sponsors of the new 11 p.m. chat fest, got a cheeky throwback segment Monday to introduce its "20 Pine Tree Air Fresheners in 20 Nights" sweepstakes. The contest gives away 2011 Chevrolet Cruze sedans in which to hang those "mega-fragrant" deodorizers. With help from audience members and/or ringers in the crowd, O'Brien and sidekick Andy Richter did their best Monty Hall (or would it be Carol Merrill?). They chatted about the 10 airbags, Bluetooth capability, MP3 player and other features of the car, which sells for "less than $17,000 MSRP," while admiring the on-set vehicle. O'Brien said it's so well-equipped for its size that it's nicknamed "the Seth Green." Advertisers including Coca-Cola and News Corp. are paying between $30,000 and $40,000 for 30-second spots on the show, according to The New York Times, putting it in league with rates for Leno and Letterman. Those who'll get product placement and the Coco treatment should consider it money well spent.
After almost 40 years of toting the GM logo around, Mr. Goodwrench is retiring. Or being laid off, depending on your perspective. Either way, the troubled auto company is replacing him next year with separate "certified service" concepts for Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac. GM has decided to focus on its remaining nameplates because a) they're all strong national brands, and b) GM's name is mud after the bankruptcy hearings and legacy of administrative incompetence. Plus, as David Kiley points out: "There isn't actually a lot of grease and wrench-work going on with new cars today. If something goes wrong on a vehicle, it usually requires fixes to the on-board computer. 'Goodwrench' doesn't quite reflect the technical sophistication of today's vehicles. Maybe 'Mr. Goodchip' would be more appropriate." I must admit, it's a little sad to see him go. Maybe Jay Leno will resurrect Mr. Badwrench in tribute. He's earned that much, I think.
Elvis used to hand out brand-new Cadillacs to people who came to his shows, and Oprah has been known to shower her audiences with Pontiacs. Looks like Adam Sandler is horning in on the act, though on a slightly smaller scale. The comedian doled out $200,000 Maseratis to his co-stars from Grown Ups, a summer flick that pulled in $270 million at the box office worldwide. It's being released on DVD next week and could wind up in a lot of Christmas stockings. (Is that instead of the lump of coal, or in addition to it?) Sandler's largesse might come from the fact that he had a lot of skin in this game—he's one of the credited writers on the comedy about high school buddies reuniting, and he was also one of the producers. Chris Rock, David Spade, Kevin James and Rob Schneider were on the receiving end of the pre-holiday gift of the ultra-luxe Italian sports car. They're probably all hoping for a sequel.
If you had a choice, wouldn't you pick a Humvee or a tank as your getaway vehicle in case of a zombie apocalypse? Apparently, a Toyota Corolla will do the trick, too, if you believe a commercial that aired during Sunday night's launch of the spine-chilling AMC series The Walking Dead. The undead-themed spot, set up like a movie scene with a couple watching a zombie attack safely from the multiplex, is the latest to pick up the thread of the show it's airing in. AMC has some experience with this, having done it all season with '60s-style Unilever ads during Mad Men. (Some viewers liked them, some didn't. I found them to be fairly cheeseball.) The cable network, on a roll with its original programming, is obviously able to draw in marketers who want a piece of that high-quality action and are willing to fashion their campaigns to fit the environment. I'm not sure I'm sold on a Corolla as a zombie shield, but the spot was so unexpected, I stopped fast-forwarding through the ad break to watch it. The 90-minute Walking Dead premiere, by the way, pulled in a monster rating with 5.3 million viewers, the highest for any series in AMC's history and better than nearly every non-sports program that aired on Sunday night, according to The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed. That's a lot of eyeballs on a contextually relevant Corolla ad. Creepy and clever!
Usually the federal government comments about ads only when one of its regulating agencies has a problem. But transportation secretary Ray LaHood has singled out Subaru of America for praise. LaHood recently called Subaru of America COO Tom Doll to praise the Japanese automaker for its recent ad about distracted driving. "Their 30-second ad is all about a parent telling their young child, 'Don't use a cell phone, and don't text and drive,' " LaHood tells The Detroit News. He told Doll: "You're stepping up here with really persuading people, and you're going to win big accolades for doing that." The ad, shown here, titled "Baby Driver," was created by Minneapolis agency Carmichael Lynch, and features a father telling a young child not to text or make calls behind the wheel. It ends with the youngster, now a teen driver, behind the wheel. "Stay off the freeways—I don't want you going on those yet," the dad says. "Call me—but not while you're driving." The federal government is majority owner of General Motors. I'm thinking this has to make the GM peeps feel like the son whose dad gushes about the neighbor kid's baseball prowess. LaHood has been on a rampage about distracted driving, and is known to privately want to ban all telephony as well as texting from driving. That's not likely, though. The telecommunications industry has a lobby almost as powerful as the healthcare industry, and the companies, while not promoting texting and driving, don't want to see people have to give up at least hands-free calling behind the wheels.
General Motors' Chevrolet division has a product integration deal with CBS and its new hit series Hawaii Five-O. Before I hit on the absurdity of Monday's episode, and how GM factored into the plot, let me take a minute to express my sadness that Ford did not take the opportunity, as it did back in the 1960s with the original show. Not only did Steve McGarrett drive big black Mercury cop cars in the original, but the show was filled with Fords driven by bad guys, politicians and the other cops (Chin Ho, played by Kam Fong, and Kono played by Zulu ... why did they change the actors' names anyway?). McGarrett drove a 1967 Merc Marquis, a Merc Park Lane Brougham and then a 1974 Merc Marquis until the show wrapped in 1980. Yes, they had Steve driving a 6-year-old car. I can recall one bad guy who drove an awesome Ford Bronco open-top SUV. It's not like Ford could have re-upped with Mercury for the new series. The automaker announced this year that it is phasing out the brand. Still, in the second episode this year, Mercury got a nod when young Steve was in the garage of his just-killed father. In the garage, there was a car with a cover on it. Steve partially pulls the sheet off the nose of the car to show the Mercury name above the grille. That scene has no other purpose but to pay homage to the cars Jack Lord drove in the original. Indeed, actor Alex O'Loughlin, who plays McGarrett, will be seen restoring the old Merc as a sub-plot.
In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, the latter utters the infamous line: "What's in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet." That pretty much sums of the attitude of General Motors president Mark Reuss, who has yet another model-naming debacle on his hands. GM is trying, like Ford, to create a roster of global model names. The current problem on the table is Aveo, the little, cut-rate, slow-as-a-Rascal rental car Chevy now sells as its entry-level car (starting price: $11,965). An all-new and pretty respectable Aveo is due out next year. It looks and performs better than the current model in every way. It is called Aveo in other markets. But Reuss is contemplating a name change for the U.S.? Why? He says people aren't sure whether to pronounce it "a-VAY-o" or "A-vee-O" (rhymes with Fabio). At GM, naming meetings are the worst, according to insiders. The talk and the numerous PowerPoint presentations (you can't go to the bathroom at GM without a .ppt presentation) revolve around the cost of establishing a new name versus the baggage of the old name. Most meetings are guaranteed to have 50 percent on one side and 50 percent on the other. The most recent example of this was the Buick Regal. For most baby boomers, the dictionary meaning of Regal is "flaccid rental car. Also see: Uncle Morty's car from the '80s with the weird interior cloth that reminded us of Aunt Rose's couch … the one with the funny smell and color that had no name."