Controversial Tibet Lancia commercial -- Click above to watch video

Fiat exec Olivier Francois has a big reputation that's based on results. As head of the Lancia brand, he has garnered it more attention than it's had in many years, and the marque sells more cars more consistently. He has done this with a flair for marketing that begs for attention, and if it takes controversy to get attention then so be it. Fiat chief Sergio Marchionne chose Francois to be the CEO of Chrysler vehicles and run the Chrysler Group's marketing, advertising and brand development and strategies. It is expected, then, that he will bring his risque marketing ways to the house of The Pentastar.

Francois was the man behind the Lancia ad that had Richard Gere driving the new Delta into Tibet. As if that weren't enough, the ad was shown during the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. You can imagine how happy the Chinese were about that, but the larger story was that it worked: the ad and the controversy got play everywhere, and Fiat only had to make a formal apology to China to get on with business. Francois also made a commercial that honors Aung San Suu Kyi, a political prisoner in Myanmar.

This is the kind of advertising, though, that's more acceptable, and probably more effective, in Europe. In America, a commercial about a robot committing suicide is cause for protests, and VW's Routan campaign in which people have babies in order to justify buying the minivan is decried as insensitive by people who can't have babies. America is not the first country where one would test the limits of corporate daring or broadcast a ribald sense of humor to a mass market audience. The complete remaking of Chrysler and the company's former history of not being just another carmaker could give Francois room to bang up against some cultural boundaries. But we'd still advise Fiat to keep a crisis PR team on hold. Follow the jump to see the Delta commercial.

[Source: Ad Age]