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Dodge's late-2013 spokesman was all bluster: It was Ron Burgundy, Will Ferrell's prancing idiot from Anchorman 2, whose TV ads lifted Durango sales 59% last October. But when Ferrell (in character as Burgundy) went on Conan and heard that number, he threw a curveball: "What's so amazing about it is, it's a terrible car. Just horrible craftsmanship," he said. And Dodge . . . loved it.

"Our marketing recipe focuses on this brand attitude and swagger," says Olivier François, CMO of Chrysler Group--which means as long as people are taking notice, Dodge is winning. Which it is: Across the brand, Dodge sales were up 14% last year and kept alive a 14-month streak of rising sales.

In 2013, Dodge's product placements reached nearly every type of driver: the speed demon (Fast & Furious 6), the geek (Syfy channel's Defiance), the tough guy (ads with the rapper Pitbull). It even coordinated product lines with its placements--making sure, say, the futuristic Dodge in Defiance still shows off the modern version's characteristics. When the eponymous character in FX's Archer received a Dodge for his birthday, it was proof of cultural saturation: That wasn't a paid spot. Dodge was just on the writers' minds.