By ANDREW HAMPP
The last time Sting appeared in a major car commercial, for Jaguar, he scored his biggest U.S. hit in six years with “Desert Rose,” which reached the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100 in 2000 and marked a milestone in world music crossovers, featuring guest vocals sung in Algerian Arabic from singer Cheb Mami.
Nearly 20 years later, the singer’s latest carmaker collab has an equally global scope. Sting appears alongside reggae superstar Shaggy in a new European commercial for the 2019 Fiat 500, part of the Italian auto brand’s 120 the anniversary campaign. The campaign stars Sting & Shaggy in a surreal performance of their single “Just One Lifetime,” featured on the singers’ collaborative album “44/876,” which took home the award for Best Reggae Album at February’s Grammy awards.
And much in the same way that Sting’s Jaguar commercial originated from a last-minute product integration into the music video for “Desert Rose,” the concept for the Fiat spot began as a music video treatment before it got re-cut as a 90-second spot. Olivier Francois, Fiat Chrysler’s chief marketing officer and head of Fiat brand, had taken a similar approach last year with OneRepublic for Fiat’s sister brand Jeep, and wanted to see if Fiat could help Sting & Shaggy reach a broader European audience with “Just One Lifetime,” which Shaggy had flagged as the next potential single from “44/876.”
“I was just in San Diego at this big advertising conference, and I played it in a room and everyone was singing it. It’s the kind of song that sticks in your brain,” says Francois. “I’m hoping we can do exactly what we did with OneRepublic and ‘Connection’ but in the opposite way, starting it in Europe and maybe in my wildest dreams it may cross back over and become a chart-topper on this side of the ocean.”
Martin Kierszenbaum, who manages both Sting and Shaggy, says the campaign will also help the artists set up a busy summer of new projects. “Shaggy has a new album coming out May 10, Sting has a new album out later this year [featuring ‘reimaginings’ of past works] called ‘My Songs,’ and then Sting and Shaggy tour the UK together May 19 to 25, and Sting launches his My Songs tour in Paris on May 28,” he says. “The [‘44/876’] album came out in the States through Interscope, and now all our sister companies like Polydor, Polydor France, Universal Germany, Universal Poland, Universal Spain will all be servicing the song to radio. The synergy is really exciting, it speaks to the spirit that the more you can make these spots synonymous with the song and the album and the touring, the more likelihood you have of resonating with an artist.”
Kierszenbaum adds that the Grammy win for Best Reggae Album, Shaggy’s career second and Sting’s 17 th, makes Sting the first artist ever to win Grammys in pop and reggae categories, a feat that could also help the song’s chances of reaching a broader audience.
“I love that there’s a very core reggae song in a huge Fiat commercial right now,” he says. “They launched the album in Jamaica, used tons of reggae musicians who are featured on the album and now there’s this extension of the original spirit of the record.”