Rolls-Royce should start to worry about this bling thing

There was an interesting Channel 4 news item this week reporting that the impending launch of the new Rolls-Royce convertible was to feature in the rap artist P Diddy's latest music video.

This marketing technique is clearly not a new thing.

Cars have featured in content forever. Think Bond movies, The Saint's Volvo, Herbie the Beetle or Cadillac in The Matrix.

Indeed, rap artists have always had love affairs with Range Rovers and Bentleys.

So why is this example of product placement different?

Because it is Rolls Royce and that makes it very precious.

Gerry Anderson, creator of Thunderbirds, said that Rolls-Royce hated the full-sized Lady Penelope pink Roller enough to regularly attempt to acquire it in order to have it crushed.

Now, even under German ownership, the marque remains unique and yet fragile to commercialism.

For me, its essence is confident enough to ignore competition and changing times. It surely has blue oil running through its royal veins. The latest saloon's design reinforces this Rolls-Royce DNA.

It is vast, slab-sided and imposing. It is an event even for bus stop refugees and should never be personally driven but, ironically, only chauffeured by Parker.

It is stylish snobbery saying: "Look at me, but don't look at me!"

I do not know if Rolls chose for its car to be featured in MTV videos, or had any choice in the matter, but if I were them I would worry.

Brands such as this rely heavily upon a mix of tradition and technology introduced in their own time and must always, always be out of the reach of humble mortals.

That is where the priceless magic lies. Like the gulf between an iconic Hollywood star and a Big Brother contestant. As wide as the gap between Audrey Hepburn and Jade Goody.

Merely having cash is simply too easy an entry into that club. To breech this principle may risk condemning an icon to fashionable accessibility and ultimate disposability. I hope they know what they are doing up there in Crewe, as this brand is worth protecting.

- Jonathan Durden is president and co-founder of PHD, jonathan.durden@haymarket.com.

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