News Column

Chrysler's Olivier Francois Has Unusual Yet Effective Ad Style

Dec. 2, 2012

Brent Snavely

Dec. 02--It took a last-minute, all-or-nothing effort for Olivier Francois to convince Eminem to sell the licensing rights to "Lose Yourself" and appear in Chrysler's 2011 Super Bowl ad.

But for Francois, Chrysler's chief marketing officer, the casting approach was far from unusual.

In fact, it was typical.

In an interview with the Free Press, Francois said he often writes commercial scripts with a specific celebrity in mind even before he contacts the person.



"This was the case with Clint," Francois said, in reference to Clint Eastwood, who starred in Chrysler's "Halftime in America" Super Bowl commercial earlier this year. "The problem (with Eastwood) was that he was not just the best possible celebrity endorser," Francois said. "He was the only one. We wrote the commercial for him."

Francois used the same process for "House Arrest," a commercial for the Fiat 500 Abarth that starred Hollywood bad boy and drug abuser Charlie Sheen.

"We create a story around a character -- and the celebrity doesn't even know -- and then I go and I pitch it," Francois said. "I just invest time and energy ... and then I go and I try."

Joel Martin, a veteran Detroit music industry figure and the owner of 54 Sound studio, remembers the night Francois arrived at 10 p.m. one night to talk about using Eminem's "Lose Yourself" in a Super Bowl commercial.

Standing in front of the soundboard at the studio, Francois launched into a passionate pitch about Chrysler, Detroit and the song.

"It was remarkable," Martin said. "It was like -- this cannot be a car guy. Who is this?"

Never mind that Eminem already had turned down about 50 companies that had asked to use the song -- including Ford and Apple.

"I've known car executives ... and this was so atypical, to see somebody walk in and kind of wear it all on their sleeve and yet be convincing. It was (Francois) selling this."

The commercial, a 2-minute ad that included Eminem in a scene depicting both Detroit and Chrysler as comeback stories, was among the most memorable of the 2011 Super Bowl.

"The amount we paid to have (Eminem) and his song was almost symbolic," Francois said. "The value of the artist was subsidized by his belief in the cause."

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(c)2012 the Detroit Free Press

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