Olivier François might not seem like the typical name for a Detroit auto man. But then again, Mr. François is not the typical Detroit auto man. That’s exactly why, as Chrysler Group’s Chief Marketing Officer, he recently won the 2012 Adweek Grand Brand Genius award.
Immediately after taking the CMO position, François repeated actions taken while he was in the top ranks of Italian auto company Fiat. He canceled Chrysler’s contracts with their ad agency and hired a separate agency for each brand. That’s one for Chrysler, one for Jeep, and one for each of the newly split Ram trucks and Dodge cars.
Just to set the record straight, François specifically stated that this move had nothing to do with the quality of work completed by Chrysler’s previous ad agencies. Rather, he felt that each brand could be more fully developed and better served with its own agency.
It’s no secret that Chrysler fell on hard times in 2008, which led to bankruptcy and a government bailout. Under François’s leadership, Chrysler’s marketing took a direct approach to the matter. During a coveted (and pricey) commercial spot at halftime of this year’s Super Bowl, Chrysler had American film legend Clint Eastwood deliver the message that it was “Halftime in America”. Because so many people have been affected by the economic crisis, the bold ad hit home with consumers.
Of course, the “Halftime in America” ad isn’t the only standout under François’s supervision. Chrysler signed on Eminem and his Oscar-winning song “Lose Yourself” for the “Imported from Detroit” campaign. They recently launched a new series of Dodge Dart commercials featuring New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. François also oversaw a commercial urging the release of political prisoner and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. That ad stars Mikhail Gorbachev and Nelson Mandela among others. As you can see, François is devoted to big ideas and big names when it comes to promoting Chrysler’s brands products.
Chrysler has taken major steps to recover from their recent woes. They’ve rebranded, overhauled product lines, and undergone major leadership changes. So while there are many factors that have returned the company to double-digit growth, it can certainly be said that the marketing efforts led by François have had a major impact on Chrysler’s newfound success. And that earned him top honors from Adweek in 2012.