At this time last year, Jennifer Lopez was still licking her wounds from a rough 2010. She kicked off the year with a poorly received performance of single "Louboutins," got dropped by Epic Records and failed to relaunch her film career with the underperforming romantic comedy "The Back-Up Plan."
Cut to this month, and Lopez is everywhere. She performed a medley of her hits on the American Music Awards (AMAs); she's in virtually every commercial break on broadcast TV, working with Fiat, Venus, Kohl's and L'Oreal EverSleek; she's in print ads for Gucci and Tous jewelry; and she's back on the Billboard charts with singles like "On the Floor" and "I'm Into You" from "Love?", her first Island Records album. And Monday (Dec. 12), she appeared in an all-new TV spot for Harman Kardon's home theater systems. And it's all thanks to her gig as a judge on a little juggernaut called "American Idol," which helped successfully reposition Lopez as a multifaceted entertainer for the masses.
Lopez helped the show emerge from a ratings slump (along with fellow new judge Steven Tyler) and propped up her own career in the process. The video for " On the Floor" premiered to much fanfare during "American Idol" and quickly racked up hundreds of millions of views on YouTube and Vevo, enough to rank as the third-most-watched music video of all time (as of November). The single also peaked at No. 3 and became her highest-charting hit since 2002's "Jenny From the Block." Even her film career has been revived, with Lopez set to appear in three movies next year. Also on the horizon is another music competition series (in partnership with "Idol" founder Simon Fuller and Marc Anthony), "Q'Viva!," set to air on Univision and other networks in early 2012.
But with her newfound ubiquity comes some backlash. The much-delayed "Love?" received poor reviews and dropped off the Billboard 200 in September. An early commercial for Fiat featuring a trailer for her "Papi" video was dubbed by auto-marketing expert Peter DeLorenzo as "quite possibly the worst automotive spot of the last decade, hands down," while Fiat's onstage appearance during Lopez's AMAs performance drew ire from critics as "shameless" and "embarrassing."
Fiat CEO Olivier Francois, however, stands by the campaign, citing a 500% increase in traffic to the brand's YouTube channel from August to September after Lopez's ads started airing, as well as a 47% increase in unaided awareness of the Fiat brand from April to October. "Our goal is to continue to increase the level of awareness for our brand so customers know that the Fiat 500 is the only vehicle in the U.S. that combines Italian style, modern technology and fuel efficiency at an affordable price. Our partnership with Jennifer Lopez, in conjunction with multiple marketing actions, is helping to do that," Francois says.
But at least one brand hasn't been riding Lopez's post-"Idol" coattails. L'Oreal, which has been working with her since 1999, actually filmed its current EverSleek campaign with Lopez in July 2010, just weeks before she was confirmed as a judge on the show. The brand saw an increase in sales and market share during its 2011 fiscal year, citing Lopez as a key driver of its performance.