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The 2012 Chrysler Super Bowl Ad: Halftime in America via Clint Eastwood

Also see: Imported From Detroit • Whole AgainYear of the Farmer • Chrysler ads

Chrysler spent $10 million on two minutes of advertising during the 2012 Super Bowl (Giants vs Patriots). Rather than advertising any specific car, or even a brand, they essentially focused on an uplifting, patriotic message, designed presumably to reinforce the company’s American roots, resurgence, and health; and to push aside claims that somehow Chrysler was unpatriotic because of its rescue from Cerberus and Daimler.

clint eastwood

Transcript of the 2012 Chrysler Super Bowl Ad

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 like we’ve lost our heart at times. When 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 is going to hear the roar of our engines. Yeah, it’s halftime America. And, our second half is about to begin.

Some have noticed that the voiceover never mentions Chrysler. This may have been a condition imposed by Clint Eastwood, who does not do advertisements.

2012 Chrysler Super Bowl ad results and controversy

On MSNBC the next day, Chrysler got 24% of the first 30,714 votes to be cast for “best ad.” Volkswagen was a distant #2 with 15%; no other car ad got more than 5% of the vote.

The ad generated the third-most Twitter traffic of Sunday's Super Bowl ads, and the most of any auto ad, according to Mullen, a media agency.

View / vote for the commercial. (The transcript is at the end of this page.)

Some sample quotes from the Allpar forums:


Results from politicians were not so pleasant, indicating perhaps that some of them are, as analysts have said, trying to make Americans feel despair so they can have a better chance of winning the next election. Republican strategist Karl Rove was one of many who complained; on Fox News, he said he was offended by the commercial. “It’s a sign of what happens when you have Chicago-style politics and the President of the United States and his political minions are, in essence, using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising,” he said.

A Chrysler statement pointed out that it was not, in fact, using tax dollars to do anything:

Chrysler Group does not owe the government any money. Chrysler Group repaid all the money it received from the U.S. and Canadian governments, with interest, last May. The $1.8 billion cited by Rove is actually $1.3 billion and it was not loaned to Chrysler Group LLC; it was loaned to the former Chrysler LLC, owned by Cerberus Capital Management, a fact that was overlooked or omitted along with the fact that that money was loaned to Cerberus by the Bush Administration before President Obama took office. That debt went into liquidation with the rest of the former company.

Meanwhile, George W. Bush tried to take credit for GM and Chrysler’s resurgence, saying, “I’d do it again. I didn’t want there to be 21 percent unemployment.”

Clint Eastwood countered, “It was meant to be a message about job growth and the spirit of America. If Obama or any other politician wants to run with the spirit of that ad, go for it.”

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said, “It has zero political content. ... We are as apolitical as you can make us.”

Reactions from Allpar

“sebring96hbq” wrote, “The ad has garnered a lot of positive press. It's in the top three or ten of several lists found in blogs or articles. The ending was very powerful. This was an ad designed to connect with the consumer or at least the viewer to further develop brand equity. The ad combined a thought provoking message and a very respected and talented presenter that enabled the ad to stand out in a crowded field. Beyond whatever critical acclaim the ad may garner, the true test will be the sales data as a metric of brand equity. ”

“CudaPete” wrote: “I stand behind my statement that this was a missed opportunity to unveil the Dart to a large audience, some of whom just watch for the commercials. Three months is not a long time in the world of automotive marketing. The PT was a big commercial success and it was marketed long before it was availble for sale. The marketing was so effective dealers were taking orders and were able to sell the PTs over list at a big profit.”


“bumonbox” wrote: “

Personal assessment; having watched to commercials with people who aren't Chrysler fans, but are staunch conservatives, this brought out a true horray. It soliticed a lengthy conversation about American exceptionalism.

Regardless of selling cars, Chrysler is still working against this whole bail out perception. Many people are turned off to them for that sole reason. So for Chrysler to continue to bang away at the idea that they are still American, that they are still here is throwing a line out to all those people “who refuse to buy Chryslers because they took the bailout.”

In fact, it answers that about as tactfully as one can. It would be innappropriate for them to bring up Federal loans, and could easily back fire. You don't want to be that blatant. So a sort of tactful add about Chrysler's recovery, which is essentially what it is, is the perfect entry point for patriotic folk.

It's true, it's not fresh, this one ain't gonna have the critics talking. It's not a huge deal, but it contains a message that people from all ends can appreciate. The Dart isn't ready yet anyways, it's important to keep shouting the message to sort of inspire people. Whether it sells cars in it of itself isn't important, if it manages to slightly change public perception so that other marketing can actually access those customers and sell the car, then it was a success.


