The XX Factor

Fix It Again J. Lo

Jennifer Lopez shilling for Fiat earlier this month.

Photo by Chris Weeks/Getty Images for Fiat.

Jennifer Lopez is facing a lot of derision for the tactics of her marketing partnership with Fiat. First there was her performance in Sunday’s American Music Awards, which featured a nearly naked Lopez, for obvious reasons, and a Fiat in the middle of the stage, for seemingly no reason. A Wall Street Journal blog called Lopez’s set “a car ad crossed with a strip tease.” Now there’s the news, courtesy of the Smoking Gun, that Lopez didn’t actually return to her hometown of the Bronx to film a TV ad purporting to show her driving through her hometown of the Bronx. TSG quotes sources saying that the crew used a body double to drive a Fiat through Lopez’s old neighborhood, and then mixed that footage with close-ups of the actual J. Lo filmed in Los Angeles. In the ad, Lopez called her old nabe “my world,” and the place that “inspires me.”

TSG points out that, adding insult to injury, the ad is “such a breathtaking assemblage of hoary urban clichés” – including boys frolicking under a fire hydrant and young men break-dancing and doing graffiti – that “it’s a wonder that Lopez & Co. forgot to include a shot of some grizzled pensioners playing dominoes or a Puerto Rican enjoying some shaved ice.”

Lopez’s strenuous efforts on behalf of Fiat (and the company’s no doubt lucrative compensation for said efforts) may represent a high water mark for celebrity endorsements. Previously, a successful pop star like Lopez might have wanted to disguise her partnership a bit, might have considered how to more subtly work a product placement into her image. But no longer. One gossip website called Lopez’s shilling “Kim Kardashian-like.” Ouch.

But this campaign may also expose marketing problems for Fiat. Last month, journalist Ed Morales blogged about the filming of the Fiat ad, which happened to take place on his block (hat tip: TSG). Morales reports that “halfway through the 4-hour shoot, the white Fiat broke down,” and posts a photo as evidence. (You can see the J Lo body double in the driver’s seat of the broken-down car. She has great hair.) This is not good. Older drivers will recall that when Fiat left the American market in the early ‘80s, the breakdown-prone brand had been nicknamed “Fix It Again Tony.” The company has since been working to improve the reliability of its cars. The news that this particular car couldn’t make it through a shoot won’t help its reputation any more than the ad helps J. Lo’s.