Like 111 million other Americans, I watched the 45th Super Bowl, though my team unfortunately didn’t make it. Unlike a number of years past, I actually watched for the football, but of course I watched the ads as well. There were a number of funny, amusing, clever & cute ads, and even some that were downright bizarre or straight up hot. Some of the car commercials avoided the humor route and went straight to the point. None, however, were as effective in grabbing attention & resonating on so many levels as the spot Chrysler put out. All I can say is: well done, Chrysler. Well done.
For anyone that may have missed it or just wants to watch it again (like me), here it is:
First off, the one thing I think the ad didn’t really do a good job of was actually promote the Chrysler 200. A part of me feels as if Chrysler knew that going in, but had the wisdom to see the bigger picture. They realized what the ad was really doing, and what a powerful message it carried. Just do a Google search for “Chrysler Super Bowl Ad” and you’ll see that it worked.
Let’s start with the announcer. I’m not sure who he is, but what a fantastic voice to capture the gritty, tough & resilient image of Detroit being conveyed. You can hear the determination & perseverance in every word. In some parts, there’s even defiance:
That’s who we are. That’s our story. Now it’s probably not the one you’ve been reading in papers. The one being written by folks who’ve never even been here & don’t know what we’re capable of.
He’s throwing down the gauntlet. defying people to actually get to know Detroit & its people before passing judgement. It’s a powerful statement.
How about the drive through Detroit viewers are taken on throughout the monologue? It’s a departure from most of the imagery normally associated with Detroit these days. We’re used to seeing abandoned blocks, crumbling buildings, poverty & desolation. Every once in a while they’ll throw up a shot of the GM headquarters which, at this point, is probably one of the few landmarks in the Detroit area anyone not from there is familiar with. No, what we see in this ad is the sculptures, statues & other artwork you’d expect in cities like New York, Los Angeles or Washington DC. We see a downtown that, though it’s gray & somber, is littered with tall office buildings, parks & a city going about life. The most important landmark & climax of the commercial is Detroit’s Fox Theater. Certainly a different side of Detroit than most people are used to, and a reminder that despite going through hard times they’re still a major city.
Perhaps the most powerful element of the ad is the audio. It opens with sounds of manufacturing & industry, of steel and machinery, which coincides with shots of factories around the city. It transitions into deep bass violin notes as we drive through downtown, with a strong drum beat once in a while. The sound of a gospel choir building to a soaring & haunting melody fades in, and as we transition to the announcer challenges the viewer the opening notes to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself” start to come through.
Now we’re from America, but this isn’t New York City. Or the Windy City. Or Sin City. And we’re certainly no one’s Emerald City.
Fade the choir back in over the pump-you-up sound of “Lose Yourself” as Eminem himself pulls up to Fox Theater in a Chrysler 200, gets out & walks inside toward the stage, until they erupt in a high power vocal crescendo & stop abruptly, leaving nothing but the echo of their voices in the enormous space. A quiet choral resonance as Eminem steps into frame and says his one line:
This is the Motor City, and this is what we do.
Bam! Back to “Lose Yourself” as he drives away in the Chrysler 200, and the commercial ends.
Now what American after watching & hearing that didn’t feel inspired & proud? This was a rallying cry, a reminder to America & the world that Detroit is still here, American cars are still here, and despite hardship & the public’s loss of confidence in the industry & city they’re coming back better & stronger than ever.
“We dare you to forget us and discount us now!”
Obviously Detroit gets major accolades & recognition in the ad, but this was a great move by Chrysler as well. Arguably the most forgotten of the Big Three, they took an opportunity to put themselves back in people’s thoughts, to stand with Ford & GM as the force of the American automotive industry, as a company that builds good cars. If anything, Ford & GM should be thanking Chrysler for this ad.
Now time will tell if it was worth Chrysler setting the record for the longest & most expensive Super Bowl ad ever, but I have a feeling it’ll be a good thing for them. It certainly had people I know excited about Chrysler who aren’t even car people & would never otherwise even give thought to them. It was the right time for this ad, and it was the right message. With the car industry starting to climb back out of the recession & the general feeling in the industry & Detroit (as exhibited at this year’s North American International Auto Show), a bunch of new cars (including the 200) showing up this year, and the U.S. consumers’ confidence in the American auto industry at a tipping point, they did exactly what they should have done.
I have hope for Chrysler that they can ride this wave of positive energy into some real sales numbers, build some good & exciting cars and truly make a comeback. One thing’s for sure though: they kicked ass at the Super Bowl.