“MarauderPilot” wrote:

To those arguing that it won't sell a vehicle:

Consumers are becoming less brand-concious because vehicles are becoming more and more generic. But in the midst of a slow, automotive-industry-fueled recovery, there's definitely a growing sentiment towards “Buy American,” one that's been building for years and is peaking right now because, for the first time in decades, the Big 3 now have truly competitive lineups. They're hiring, they're in-sourcing, they're building market share like nobody's ever seen.

But its still on shaky ground, to most people they imagine that the whole recovery could come crashing down with one little nudge.

This ad wheels up one of the greatest American icon, a man beloved by 90% of the population, young or old, left-leaning or right-leaning, irrespective of herritage or demographic, and has him put on a fairly inspiring speech about how everything's going to get better as long as we buckle down and pull ourselves up again.

This ad is less about buying a specific vehicle as it is buying American in general. It could have been put out by everybody. It's about selling a sentiment or an ideology-it's about making every American that owns a Japanese or German or Korean car think “Hey, maybe I should check out the Chrysler (x) or the Dodge (y) when I need a new car instead.”

The “Imported from Detroit’ ad didn't sell a lot of 200s either. Its increase is substantial, yes, but plenty of other refreshed models saw similar increases without Eminem driving them through a frankly historic commercial. But what it does do is make Chrysler by far the most American brand out there (despite being partnered with Fiat). It's associating itself with America as a whole and tapping directly not into the deep-rooted patriotism in the USA. It’s showing that “Hey, if we can come back from the brink of disaster and come back better than ever, then America can too.”

It's all about turning around the brand's image from that of a cheap, half-hearted brand made up rental fleet fodder, artifically macho trucks and SUVs and some old military relics to a modern, progressive, exciting and throughtly American brand, the one that symbolizes America as a whole.

It's not about selling more of one vehicle-it's about selling a brand.

That said, I think they did miss out on a big opportunity by not focusing on the Dart, like 'Imported from Detroit' did on the 200.

“hmk123” wrote, “Hyundai, Toyota, etc. always try to play the American theme in their ads when they show their factories and design centers. Don't get me wrong, I am glad for their factories and employment here. But there is still a difference between those and the Detroit Three. And I think that is what Chrysler is trying to point out. We can come back and make world class cars made by U.S. companies. The one thing they missed in my opinion was when Eastwood talked about the roar of our engines. They should have had a sound of a V8 HEMI in the background... ”

“Berlin Bill” wrote, “My thoughts are that although this year's ad will not have the impact of last year's, it will appeal to a large market of potential customers that would not connect with Eminem. I know of many older Americans, including many in my own family, who have gone to foreign nameplates. Although not as important as the youth market, it is a group who should not be ignored. These people are more likely to identify with Clint than Eminem.”

Jim Choate wrote,

I get the message. They accomplished the same thing last year with the Eminem ad and featured a vehicle. This year's ad didn't feature any one vehicle, just shots of many CGLLC vehicles throughout, and none of them showed a brand badge or nameplate. Fans would know it's CDJR - but others likely wouldn't. It could have just as easily been an ad from the State of Michigan or the City of Detroit. If I'm spending that much money on an ad, then it had better get feet into showrooms, butts into drivers' seats, and new CGLLC vehicles into garages and driveways.

If they had simply done shots of the brands' badging on the vehicles in the ads instead of a trapezoidal Jeep fender or the slash stripes on a Challenger, that alone would have made it more effective, in my opinion. The show of brands at the end was too late after 2 minutes of pep talk.

... In the water-cooler chat here at work today, people are of course talking about the game and the ads. Many are talking about the Clint Eastwood ad. And that's important to note. They aren't talking about the Ram ad, or the Chrysler ad, or the Dodge ad, or the Jeep ad, or the Chrysler Group LLC ad.

Most of them like it. Few of them realize what company was behind it. Great ad for America, great ad for Detroit. Great ad for CGLLC and it's products? Not so much.

Tony M. wrote:

Overall I think the ad will prove itself successful. Most ads this year were pretty lackluster and/or were leaked prior to yesterday thus taking away a lot of the suspense around what the ads will be like. Chrysler's ad didn't have silly humor or gltizy graphics, it was plain jane and used the power of a figure like Clint Eastwood to sell it.

At my house in Houston, with only one Mopar owner (me) and only two native Detroiters, the rest being Texans or from somewere else - the ad was a pretty big hit. Maybe not for the reasons intentioned, some liked it just because of Clint. Others because it was patriotic as heck. But at the end of the day, it's still the ad we're all thinking and talking about today - so by that metric alone it's been a success. It'll keep people talking and that's what matters most. Even the WSJ wrote positive words about it.

Was it the smash hit of last year's ad? No, because last year nobody expected anything from Chrysler, much less a $10+ million two minute ad that made everyone sit up and take notice. This year they set their own bar pretty darned high, and I think they certainly cleared that bar, if not by the leaps and bounds they cleared last year's . . .

