Throwback Thursday: Chrysler’s Inspiring Super Bowl Ads
“Throwback Thursday” (#TBT) is Tier10lab’s look back at some of our favorite automotive advertising campaigns. #TBT runs the last Thursday of each month.
By now, we’re all aware of the Super Bowl and its nationwide importance. Not because of the game, of course. For the majority of people watching on Feb. 3, the battle on the gridiron featuring the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens will be an afterthought.
The 49ers are on their quest for a sixth title. “So what?”
Ray Lewis in his final game with the Ravens, with whom he’s spent his entire 17-year NFL career. “Doesn’t matter!”
Collin Kapernick versus Joe Flacco. “Never heard of ‘em!”
Brothers and opposing head coaches Jim and John Harbaugh. “Mildly intriguing!”
Besides Beyonce’s hopefully-non-lip-synched halftime performance, America really only watches the Super Bowl for the advertisements.
While recently it seems that every company is going with quick-hit, funny and quirky advertisements, two of Chrysler’s recent Super Bowl ads broke away from that trend.
Both ads, created by ad agency Wieden + Kennedy, were two minutes long and aired at halftime, making them the most expensive spots in the Super Bowl. On top of that, serious star-power and a high production value made the ads expensive to create, as well.
The fact that the ads were serious was a necessity; it helped them stand out in the crowd of the goofy 30-second spots mainly shown that evening. More importantly, a serious ad was the only ad that would fly with public perception. Imagine the potential PR nightmare for Chrysler had they chosen to spend that astronomical amount of money on a light-hearted, goofy Super Bowl ad less than two years after being bailed out by the Federal government to the tune of over $6 billion.
It could be the voiceover narration, it could be the gospel choir, or it could be the infamous intro beats to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” but you feel really pumped after watching this first ad for the 200, which aired during Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6, 2011.
While the ad barely showed the car — focusing on the grittiness of Detroit — it was one of the most memorable ads of that Super Bowl. It also brought to life Chrysler’s renowned slogan, “Imported from Detroit.” Whether it was a coincidence or not, the positive and inspiring ad coincided with the “comeback” of Chrysler, which went on to repay $7.6 billion in loans from the U.S. and Canadian governments just a few months later.
The City of Detroit doesn’t have the best reputation, and this ad successfully spoke proudly about the city, while also being realistic. “… And we’re certainly no one’s Emerald City,” says the narrator with a decent chunk of self-awareness. Including Detroit’s most famous resident also helped, especially since up to that point he had not lent his image to any marketing campaigns. While Eminem also appeared in a comedic Super Bowl ad for Lipton that year, it didn’t diminish the impact of the Chrysler ad because the Lipton ad highlighted the reasons why Eminem doesn’t do commercials.
It’s interesting to note that the popular Eminem ad initially featured Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne before its release.
“This was not an easy choice…apart from the money involved…and this is pretty expensive stuff, but you know, the choice of the topic, the choice of the characters in the thing were not easy choices. I had to think about this really long and hard,” Marchionne told Forbes soon after the ad aired.
What is it that people say about hindsight?
The second ad, which aired at the halftime of the most recent Super Bowl on Feb. 5, 2012, featured the distinct, gravelly voice of arguably the most famous movie badass in U.S. history, Clint Eastwood. The opening scene, in which Eastwood walks through the tunnel of a stadium, was perfectly timed, as it kept most of America in their seats to watch.
The two-minute spot, unlike the one from the year before, didn’t focus on one specific vehicle; it included vehicles from across Chrysler Group LLC: Jeep, Ram and SRT. Instead of focusing primarily on Detroit and its struggles, it related Detroit’s struggles and recent rejuvenation to the entire country. In speaking about the tough times many Americans are going through, the ad was relatable to nearly anyone.
“It’s halftime, America,” says Eastwood before the closing of the ad, “And our second half is about to begin.”
The line worked on many levels. Directly, Eastwood and Chrysler were speaking to the nation, but indirectly you can look at the line as Chrysler referring to themselves. The company was nearing the halfway point of its five-year turnaround plan after receiving a government bailout.
The most notorious fallout from the ad came from political figures on both sides of the spectrum who saw the ad as a subtle political endorsement of Barack Obama from Chrysler. This made Republicans upset and Democrats happy, but Chrysler quickly and vehemently denied any political undertones. The denial proved true just a few months later, when the same people who derided the ad as pro-Obama had Clint Eastwood give an infamous speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa.
All in all, Chrysler spent well over $26 million to air those ads in the two most recent Super Bowl. Whether the ads themselves paid off is hard to calculate, but we do know that Chrysler is definitely making a comeback, having already paid back its bailout loan in May of 2011. More impressively, Chrysler Group LLC’s full-year 2012 net income improved more than eight-fold to $1.7 billion, from $183 million a year ago.
Chrysler will again contribute a major ad this coming Super Sunday, but unlike other car companies, the company has remained quiet about its ad. It will be hard to duplicate the success of its two previous Super Bowl ads, but we’ve learned by now not to count them out. Even if it means our expectations may be a little too high, one thing’s for sure: we’ll be anxiously waiting on Feb. 3.
[SOURCES: Chrysler Group LLC, Forbes, Detroit Free Press]
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