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Imported from Detroit

Did you see this commercial for Chrysler during the Super Bowl? In my opinion, it was one of the more memorable, powerful ads aired in recent memory. Not just because it featured gritty scenes from a city much of America equates with poverty, crime, and despair. And not because it showcases the famous, and the not so famous, from a genial hotel doorman to much maligned rap star Eminem. Oh, yeah, it also featured the new Chrysler 200, the replacement for the much maligned Chrysler Sebring.
The power of the ad goes deeper. It’s about the rebirth of a city and the rebirth of an industry. One line in the ad says “the hottest fires make the hardest steel”. Detroit wants you to know it has been through hell, and they’re stronger for it. Even though it’s a Chrysler ad, it’s really an ad for all the domestic auto makers. We equate Detroit with the domestic auto industry. It’s bigger than just Chrysler.

There’s a pride in American resilience that resonates through the ad. A sense that even though the economy has knocked nearly everyone senseless, it’ll take more than that to defeat Detroit. They’re up off the mat, and ready to compete.
This ad seems to have done more than just make a statement for domestic autos. I believe it may have touched a cultural nerve. There might be a sense among those who watched this spot (and 111 million people watched the game) that like Chrysler, like Detroit, they’ve had enough. They’re fighting to get back on their feet, they know they can rebuild their lives, and they’re going to do it. No blaming circumstances, no wallowing in pity…time to get this thing turned around.
That’s the inspiration I took from this spot. If any city in America has the opportunity to point a finger at others for their own misery, you could argue that Detroit gets the award. But with this ad, they resolutely turned it down. No thanks. They have work to do. And it makes me want them to win. We almost always cheer for the underdog and Detroit has been a classic example.
Did the ad work? After all, one of its goals was to drive interest in what Chrysler is selling. Traffic searching the Chrysler brand on was up 267% in the hours following the airing of the ad, with searches for the Chrysler 200 up 1619%, all according to the Detroit Free Press.
Chrysler still has a lot of work to do, but this was a great big step in getting prospective buyers to look at their brand again. Congratulations to Wiedan+Kennedy of Portland, Oregon and to Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne for making a gutsy ad that I believe captured the right message at the right time.
Now, if I could just get a t-shirt that says “Exported from Boston”…

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  1. Jacob Paulsen
    February 10, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

    Touched a nerve for sure. This is the age of the individual and advertisers who promote nobility and growth in humanity will continue to touch the nerve. Reminds me of the Youtube dancer (now sponsored by MasterCard). “Where in the Hell is Matt” videos have created a sensation for no other reason than the fact that they promote the best that humanity has to offer.