At it again: Bill Murray’s idea births another Jeep spot

Bill Murray helped Jeep tailor a new digital ad touting safety during the coronavirus pandemic.

In the Groundhog Day-themed video, Murray wakes up and heads outside before turning around and saying, “Safety first.” Then he goes back to bed.

It’s a perfect message for the moment, but the audio wasn’t new. It was just a case of shrewd editing that Murray recommended to Olivier Francois, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ chief marketing officer.

The audio was taken from an extended version of FCA’s Super Bowl spot. Murray said the line to a helmet-wearing groundhog.

The safety-themed video is part of a larger social media campaign by FCA that is pushing responsible behavior to stop the spread of the virus and honoring medical personnel and police officers on the front lines of the crisis. Jeep, a brand known for its adventurous spirit, has been telling the public to stay off the roads during the pandemic.

Francois told Automotive News that Murray called him and said, “Olivier, you remember the scene where I’m tapping on the helmet of the groundhog, and I said, ‘Safety first’? I guess you could use that.”

Murray also raised the idea of using a clip showing the groundhog with his head out of the window of a Gladiator. That scene made it into another digital video for the campaign.

Ford loses marketing execs to Google, Facebook

DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. is losing two director-level executives to a pair of tech giants.

Amy Marentic, a marketing and sales executive in charge of some of the automaker’s key vehicles, is leaving for a position with Google. Separately, Crystal Worthem, head of global brand experiences and who helped Ford develop a key sponsorship with singing competition show “American Idol,” is leaving for a position at Facebook.

It was not immediately clear when the moves take effect or if Ford plans to fill the positions.

“Both of them have done a variety of exceptional things, both domestically and internationally,” Ford spokesman T.R. Reid told Automotive News late Wednesday. “We’re sorry to see them go, but also flattered to see people from one leading company go to other leading companies.”

Marentic for the past year has served as North America product line director for Ford’s “Icons” line, which includes the Mustang, the new Mustang Mach-E electric crossover and the upcoming Bronco SUV. In the role, she helped launch Ford’s Enterprise Product Line Management group and helped develop a 10-year strategy for the icon vehicles, which included a $2 billion investment, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Ford was set to unveil the new Bronco and the smaller Bronco Sport crossover this spring, but the introductions were pushed back because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Marentic previously led Ford’s autonomous vehicle marketing efforts. She also served as president of Lincoln in China from mid-2016 to mid-2018, where she oversaw a period of growth after the brand’s late entry in the world’s largest vehicle market.

Under her watch, Lincoln experimented with a number of pilot programs, including online-only stores using virtual reality and mobile phone technology, popup-like mobile sales centers and mini delivery centers with room for a couple of show cars and service bays.

Marentic, who has a bachelors degree in aerospace engineering and a masters degree in industrial and manufacturing engineering from the University of Michigan, also served in a number of marketing, sales and product planning roles. She has said her top two career choices were either working in automotive or becoming an astronaut.

Prior to her most recent role, Worthem was marketing director for Ford’s Middle East and Africa region. She’s also served in marketing positions for the Escape, Fusion, small SUVs and Lincoln.

Worthem attended Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Fla., where she earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and MBA, according to a company profile.

CDK completes sale of digital marketing business to Ansira

CDK Global Inc. finalized the sale of its digital marketing business to Ansira Partners Inc., a marketing agency owned by private equity investors.

The digital marketing business includes dealership advertising and websites and has been renamed Sincro, operating as an Ansira subsidiary, CDK said. All of CDK’s former digital marketing customers have been transferred to Ansira.

CDK in February said it had signed an agreement to sell the business to Ansira, in part because of its familiarity with automotive clients. Terms of the deal were not released.

“The digital marketing business is an industry-leading and customer-focused organization that will continue to grow and innovate with Ansira,” CDK CEO Brian Krzanich said in a statement. “I am appreciative of the successes CDK and the digital marketing business experienced together, and I am confident those successes will carry over as we move forward on a new path.”

In a release, Ansira said its Sincro business also will provide digital consulting, earned marketing, search engine optimization and other services and has been upgraded with new, user-friendly features.

