Halftime in America. How Chrysler Found a Voice, and Missed an Opportunity

14 Feb

                The silhouette emerging from the darkness on Super Bowl Sunday was more than a man stepping into the light.  It was a car company emerging from the blast furnace of scrap metal.  And, it was a nation emerging with it. 

"Halftime in America"

                The advertisement for Chrysler wasn’t directly selling a product, it was selling an idea—economic patriotism.   It picked up where Chrysler left off in Super Bowl XLV when Eminem introduced the new Chrysler 200 luxury car proclaiming “Detroit was back.”   This year’s message is  that Chrysler has survived a brutal first half of the recession, and if Chrysler can do it so can the rest of America.   As I wrote in a previous post, the ad was no accident and was strategically positioned to elicit a desired response.

  • Idea:  Halftime/Patriotism
  • Target Market Audience:  Anyone who has struggled in the economy
  • Desired Response:  Feel confident about Chrysler—feel confident about yourself
  • Competitive Frame:  Apathy and pessimism
  • Message Argument:  We’ve only just begun—can’t wait for the second half
  • Rationale:  Emotional trigger to build loyalty and awareness to Chrysler 

             The positioning of Clint Eastwood as the metaphoric coach giving the country a sobering Super Bowl halftime pep talk was brilliant casting.  Who’s not going to stand tall with Dirty Harry giving a “Million Dollar Baby” lecture? 

                Apparently, plenty.

                From Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, to former Bush White House Aide Carl Rove, many people saw it as a rallying cry to justify the auto industry bailout.  Additionally, many of those same people saw the halftime in America theme as a metaphoric campaign commercial urging voters to give President Obama a second term.  Media analyst John Rash said the backlash should not be surprising.  

Media Analyst John Rash

                “The commercial is a real shock test in that people can read into it what they bring politically,” said Rash.

                “Many republicans might be able to read here they have a well known conservative who in effect is trying to rally the country for a fresh start in the second half.  To some that would suggest electing a new administration.  Other’s certainly some democrats read into it using the auto bailout in Detroit as a template for the country’s comeback and they hear second half and they think second term.  So, people will project onto a spot what they think politically and socially.”

                But critics of the ad need to hear at least one more perspective.  Anna Ciaramitaro lives in Detroit and has witnessed its slow death in the new economy. 

Detroit resident Anna Ciaramitaro

              “It was one of the best commercials ever made,” said Ciaramitaro. 

                She added, “It was a commercial that touched the heart of Detroit and the people that lived there, the citizens, the residents there that experienced everyday what it’s like rebuilding a city again.  And we just wanted to share that with the rest of America.”

                And this is exactly where Chrysler missed an opportunity.  What if it didn’t just create an ad, what if it had created a community?  What Chrysler missed was the chance to launch a multi-channel campaign where people can tell and create their own “second half” stories.  Here are a couple of ideas:

  1. Branded website:  A separate webpage called secondhalf.com where Chrysler can showcase comeback stories/videos of ordinary Americans and companies.  User generated content would be the key component of this website.   Ideally, the stories would include some thread of how Chrysler products helped in the comeback.  The website should be prominently embedded on Chrysler’s homepage that customers can easily find.  The website branding would be integrated within Chrysler’s media buys:  “Tell your story. Secondhalf.com”
  2. Daily Twitter updates:  A separate Twitter feed of daily success stories tied to the Chrysler brand.
  3. Elementary School Art Contest:  Involve local Chrysler dealerships and schools in an art display that encourages children to tell their own stories through art work of how perhaps their own families have found ways to succeed.   The local Chrysler dealerships would serve as the galleries to display the art and present a cash prize to the school with the best presentation.
  4. Video contest:  An invitation to young film makers to create their own second half ad showcasing a comeback story.  All ads would be screened and judged by Oscar winning director Clint Eastwood.  The winning commercial would then air during the halftime of the NLF kick-off game in September. 

             During the Super Bowl, Chrysler implored the world to “hear the roar of our engines.”   Building a community could provide the echo chamber to let those engines roar from every corner of the planet.

                Yes, Chrysler is a car company.   But as Americans in every walk of life emerge from this brutal recession, Chrysler is also a success story.  Americans love winners.  That’s a sustainable brand value Chrysler can build and drive.

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