If you can make the connection that there will never be $10M in sales as a result of this commercial, now or in the future, then you're right. But the bottom line in advertising is that any press is good press and people just talking about your brand as a result of the ad means it is a success.

Maybe people won't run right out to their local CJDR dealer and plunk down $30k on a new ride, that's fine. Maybe it takes six months. Maybe a year. Maybe two years. Any and all advertising Chrysler is doing right now is to fight perception. We're all died in the wool Mopar folks, they aren't selling to us because we're already customers. They're selling to the rest of America who thinks it was improper to bail them out, who thinks every Toyota is superior, who thinks American companies don't build good cars. That's the point of the ad.

If it so much as gets a hardcore Toyota buyer into a discussion with someone about Chrysler product, it's a sucess. Because just maybe, in one, two, twelve, or however many months from now - that person may act on the perception shift.

That's what Chrysler's game is right now and they're doing it better than anybody else and the sales numbers confirm it. Good product and get the word out, it's not an overnight game.

Sergio talks about the ad on WJR

This transcript was provided by Chrysler Media Relations.

Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne joined WJR-AM radio’s Paul W. Smith the morning after the two-minute spot that aired during the halftime of Super Bowl XLVI last night.

Paul W. Smith: ... you got the New York Post saying, “Clint Eastwood scored one of the few touchdowns in last night’s advertising Super Bowl; a stirring endorsement of Chrysler-Dodge-Jeep and Motown as a whole, standing out in what was a decidedly ho-hum night for Madison Avenue,” just as the start of the third quarter there was Clint Eastwood. CNN Money, “Chrysler is king of the Super Bowl spots.” They proclaim in one of these stories that Chrysler just won the Super Bowl. ...

Sergio Marchionne: ... It’s very difficult when you work on these things to be objective because the message and the work that we did with Clint Eastwood and with the agency and with our people on this was so, so detailed and so gut-wrenching that it was very difficult to be objective. So I – the fact that…

Paul W. Smith: you've got a nice team of young guys that worked on this; young men and women that worked on this.

Sergio Marchionne: Yeah, and by the way, there are two people that should be singled out; one of them is Olivier Francois, who’s the head of marketing for both Fiat and Chrysler, and Saad Chehab who’s the head of Chrysler-Lancia and these two guys have just – they’ve done an outstanding job. They didn’t sleep for – and I can tell you because they were with me in Europe when we were finalizing these commercials — but they did not sleep for four days in a row, and we didn’t wrap this up until last Monday at Noon.

So when we made the final call on the musical score, which by the way is a story in and of itself because there was a young lady out of Oregon who wrote the score and was recorded with people from the Oregon Symphony Orchestra in a matter of three days; and she’s a 35-year-old kid out of nowhere who’s done this brilliant job of recording the music. So it was a magical thing that came together and I'm thankful to everybody who worked on this; and it’s a great tribute to the people at Chrysler. The commercial ultimately reflects the spirit that drives this organization and I'm delighted.

Paul W. Smith: In the spirit of the workers who, from top to bottom, helped Chrysler post a $225 million fourth quarter profit, the hourly workers getting profit sharing checks for the first time since 2005; and I know that as is the case always in a situation like this, this is really just the beginning; no time to relax; this is the time to really charge forward, Sergio.

Sergio Marchionne: Yeah, no I think I reminded our dealers yesterday in Vegas when I met them yesterday morning that we’ve got a daunting task ahead of us for 2012 and that it should not be underestimated, the competition is incredibly fierce. I think we need to stay humble, keep our head down and just keep on pushing as I've always said, but we’re walking into 2012 with good prospects. January was a good month and I think this commercial yesterday has reset the tone of a fighting spirit within Chrysler and that’s the way I’d like to look at the rest of the year, and we’ll see. I'm confident.

Paul W. Smith: Well, it was – by the way, he won’t tell you this so I’ll tell you that when Sergio Marchionne was talking to all of the dealers at the NADA – not just Chrysler dealers but all dealers there, a tough crowd in Vegas, you got five standing ovations with what you said. So what you said resonated as well with the dealers as this commercial resonated with the viewers last night at the Super Bowl.

Sergio Marchionne: Yeah, no, but it says something about this country, Paul; I mean it says something about the resilience of what America really – I think Americans unfortunately have got this bad habit of short-selling themselves internationally. I travel the world and I can tell you, Americans should be incredibly proud of what they have. I've had a chance to see firsthand how other places work and how they view life and I think that the fundamental values that drive this country are sacred and I think they should be protected at all costs because they’re what makes this place magic and we should not fool around with them. I think this is important stuff and we need to protect it.

Paul W. Smith: Well, and it seems, Sergio Marchionne, that we from time to time need a reminder from somebody who was not born in this country who spends a lot of time in other countries. We sometimes need a reminder. I'm not exactly sure why, but I'm glad you've reminded us, and certainly Clint Eastwood reminded us in many ways with what he said.