“The completion of the acquisition of Sincro further amplifies the breadth and depth of Ansira’s local marketing solutions, which is especially important today given the unprecedented change happening at the local level,” Ansira CEO Jay Dettling said in a statement.

Jen Cole, who previously led CDK’s digital business as a senior vice president, has joined Ansira as president of Sincro, the companies said.

Ansira has several offices in the U.S. and abroad and is a subsidiary of private equity firm Advent International.

CDK’s digital business was impacted when General Motors opted last year to allow more preferred website providers for its dealers. Prior to this year, CDK had been GM’s exclusive preferred website vendor.

CDK will report its fiscal third-quarter earnings May 5.

Super Bowl star Hyundai Sonata recalled for ?Smaht Pahk’ glitch

Hyundai Motor America is recalling nearly 12,000 vehicles in the U.S. because of unintended movement of unoccupied cars with the Remote Smart Parking Assist technology.

The vehicles are 2020 Hyundai Sonata and Nexo sedans, according to a NHTSA document. The Nexo is Hyundai’s fuel cell vehicle sold only in California.

The recalled vehicles have a programming error in the parking assist controller software causing cars to move, increasing the risk of crash and injury to bystanders.

No crashes or injuries have been reported.

The Sonata and its parking technology starred in the automaker’s Super Bowl ad that aired during the game on Sunday, Feb. 2.

According to Hyundai’s February U.S. sales report, the Sonata’s retail sales increased by 12 percent, although total sales for the vehicle fell 0.5 percent that month.

Hyundai credits the increase in retail sales to the all-new 2020 model highlighted in the Boston-centric Super Bowl “Smaht Pahk” commercial.

“Hyundai’s Super Bowl ad this year was highly successful.” Hyundai spokesman Michael Stewart told Automotive News in an email. “It helped lift the brand overall and for Sonata was successful at improving awareness, consideration and opinion, driving dealer foot traffic, increasing online shopping activity, along with increasing a variety of other business metrics.”

Hyundai will start notifying dealers and owners on June 4. Dealers will reprogram the parking software. The supplier is Mobis, according to NHTSA.

JLR marketing VP McCullough exits

Kim McCullough, 59, Jaguar Land Rover’s vice president of marketing for North America, left the company last week, ending a long run with the luxury importer.

For now, North American CEO Joe Eberhardt will assume McCullough’s duties. McCullough took over as vice president of marketing in September 2014 after working as brand vice president of Land Rover during some of its highest growth years.

This was her second stint at the company. From 1997 to 2001, McCullough worked in marketing for Land Rover, which was owned by BMW until being sold to Ford Motor Co. in 2000. She then held numerous senior marketing jobs at Toyota, Nissan and Lexus. She returned to Land Rover in 2011.

In 2015, she was named one of Automotive News’ 100 Leading Women in the North American Auto Industry.

Her departure comes at a crucial time for Jaguar Land Rover. The company is on the cusp of one of the most important launches in its history. The new-generation Land Rover Defender is scheduled to arrive at dealerships in a matter of weeks.

Even though the Defender plant in Nitra, Slovakia, has been closed since March 20, JLR officials say the Defender will launch on time in the United States in late spring.

Need a road trip about now?

For a lot of people, a nice, long drive probably sounds pretty good right about now.

But most citizens of the U.S. and many other countries are under strict orders to stay home as much as possible to curtail the spread of the coronavirus, so Audi’s Australian marketing agency made an unusual video to help fight cabin fever.

The video is simply four hours of driving an A6 sedan through Australia’s Central Tablelands. It has background music but no narration or overt advertising, aside from the Audi logo in the bottom right corner. There are even red lights and occasional rain.

And, yes, it’s actually four hours long. The video periodically switches viewpoints among cameras positioned behind the driver, pointing out a side window, outside the passenger-side door and from high above.

“During this difficult time for many of us, Audi wanted to create an innovative way of bringing the iconic Australian road trip to people in their homes,” Nikki Warburton, chief marketing officer at Audi Australia, said in a statement.

“ ’The Drive’ is a digital concept that allows customers to experience the pleasure of the open road from the confines of their home, and to hopefully offer Australians some tranquility and mental well-being during these uncertain and unsettling times.”