Lana Del Rey Croons for Jaguar, Latest in Auto-Branded Video Boom

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To paraphrase Don Draper: At last, a beautiful product placement Jaguar can truly own.

And own it they do when it comes to the latest music video for Lana Del Rey’s new track “Burning Desire.”

“I drive fast / Wind in my hair / I push you to the limits / Cause I just don’t care,” sings Del Rey. With her on a dark lonely stage and a Jaguar F-type on a sunny lonely highway, the video might be something Don Draper and team would have cooked up themselves.

It’s been nearly a year since Jaguar was ambushed with its unflattering product placement on Mad Men, where Jaguar was party to prostitution and a failed suicide attempt. Jag’s appearance in Del Rey’s “Burning Desire” video is the latest step on the march to the upcoming debut of the branded film, “Desire,” which the luxury automaker is commissioning from director Ridley Scott’s production company.

Everything old is new again as auto companies from Mercedes to Dodge are embracing the exploding auto-branded content format… again. [more]

Months ago at the LA Auto Show, Jaguar debuted the trailer for its upcoming film. Since then, the brand has rolled out several behind the scenes, “making of” teasers from the short film, starring Damian Lewis.

Yes, car “commercials” have trailers now.

In 2001, BMW exploded the medium with its BMW Films series “The Hire,” that teamed up-and-coming stars with top-shelf Hollywood directors, like Don Cheadle and Joe Carnahan (“Ticker”). Ironically enough, the late Tony Scott directed one of the original BMW “Hire” installments and now, Ridley Scott Associates—named after Tony’s director brother—is behind Jaguar’s “Desire.” The group was also behind the Kia “Space Babies” Super Bowl ad.

Branded content has become a far more accessible medium. With eyeballs turning away from standard commercials, it’s quickly becoming one of the most attractive alternatives, from expensive vanity production to down and dirty reality series.

Just as Jaguar was rolling out the teasers for its yet-to-debut “Desire” film, Mercedes-Benz released a trailer and final film “Mind of its Own.” The short film was directed by Ryan McGinley (of Levi’s moody “Go Forth” campaign) and stars model Karlie Kloss, a white horse and the Mercedes CLA.

“We’re seeing automakers spending more and more on branded content for the same reason every brand is — when done right, you can tell a more compelling story than any other form of advertising,” said Ray Wert, Founder of Tiny Toy Car, an automotive-branded content studio servicing automakers, agencies and publishers. Wert says that good auto-branded content needs to provide value to the viewer and value to the brand at the sdame time.

With luxury brand billing, Jaguar and Mercedes have targeted more artistic-branded features, while brands lower on the food chain are taking other approaches.

The reality approach has been explored several times. In 2011, Ford Fiesta produced “FiestaBo,” a viral campaign featuring Tom Hanks’ assistant Bo Stevenson during the filming of the star’s “Larry Crowne,” (the Fiesta was later placed in the movie.) Toyota pressed Travel Channel “Bizarre Foods” host Andrew Zimmern into service for a short reality show featuring the Prius V, shades of Toyota’s UK branded Prius web-series “Carpool.” 

Nissan may have struck out with its bizarre 2012 series “Date Better with Sentra,” though the episodes did produce a few hundred thousand views.

Meanwhile, Dodge thought outside the box when it teamed up with satirical icon The Onion for a film in which “Onion Digital Studio’s CEO reveals our upcoming slate of reality shows that will entertain viewers and use seamless product placement to make them buy Dodge Darts.”

Ford went meta with its “Escape My Life” series built around its Ford Escape.

“Escape My Life” logged about 300,000 views for its first episode but less than a sixth of that for subsequent installments, illustrating a huge challenge when it comes to maintaining excitement for branded content.

One attractive element of branded content is that, unlike commercials, the films remain relevant for a long time and, in some cases, offer a significant marketing long tail. For instance, BMW’s “The Hire” featured then-little-known actor Clive Owen. Today, Owen is a major star and the BMW film is part of his resume.

While a lot of automotive-branded video is focused on scripted or situational content with the auto a mere character or prop, for brands with the historical chops, the idea of a high-end branded documentary is appealing. For example, Mercedes-Benz’s “G-Class History” is a short look at the history behind one of the brand’s models.

The idea of self-focused, high-end documentaries is not limited to the auto world though, as demonstrated recently by the spectacular Kikkoman self-doc “Make Haste Slowly.”

Regardless of format, Wert says that the greatest factor separating failure and success is quality. “Does the Lana Del Rey-Ridley Scott match-up make sense for Jaguar? The music video’s been seen by well over 200,000 people and 99% of the interactions have been positive, so at this point it probably makes a lot of sense. Now, just as the case was with BMW, if the Ridley Scott movie’s any good, you’ll be able to change that answer from ‘probably’ to ‘certainly.”

In the end, the rush by auto companies like Jaguar to go back to the days of directly sponsoring and branding content—such as Chevrolet’s 1960s hit “My Three Sons”—is something Don Draper would embrace.

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