Grim Fiat ad plays on austerity theme sweeping Italy
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Grim Fiat ad plays on austerity theme sweeping Italy   | 23.01.2012.

MILAN, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Italian automaker Fiat rolled out an introspective 90-second video for its new Panda compact car on the internet on Monday aimed at tapping into the austerity zeitgeist.
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Fiat's latest commercial is modelled on a 2011 ad for its Chrysler subsidiary starring rapper Eminem, which captured hearts and viewers when it was played at the Superbowl, one of U.S. television's biggest events.

Like the gritty "Made in Detroit" ad which has collected 14 million YouTube views with its emotional storyline of a U.S. auto industry struggling to get back on its feet, the Panda ad showcases Fiat's controversial plan to make its factories more competitive during Italy's current financial crisis.

The Italian-language ad is set at Fiat's Pomigliano car factory near Naples, one of Italy's poorest areas and its themes mirror the challenges faced by Prime Minister Mario Monti's government as it begins talks about reforming a rigid labor market, a key part of Monti's "Save Italy" program designed to rescue the country from a European debt crisis.

The ad plays more like a political manifesto than a TV spot selling cars, but has been created for the launch of the new Panda across Italian dealers this week. The new car competes with Volkswagen's snappy Up!, the German firm's entry into the tiny citycar segment.

"We can choose which Italy to be," the ad says, which started running on Italian television on Sunday. "It's time to decide whether we want to be ourselves, or to be what others think we are."

On Monday, truckers blocked roads throughout Italy and taxi drivers resumed a strike as opposition mounted to government efforts to deregulate protected sectors of the economy.

Shots of workers assembling a car at Pomigliano are spliced with scenes of Naples-area unemployed, underscoring Fiat's plan to spend 20 billion euros to modernize its Italian factories in exchange for more flexible working conditions, like shorter coffee breaks.

Workers at Pomigliano voted to accept those conditions.

Fiat brand chief Olivier Francois was responsible for the award-winning Detroit ad. While Francois' advertising touch has proved sure in the past, Fiat's often bitter struggle to get unions on board with its efficiency drive has brought sharp criticism in Italy. (Reporting by Jennifer Clark, editing by Paul Casciato)

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