A clear California sun shines down on Jeremy Renner as he explains what he wants in a car.
Renner, the moody-eyed actor known as Hawkeye to countless fans of “The Avengers,” or Staff Sgt. William James, if “The Hurt Locker” is more your speed, is the new face and voice of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Summer of Jeep ad campaign, and he’s finishing up interviews with reporters at his secluded home in the hills near Hollywood.
“I don’t want something that looks like a rocket ship. I don’t want something that looks like a Popsicle,” he tells a couple of journalists as he stands in front of a red Jeep Gladiator Wednesday. “I want something that looks like a car.”
Renner counts a Tesla Model S among his auto possessions and now a 707-horsepower supercharged black Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk (FCA’s Chief Marketing Officer Olivier Francois handed him the key fob during a press conference and Renner later gave it a few revs).
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The reason Renner’s been tapped for this campaign is not, however, his love of cars, it’s for his music. Francois had a chance to hear some of Renner’s tunes when the FCA executive, who is also head of the Fiat brand, was in Los Angeles for a taping of NBC’s “Songland” recently.
Francois will be featured on the show in August searching for songwriters for upcoming Jeep commercials, and although Renner’s music is not part of that show, Francois liked what he heard enough during a visit to Renner’s home, where they talked and sipped tequila, to tie the music to a key Jeep marketing campaign.
“Whatever I was doing, and whatever he was needing, it just made sense,” Renner said.
A series of spots featuring various Jeeps and Renner’s music, with direction from Jeff Tomsic, who worked with Renner on the movie “Tag,” and help from musician Eric Zayne, are designed to tell the story of Jeep as Francois sees it — freedom, authenticity, capability. It forms a kind of launch for Renner’s music career as well, with songs like “Main Attraction” and “Nomad” designed to highlight Jeep’s attributes.
“I’m genuinely more interested in the music than having Hawkeye as my endorser,” Francois said.
Music, Francois said, allows you to connect to an audience emotionally, not just through a product.
“These are not just songs. These are mini-movies to me,” he said of Renner’s music.
The ads will air on social media as well as TV, a departure from this year’s Super Bowl. FCA chose to skip televised advertising for this year’s game, which was noteworthy not just because of the size of the audience but also because FCA has featured Eminem, Clint Eastwood and Bob Dylan in memorable past spots. So far, the effort has paid off compared to pricey Super Bowl TV ads, with millions of online views and positive feedback. One Republic’s largely instrumental version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” featuring images to represent the lyrics was particularly well-received.
Francois considers FCA’s approach to marketing its products to be different than that of other automakers, the “traditional car guys” who want to see their products front and center.
“At FCA, we hate marketing as usual. I hate when marketing feels like marketing,” he said, noting that the new efforts with Renner and the NBC show are an experiment.
“What I like about this experiment is it’s a new approach to brand integration,” he said.
People have already been introduced to Jeep, he noted. Now, “people need to be reminded of what it stands for.”
Contact Eric D. Lawrence: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @_ericdlawrence.