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The best ad of Super Bowl XLVI

My favorite commercial from the 2012 Super Bowl was this spot for Chrysler, by Wieden & Kennedy and starring Clint Eastwood. Here it is if you missed it:

It’s deadly serious, and the visuals range from fiery industrial cityscapes to documentary-style portraits of people. Clint Eastwood, showing his face only briefly in a close-up, looks like the grizzled veteran he plays in “Gran Torino,” a movie with a plot that involves cars. All the visual and audio clues say, “Listen up and take this seriously.”

Then there’s the writing! It leads with a football analogy, but grows into sweeping oratory. Here’s the script:

It’s halftime. Both teams are in their locker room discussing what they can do to win this game in the second half. It’s halftime in America too. People are out of work and they’re hurting. And they’re all wondering what they’re going to do to make a comeback. And we’re all scared because this isn’t a game. The people of Detroit know a little something about this. They almost lost everything. But we all pulled together. Now Motor City is fighting again. I’ve seen a lot of tough eras, a lot of downturns in my life, and times when we didn’t understand each other. It seems that we’ve lost our heart at times. The fog of division, discord and blame made it hard to see what lies ahead. But after those trials, we all rallied around what was right, and acted as one. Because that’s what we do. We find a way through tough times and if we can’t find a way then we’ll make one. All that matters now is what’s ahead, how do we come from behind, how do we come together, and how do we win. Detroit’s showing us it can be done. And what’s true about them is true about all of us. This country can’t be knocked out with one punch. We get right back up again and when we do the world’s going to hear the roar of our engines. Yeah. It’s halftime America. And our second half’s about to begin.

Fans of political advertising will immediately hear echoes of Ronald Reagan’s 1984 campaign “Morning in America” commercial:

* * * *

Like that old Reagan-Bush ad, the new “Made in Detroit” tries to capture the mood of American culture. It succeeds on several levels. The idea that it’s “halftime” immediately made some people think of the presidential cycle; a few people I follow on Twitter immediately suggested that this Chrysler spot could be retooled into an Obama campaign ad. The “knocked out with one punch” line can only be about 9/11. The Detroit economic collapse (“They almost lost everything”) and the Chrysler bankruptcy is familiar to anyone who follows business news. (Anyone who follows business news also knows that an Italian company, Fiat, owns most of Chrysler now, but never mind that.)

And while I don’t care for the idea that production of gas-guzzling Dodge Rams is a benchmark of American progress, this ad sells cars. That’s it’s purpose, and it succeeds.

* * * *

So why was this ad the best of the 2012 Super Bowl? If there was any one theme in this year’s Super Bowl ads, it was to seek safety in nostalgia. Many ads continued campaigns used in previous years. Honda remade “Ferris Bueller,” MetLife resurrected cartoons from our childhood, Coca-Cola ran the same polar bears they’ve been using for ump-teen years, Budweiser tapped into American history with two nostalgic ads, and the list goes on.

This Chrysler ad was also a bit of a retread. The “Made in Detroit” slogan debuted at last year’s Super Bowl, in another sweeping, 2-minute spot for Chrysler staring Eminem. You might remember that ad:

But here’s why the Chrysler ad stood out from the pack. First, it looked and sounded rich, expensive, and Super Bowl-specific, which made it feel special.

And second, it’s an optimistic, inclusive call-to-arms. Let’s get people working. Let’s make stuff. If that’s the brand Chrysler want’s to be, I can get behind that.

* * * *

Who created this ad?

Agency: Wieden & Kennedy Portland
Director: David Gordon Green
Executive Creative Directors: Mark Fitzloff, Susan Hoffman
Creative Directors: Aaron Allen, Michael Tabtabai, Joe Staples
Copywriters: Kevin Jones, Smith Henderson, Matthew Dickman
Art Director: Jimm Lasser
(Credits via Co Create)

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Advertising, Politics

One comment

  1. J-Walter says:

    Interesting analysis. A very touching ad, skilled copy.
    Joseph Perrone: you do not like it or are you saying that these guys did not create the ad?

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