Bentley Reacts To Carl’s Jr. Spot

The news had been all good for Bentley. The Volkswagen-owned maker of stately limousines had a sporty little hit on its hands—the Continental GT, a $160,000 coupe that’s sold out through 2005 and has put the pricier Rolls Royce Phantom and DaimlerChrysler Maybach models to shame. The brand’s high-class marketing has included tying into events like boat shows and classic-car meets. “You’ll never see Bentley advertising during Monday Night Football,” its U.S. marketing chief told BusinessWeek in 2004.

Then came Paris Hilton, washing a Bentley in the racy Carl’s Jr. spot. The appearance, which came as a surprise to the automaker, and the attendant furor seem like a downscale two-fer, linking Bentley to a second-tier fast feeder and to America’s Cheesiest Starlet. But the Bentley folks are taking it in stride. John Crawford, the marque’s director of PR for the Americas, passed along a statement that included this studiously bland comment on the situation: “Bentley cars have appeared in a variety, and growing number of films, music videos and commercials. In almost all cases the choice of Bentley has been that of the independent producers, and whilst Bentley Motors is pleased to witness increasing popularity of its cars, it does not initiate the inclusion of its cars in independent productions. When a marque, or brand, rises to a high level of visibility in the community it is inevitable that many will seek to leverage such popularity for gain or benefit.”