Fiat Auto believes a versatile vehicle such as the Multipla compact minivan needs a flexible advertising approach across Europe.
Formula One's - and Ferrari's - Michael Schumacher featured strongly in the pan-European launch of the Multipla. But once the Schumacher campaign had been established, Multipla advertisements were tailored toward individual markets.
The Schumacher campaign was first seen in Fiat's home market of Italy in November 1998. A series of television commercials featured the racing driver acting as a salesman in a small, crowded Italian restaurant. Schumacher explained the Multipla's adaptable accommodation by rearranging restaurant chairs into two rows of three seats.
After that, the Multipla was promoted through billboard posters in some big Italian cities between July-August 1999.
The Multipla returned to Italian television screens on February 20 with a new campaign created by BGS D'Arcy. The 30- and 45-second spots were directed by Eric Saarinen, renowned for his work on last year's advertisements for the new Fiat Punto that featured the car cruising streets populated by wild animals. Post-production was carried out by Digital Domain of Los Angeles, the company behind the special effects for the Titanic movie.
The new Multipla advertisment focused on 'a warm spring day, a famous 1970s song and six friends.' The song was 'Our House' by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The advertisement ended with the tagline: 'Tu metti gli amici, noi la Multipla' (you provide the friends, we provide the Multipla).
Fiat sold 18,270 Multiplas in Italy last year.
In France, the Schumacher television campaign broke in January 1999. It was accompanied by France-only print advertisements with the tagline: 'Fiat Multipla -singulier et pluriel' (singular, or remarkable - and plural, or multiple).
A second billboard and print campaign ran in France between April-June. The first advertisement featured the Multipla and six rugby players dressed in formal suits. The tagline was: 'Six costumes, un mouchoir de poche' (six costumes, one pocket handkerchief).
The second advertisement featured the Multipla and five small children with the slogan: 'Cinq tresors, un coffre-fort' (five treasures, one safe).
This campaign was repeated between September-November.
A new television and radio campaign started in France on February 22 with the tagline: 'Place aux amis' (make way for your friends).
Fiat's agency in France is DMBB D'Arcy.
Germany played a key role in the launch of the Multipla in Europe. Michael Conrad & Leo Burnett, Frankfurt, created the entire Schumacher campaign. The overall budget was DM20 million (A10.2 million).
The follow-up German advertisements highlighted the Multipla's idiosyncrasies with the tagline: 'There is a norm for everything -but exceptions do exist.'
A national weekend test drive promotion was also staged in Germany in which 3,500 potential customers took part.
In the Netherlands, the Multipla was officially launched at the Amsterdam motor show in February 1999.
'That was a good way of drawing the public's attention to the car,' said Jan-Daan Berkhout, marketing manager of company-owned distributor Fiat Auto Nederland.
Berkhout said the Schumacher advertisements were important, but additional promotional activities played a vital role.
Fiat Auto Nederland carried out joint promotions with local dealers, the McDonald's hamburger chain and electronics giant Philips. It supplied cars for the Dutch government's daily commuting car pooling project. Billboard and print advertisements were also developed.
'We wanted to create public interest wherever possible for a new and unknown concept,' said Berkhout. 'We had to find out what sort of customers would buy a Multipla. In the end, they are either looking for family functionality, or they are seeking an avant-garde model.'
Berkhout said he expects this year's Multipla sales to exceed 1999's level in the Netherlands, 'because the (compact minivan) segment is still growing.' Fiat sold 1,295 Multiplas in the Netherlands.
Fiat Austria and agency Burnett-Wirz also believed the Multipla needed special promotion. A 'Multipla marathon' was staged that involved people sitting in the cars for 10 hours each day. Only 15-minute breaks for lunch were allowed. The contest ran for three months and received widespread publicity on Austrian television news programs.
In Sweden, importer Italienska Bilimporten is hoping to introduce the Multipla in the summer. Marketing plans have not yet been finalized, but marketing manager Tomas Hjelmstrom said the car would probably be profiled as a traditional family minivan.
In the UK, agency D'Arcy took the opposite approach and focused on the Multipla's radical design. D'Arcy's national press and poster campaign consisted of three executions that highlighted the Multipla's innovative features.
One showed a picture of the Multipla next to copy that read: 'How odd. Most people carriers can't carry six people and their luggage.'
Another read: 'Stand out from the crowd, then offer them a lift.' The final execution showed a picture of the car with the words 'conventional wisdom' written upside down.
The campaign ran across billboards and double-page spreads in newspapers' weekend review sections and supplements.
Last month, Fiat launched a below-the-line marketing blitz for the Multipla in the UK. The campaign, handled by IMP, incorporated direct mailings targeted at 40,000 profiled consumers. Targets were incentivized to provide information on their current vehicle and lifestyle by the opportunity to win sets of cinema tickets.
The mailing described the Multipla as 'roomy, practical and the first minivan with attitude and a sense of humor.'
It was dropped within a few days of the Multipla being named car of the year in the BBC Top Gear Awards 2000. Top Gear is a leading UK automotive television program and magazine.
The Multipla had total sales of 36,812 units in western Europe last year, according to JATO Dynamics estimates.
Georg Auer, Luca Ciferri, Stephane Farhi, Dorothee Ostle, Tege Tornvall and Wim Oude Weernink contributed