By Calvin Palmer
Sex sells. If it does not exactly result in a purchase of a product, a sexy advert will bring the product to the fore of our consciousness.
Such has been the case with the Fiat Abarth TV advert, which has been airing on Fox Soccer Channel. Of late, I have been a regular visitor to this channel, with six of Stoke City’s last seven games being shown live.
The Fiat Abarth ad features the feminine charms of model Catrinel Menghia and the suggestive use of the foam of a cup of latte.
I love this ad not only because of Catrinel Menghia but also because it reminds me of TV ads I used to enjoy back in Britain, comprising wit, style and the sexy charms of a beautiful woman. I do not speak Italian but I swear I understand every word of what the delicious Menghia is saying. It does not really matter what she is saying, does it?
For the cunning linguists out there, Menghia actually says:
What are you looking at? Uh!
What are you looking at? Uh!?
What are you looking at?! (slap)
Are you undressing me with your eyes?
Poor guy…you can’t help it?
Is your heart beating? Is your head spinning?
Do you feel lost thinking that I could be yours forever?
The translation is courtesy of Jalopnik.com.
I wondered at first if this ad had been produced by a European ad agency because it seemed too sophisticated to be the work of an American agency. I was wrong. The ad was produced by the Richards Group in Dallas, renowned for its thinking-outside-the-box advertising campaigns and one of the agencies I covered when I worked for Adweek.
The ad first aired during the 2012 Superbowl and then went viral on YouTube.
In conservative America, for conservative read backward, it was feared this ad would be too provocative for the pious religious puritans who exert far too much influence on everyday life in a country where Church and State are supposed to be separate. The reality is that in some states, the First Baptist Church controls just about everything through its political representatives.
While it may not make it to the network channels, special interest cable channels such as Fox Soccer Channel are able to give this brilliant ad the airtime it deserves.
And what of the delectable Catrinel Menghia. First, she is not Italian. The 26-year-old model is Rumanian and has featured in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition and a host of lingerie ads. The 5ft 9ins brunette has also appeared in Maxim and FHM. She is the face of Giorgio Armani worldwide and the body of French lingerie designers Lise Charmel. Here is one of her lingerie shots.
According to Jalopnik.com, she does not have a scorpion tattoo on the back of her neck. Did anyone really think she did?
I was hoping for an in-depth interview with Menghia but when I called she was washing her hair. [In your dreams, Calvin!]
Besides being taken by the charms of Catrinel Menghia, I was also taken by the Fiat Abarth 500. I have always had a penchant for hot-hatch cars, owning first a Citroën AX GT before graduation to the AX GTi and then its replacement, the awesome Citroën Saxo VTS. What a fun car that was. It cornered as if on rails and with its amazing pick up combined with hefty power at the top end, it kept many a BMW in my rearview mirror.
The Fiat Abarth boasts a 1.4-litre turbocharged engine that produces 160 bhp and 170lb-ft torque. In a MotorTrend test it clocked 0-60 mph in 6.8 seconds and covered a quarter of a mile in 15.3 seconds, reaching a speed of 89.8 mph. However, it does lag 0.5 seconds and one second respectively behind the Mini Cooper S.
Those figures put my old Citroën Saxo VTS in the shade. Its 16-valve 1.6-litre engine produced 118 bhp and 107lb-ft of torque, enabling it to clock 0-60 mph in a comparatively pedestrian 7.8 seconds.
I am beginning to like the sound of the Fiat Abarth. But there is one slight problem. The bustling metropolis that is Jacksonville does not have a Fiat dealership — no surprise there. According to the Fiat USA web site, the nearest dealership to me is in Daytona, 84 miles away. That will be convenient for an oil change and regular servicing.
I think I may start a campaign to get Jacksonville to change its name to Hicksville – the city that time, and the rest of the world, forgot.
The latest TV ad for the Fiat Abarth features Charlie Sheen but Catrinel Menghia puts in a cameo appearance at the end. Sheen steps out of the car and says: “I love being under house arrest.” He then asks Menghia: “What do I get for good behaviour?” This ad was produced by the Detroit office of Doner and is definitely in keeping with the usual American TV ads, featuring outlandish behaviour and the use of a celebrity.
My vote goes to the Richards Group and its Fiat ad.