by Michael Dickens • see Restlessness and Strike
Some suggested to Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne that he had the right commercial for the 2011 Super Bowl, but for the wrong car. That was the year Chrysler debuted its “Imported from Detroit” campaign, a Hail Mary pass featuring hometown rapper Eminem, cruising 8 Mile Road and other Detroit landmarks in a sleek Chrysler 200 midsize sedan.
Despite its gritty reality, the first-ever two-minute Super Bowl commercial was visually appealing, and patriotic in its tone: “The is the Motor City, and this is what we do,” stated Eminem, after pulling up in front of Detroit’s Fox Theater and defiantly pointing a finger at the camera.
Fast forward three years to 2014.
“I think we now have hopefully the right commercial and the right car,” Marchionne told Bloomberg News, in the days leading up to this year’s Super Bowl XLVIII moment. The automaker arguably has changed the way automakers use Super Bowl advertising, and Fiat Chrysler Chief Marketing Officer Olivier Francois understands how to effectively exploit American popular culture and marketing.
At 9:04 p.m. Eastern Time, with 2:58 remaining in the third quarter and the Seattle Seahawks enjoying an insurmountable 36-0 lead over the Denver Broncos in a blowout of a game the Seahawks eventually won 43-8, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, aired the final of its three Super Bowl advertisements, entitled “America’s Import.”
Like 2011’s “Imported From Detroit” Eminem spot, FCA saved its best for last Sunday with its spot, “America’s Import,” for the all new Chrysler 200. It made us sit up and pay attention.
“America’s Import” featured the voice and image of American musician Bob Dylan, an influential figure in popular music over the past five decades. His Academy Award-winning song “Things Have Changed” set the tempo for what was to come.
“Is there anything more American than America?” said Dylan, cool but matter-of-factly. “Let Germany brew your beer. Let Switzerland make your watch. Let Asia assemble your phone. We ... will build ... your car.”
Dylan’s Chrysler 200 spot, which the 72-year-old reclusive troubadour personally appeared and narrated, advertised the automaker’s new 2015 200 sedan, which was introduced at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show last month. Like Eminem’s “Born of Fire” three years earlier, Dylan’s “America’s Import” showed a gritty, industrial side of Detroit and included footage of manufacturing at Chrysler’s renovated Sterling Heights Assembly Plant. It was also interspersed with iconic and bold American imagery (some of the footage, which showed Dylan in the new Chrysler 200, was filmed in greater Los Angeles).
The message delivered by Dylan in “America’s Import” played up its prideful theme — and, in the eyes of AdWeek, the ad had “a hell of a lot of swagger.”
Dylan opined: “You can’t fake true cool. You can’t duplicate legacy. What Detroit created first became an inspiration to the rest of the world.”
As usual, Chrysler kept a tight lid on its Super Bowl advertising game plan, declining requests to discuss specifics before it aired. However, in the days before the Super Bowl, rumors began to circulate; Billboard, the music industry trade magazine, reported that Dylan would appear in one of the automaker’s Super Bowl advertisements. On Friday, FCA confirmed it would air three advertisements during Super Bowl XLVIII, the most it has ever done since emerging from bankruptcy in 2009. Other advertisements which aired during the broadcast were for Maserati’s Ghibli and Jeep’s Cherokee.
During “America’s Import,” looking directly at the camera, Dylan says: “Detroit made cars and cars made America. Making the best, making the finest takes conviction, and you can’t import the heart and soul of every man and woman working on the line.”
FCA, which aired four and one-half minutes of advertising during this year’s Super Bowl broadcast, left viewers with a lasting impression that many will remember better than the final score of the Super Bowl game. As the spot reached its climatic peak, Dylan delivered the advertisement’s key pitch: “What is made here is the one thing you can’t import from anywhere else — American pride.”
“America’s Import” was the latest in the Detroit automaker’s series of sleek, cinematic advertisements that have starred Eminem (“Born of Fire”), Clint Eastwood (“Halftime in America”), and Berry Gordy (“We are Motown, and this is what we do”) in recent years.