Sergio Marchionne: Yeah, no he’s a unique human being…

Paul W. Smith: How did you talk – Clint Eastwood doesn’t do commercials. How did you talk Clint Eastwood into doing your Chrysler commercial?

Sergio Marchionne: Simply because I think – I actually believed – he believes in what he says. He’s at a point in his life where he doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody. You know, the great thing about being 81 years old is that you've got standing and you've got stature. If anything at all, age gives it to you, but in his case it’s his career and what he’s been able to accomplish, and he felt really deeply everything he said. I've spoken to him. There was not a single doubt in my mind that when he spoke on the commercial he was expressing his views. You know, when he talks about the second half and you talk about somebody who’s – and God forbid that anything happens to him — but the second half is going to go longer than his runway as it’s hopefully going to go longer than mine, and for somebody to be able to speak about the future with a level of confidence that he spoke about yesterday, and with I guess a sense of serenity and peace about dealing with the second half, is something that we should all take to heart. It’s – these are unique moments, right. You can’t really – you can’t minimize them. I think they’re worth a lot; they’re going to stay with me for a long period of time because even the making of the commercial changed us, right. It changed us as human beings and so we’ll cherish it for a long, long time.

Paul W. Smith: Sergio Marchionne was watching this. I don’t know if you could be anonymous in a sports bar in Clarkston with Gualberto Ranieri, the man who’s always with you and doing a nice job for you, and I was on the phone with you right after and found that the commercial got a standing O in the sports bar.

Sergio Marchionne: It did, it did, and I think it brought a huge amount of pride back from Detroiters and I think for – it’s nice to see, and I think – and I hate to say this, but we probably deserve it after all the stuff that we’ve gone through, so.

Paul W. Smith: I think you’re right, and I think that the people across the country could relate to the fact that we can’t be knocked out with one punch. We do get right back up again and –

Sergio Marchionne: Yep.

Paul W. Smith: And the world is going to hear the roar of our engines. It may be halftime in America but our second half is about to begin and we’re very thrilled with the direction it is going right now. You meant in no way shape or form, and unfortunately with it being the silly season in politics, everything has some political bent to it but this did not.

Sergio Marchionne: It has zero political content. I think we need to be careful, and God knows, I mean I can’t stop anybody from associating themselves with a message, but it was not intended to be any type of political overture on our part. We are as apolitical as you can make us. You know, we’re just an ingredient of a big machine here in this country that makes us go on. I wasn’t expressing a view and certainly nobody inside Chrysler was attempting to influence decisions. The message is sufficiently universal and neutral that it should be appealing to everybody in this country and I sincerely hope that it doesn’t get utilized as political fodder in a debate. But you know.

Paul W. Smith: You know, it’s interesting, too, with we already know you had to spend a lot of money to get that time, two minutes at that prime time just before the start of the third quarter. It probably was relatively expensive. I'm not asking, but relatively expensive to get Clint Eastwood.

Sergio Marchionne: Yes but you'll see this; we’ll probably issue a press release in connection with this. Clint was sufficiently – was so generous in his approach to this that any money that we’re paying him is going to go to charity. So this was not done for financial reasons.

Paul W. Smith: It really seemed like it was coming from his heart and I point this out only because it’s astounding to me because I didn’t think about it ‘til I read it from somewhere; here you have this two-minute incredible commercial with the incomparable 81-year-old director/actor/producer Clint Eastwood speaking right to us, speaking to the heart of the nation, and he not once uttered the word Chrysler.

Sergio Marchionne: Yeah, didn’t have to I don’t think.

Paul W. Smith: Nope, he sure didn’t have to but it’s astounding when I look back and think back. He didn’t have to and that says a lot for what you guys are doing and the way that commercial came through. Again congratulations. What a fabulous moment for Chrysler again and the hard-working men and women who have been through hell and back and continue to keep doing a great job. I don’t want to forget, too, very quickly and then I’ll let you go, Sergio Marchionne, but that was a funny and powerful Fiat commercial you had, too.

Sergio Marchionne: You enjoyed it, huh?

Paul W. Smith: I did! I thought it was funny. I didn’t know where it was going.

Sergio Marchionne: Yeah, but it tells you something about this house. We are multifaceted (laughs).

Paul W. Smith: (Laughs) Yes.

Sergio Marchionne: And multi-talented, too, I think.

Paul W. Smith: Multifaceted, multi-talented, but I can’t remember, that’s a hot little Fiat. What was the model number or model?

Sergio Marchionne: It was the Fiat 500 Abarth, which is going to go into production now. It’ll be available in dealers I think in the first quarter of this year so it’s –

Paul W. Smith: Talk about a pocket rocket. That thing looked hot.

Sergio Marchionne: Yeah, it’s a rock and roll car...  

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