Chrysler “Halftime” Ad One More Time

Clint Eastwood

Clint Eastwood and Chrysler’s Super Bowl ad were in fact crying out against the diseased business of politics that has infested and infected the country. So it’s only natural that those affected (or infected) would respond as they did: that it was really an Obama campaign ad and an attempt to push green car policy. A Wall Street Journal editorial actually argued exactly that.

I used to make ads, and I used to be quite active in politics. I quit both and moved to Mexico. Watching this controversy unfold has made me feel good about my move and bad about how politics, like a locust plague, has made everyone crazy.

In fact, this was a well-thought-out image ad for Chrysler to sell cars. Image ads aim to create a favorable impression of a product or firm in the consumer’s mind without pushing the product directly. They do this by creating associations with positive values, in this case pulling together as a country in difficult times. Here’s part of Eastwood’s voiceover:

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.… This country can’t be knocked out with one punch.

Sergio Marchionne said on the radio: “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.”

DetroitThe one sour note in the ad was the glorification of Detroit, which, as one of our commenters pointed out, remains a sorry mess of a city with a still-shattered economy. Its problems seem beyond the car industry’s solving.

So, with all the ballyhoo and bombast, how did the ad fare with viewers? According to KBB.com (Kelley Blue Book), the ad “produced a 171-percent surge in visitors for Chrysler products.” I am guessing that Nielsen and other ratings services would show a similar response.

The GM end-of-the-world ad attacking Ford that we discussed earlier this week backfired bigtime. Many more KBB visitors went to check out Ford’s F-150 after the game than the Silverado (in which interest dropped 25 percent).

There is a pretty basic lesson in advertising here. Viewers saw it as an attack ad on Ford, which challenged their brand loyalty. And, like so many commercials today, you had no idea where it was going until the very end.

Do you find car advertising generally effective on television? Tell us why, or why not.

—jgoods

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4 Comments

  1. What was saved was saved by the US government bailout, certainly not people like Marchionne. I’m just thinking of the tens of thousands of folks who lost their jobs and homes or substantial parts of their retirement income and the wrecked cities and communities due to the mismanagement of the folks at GM and Chrysler. Perhaps you should get of your high horse and think of them too.

  2. @ Randy
    Aw, come off it, Randy. When are you going to get tired of writing the same old bitter slams at these guys? Accusing Marchionne of broken English is just dirty pool, by the way. He speaks it fluently, with little accent. The podcast is here: http://www.wjr.com/FlashPlayer/default.asp?SPID=34612&ID=2388908. If it weren’t for him, by the way, there would be no Chrysler today.

    You are certainly entitled to your opinion about GM, Chrysler et al., but they have repaid most of their loans and added thousands of new jobs. Not enough to repair Detroit, certainly, but you give them no credit at all. If that makes you feel good, have a nice day.

  3. Ah, the Italian CEO of a foreign-owned car company extolling the virtues of American values with his broken English while his ads pervert those virtues in an attempt to get your money into his pocket. Car ads sure aren’t effective with me, since I take a lot of time to research what I’m going to buy and avoid companies like GM and Chrysler.

    It was once said that “What’s good for GM is good for the country” but since then, we’ve grown to see that what’s good for GM is often bad for Americans like the citizens of Flint, Pontiac, Lansing, Saginaw, Lansing, Oklahoma City, Detroit, Los Angeles, Sring Hill, and dozens of other cities and towns. Now we see GM making huge profits while they STILL have not repaid their government loans. Sickening.

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