Last year, Chrysler aired two polished, two-minute advertisements that featured the voices of Oprah Winfrey and Paul Harvey. In the one for the quintessential Jeep (“Whole Again”), with Oprah’s heartfelt narration, it celebrated the homecoming of American troops. In the other one, for Dodge Ram trucks (“Farmer”), with help from the late Paul Harvey’s rousing address “So God Made a Farmer,” the strength and ingenuity of the American farmer brought out a blue-collar, patriotic identity. Sunday’s spot featuring Dylan continued a theme of American pride.
During the two-minute spot, there were numerous black-and-white and color quick-edit images — many of them iconic, but all of them American: horses, cheerleaders, the Stars and Stripes, diners, amusement parks, kids playing baseball, farms, Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, a Route 66 sign, a young Julius Erving (Dr. J) on a playground basketball court and, of course, Bob Dylan.
Working with creative agencies such as Wieden+Kennedy (which has worked with Chrysler and Dodge brands, and is the longtime agency for Nike), Chrysler has embraced the “liveness” of the Super Bowl. And, with each 30-second Super Bowl spot costing advertisers a cool $4 million, according to AdWeek, Chrysler hasn’t been afraid to spend money when it knows it can reach 100 million-plus viewers that the Super Bowl broadcast delivers. (This year’s Super Bowl broadcast was expected to be seen by 104 million viewers.) It’s become known for its long-form commercials that creates a mood and touches emotions.
“These felt less like ads than like public-service announcements,” wrote The New Yorker. “That trick was aided by the fact that the ads appeared unexpectedly, without weeks of hype prodding us to get ready to be moved. Their form connected directly to their message: everyone saw them for the first time at the same moment; we were all in it together.”
Last fall, Dylan established a relationship with Chrysler when his rare, unreleased cover of Blind Willie Johnson’s “Motherless Children” was scored in an advertisement for Chrysler’s sister brand Jeep Cherokee, centering on the twin desires of travel and adventure. A second Jeep Cherokee advertisement followed, this time featuring Dylan’s “Rocks and Gravel.”
Although he’s been perceived as elusive with regards to licensing his music for film, TV and commercials during his five-decade career, Dylan has been quite active — even scoring a 2007 commercial for Chrysler-rival Cadillac’s Escalade. He’s appeared in commercials for Apple’s iPod and Pepsi, and he also lent his 1966 hit “I Want You” for a Chobani yogurt advertisement seen during this year’s Super Bowl broadcast.
Now, it remains to be seen whether the gravely-voiced Dylan can be an effective communicator and pitchman for Chrysler’s midsize sedan, and whether it lives up to CEO Marchionne’s Super Bowl prediction.
Editor’s note: The “Detroit resurgence” theme may not be continued: Sergio Marchionne told WJR radio the day after the ad, “...it was important to close this chapter that we started in 2011 with Eminem and the Imported from Detroit story... it’s an interesting reflection of where the auto industry out of Detroit has been in the last four years. ... The Eminem message back in 2011 was reflective of a process of reconstruction that had just started. I think yesterday was a celebration of the fact that that reconstruction is complete, and I think it’s a recognition of the work that has been done by the men and women in all the car companies that work out of Detroit, it’s not just us.”
Is there anything more American than America?’Cause you can’t import original.You can’t fake true cool.You can’t duplicate legacy.Because what Detroit created was a first
and became an inspiration to the ... rest of the world.
Yeah ... Detroit made cars. And cars made America.Making the best, making the finest, takes conviction.And you can’t import, the heart and soul, of every man and woman working on the line.You can search the world over for the finer things,but you won’t find a match for the American roadand the creatures that live on it.Because we believe in the zoom,and the roar, and the thrust.And when it’s made here, it’s made with the one thingyou can’t import from anywhere else. American ... Pride.So let Germany brew your beer,Let Switzerland make your watch,Let Asia assemble your phone.We ... will build ... your car.
2014 Super Bowl Ads: Restlessness and Strike2013 Super Bowl ads: Forum discussion • Year of the FarmerAlso see: Imported From Detroit • Halftime in America • Chrysler ads
Chrysler and the big guns
All Mopar Car and Truck News
Chrysler 300 Letter Cars
The Engine Cleanup Committee