Songs for Screens: How Sting & Shaggy’s Grammy-Winning Album Got a Second Life From Fiat

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.”

Songs for Screens is a Variety column sponsored by music experiential agency MAC Presents, based in NYC. It is written by Andrew Hampp, founder of music marketing consultancy 1803 LLC and former correspondent for Billboard. Each week, the column will highlight noteworthy use of music in advertising and marketing campaigns, as well as film and TV.



More TV

  • Harlots

    ITV Takes Majority Stake in ‘Harlots’ Producer Monumental Television

    ITV Studios now has a controlling stake in Monumental Television, the production company that makes Hulu series “Harlots” and which was founded by Oscar nominated film producers Alison Owen and Debra Hayward. ITV first bought into the company in 2015 and has upped its stake from 26% to 51%. Julian Bellamy, managing director, ITV Studios, [...]

  • Fremantle Owner RTL Group Forms New

    Fremantle Owner RTL Group Forms New Unscripted Formats Unit

    RTL has created a new unit that will work up unscripted formats exclusively for broadcasters and streaming services in the group. Fremantle, which is a major force in unscripted, is part of the RTL Group, and makes shows for RTL and third parties. The new Format Creation Group will develop ideas exclusively for in-house outlets. [...]

  • Pennyworth

    TV Review: 'Pennyworth'

    Is there a law that says there must always be a certain number of Batman properties on air at all times? Just as Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” films germinated a fandom that seemed to demand not merely a Ben Affleck Batman but also two different Joker-based franchise, so too did the conclusion of Fox’s “Gotham” [...]

  • She's Gotta Have It Review

    'She's Gotta Have It' Canceled After Two Seasons at Netflix

    Netflix has canceled Spike Lee’s series adaptation of “She’s Gotta Have It.” The show ran for two seasons at the streamer. Lee is expected to shop the series to other outlets. The news comes less than two months after the release of Season 2 back in May. “Spike Lee is one of the greatest filmmakers [...]

  • David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

    'Game of Thrones' Showrunners Will No Longer Attend Comic-Con Panel

    “Game of Thrones” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, along with some beloved “Thrones” actors, have canceled their scheduled appearances at San Diego International Comic-Con. Actors Iain Glen (Jorah Mormont), Nathalie Emmanuel (Missandei of Naath), director Miguel Sapochnik, and dual writer-producers Benioff and Weiss are no longer attending, HBO revealed in a revised panel lineup [...]

  • TV News Roundup: 'Mr. Robot' Drops

    TV News Roundup: 'Mr. Robot' Drops Season 4 Trailer (Watch)

    In today’s roundup, USA releases a trailer for the final season of “Mr. Robot,” Apple plans a “Snoopy in Space” series and Variety has an exclusive clip from Season 3 of Netflix’s “The Epic Tale of Captain Underpants.” CASTING Golden Globe-winner Ian McShane will guest star in the season premiere of “Law & Order: SVU.” [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content