Tag Archives: Halftime in America

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.

The Best Super Bowl Ads. Three That Were No Accident.

7 Feb

             Super Bowl XLVI has recorded its winners and losers among teams and certainly among brands.

             This year’s annual Super Bowl of advertising has produced another list of memorable commercials, and certainly a list of forgettable and regrettable ones too.

VW - Dog Strikes Back

             Tracking agencies have already ranked the ads based upon their popularity among viewers and it should come as no surprise that Doritos once again finished strong with its mainstay use of humor.

             Part of the purpose of Super Bowl ads is to entertain.  But, it’s important to remember that if those ads don’t creatively communicate a strategic message about the brand or product, then it’s a colossal waste of $3.5 million.

              With that in mind, I picked the minds of two advertising heavy weights.  John Eighmey is the Campbell Mithun Chair of Advertising at the University of Minnesota.  Eighmey spent a good portion of his career at Young & Rubicam in New York and steered the production of many of the great advertising campaigns of the 1970’s and 80’s including the Hallmark card ads that made everyone cry.  From Eighmey’s point of view one commercial this year stood out from the rest: Fiat’s 500 Abarth.

             “It’s the one commercial any creative person would want on his reel.” Eighmey said.

             Many car companies during the past 50 years have tried to sell the idea of having a love affair with a car.  Eighmey says this is the first one to make the metaphor real.   The hot model bending over at the street curb was the personification of love at first sight.  But when woman stood up and started shouting in Italian and charging toward her admirer it became clear that this was the embodiment of every man’s dream—a siren that loved him back.  The sexy tattoo of the Abarth logo on the back of her neck was the only foreshadowing of the surprise to come.


             It wasn’t just a cleaver ad, it targeted a specific audience with a specific message and a specific desired response:

  • Idea:  Love affair with a car
  • Target Market Audience:  American men who love sports cars
  • Desired Response: Test dive this car!
  • Competitive Frame:  All other compact cars
  • Message Argument:  Fall in love with the sexy Italian car that will love you back
  • Rationale:  Introduces legendary European car to an American audience

             Campbell Mithun CEO Steve Wehrenberg noted a number of good Super Bowl ads including the VW Beetle dog training commercial, but the one that stood out for him was the Chevy Silverado Apocalypse.

             This ad too, was no accident.  It used the predictions of the 2012 apocalypse and a bit of end-of-the-world lore about the survivability of Twinkies to differentiate the Silverado from all other pick-up trucks.


             The strategy of the Silverado ad jumps off the screen:

  • Idea: Surviving the apocalypse
  • Target Market Audience: Men who buy pick-ups
  • Desired Response: Buy a Silverado
  • Competitive Frame: Ford F-150 and all over pick-ups
  • Message Argument: A Chevy can survive the end of the world
  • Rationale: Uses humor to tell a story about the reliability of the Silverado

             The ad presents what advertising Godfather Rosser Reeves would call a unique selling proposition—Chevy trucks last.  In an economy where consumers are hanging onto their cars for 10-plus years, the Silverado has value.

             I have to admit, my personal favorite made me stand up and cheer.   It was Chrysler’s “Halftime in America.”  The conceptual positioning of Clint Eastwood as America’s coach giving a halftime economic pep-talk was simply brilliant casting.  Who wouldn’t want to stand tall with Dirty Harry?


             Here again, the means of communication is intentional and very specific.

  • Idea:  Patriotism
  • Target Market Audience: Anyone who has struggled in the economy
  • Desired Response: Feel confident about yourself—feel confident about Chrysler
  • Competitive Frame: Apathy & Pessimism
  • Message Argument:  We’ve only just begun—Can’t wait for the second half (Oh, and thanks for the bailout!)
  • Rationale:  Emotional trigger to build loyalty and awareness to Chrysler cars.

             “Halftime in America” builds upon several salient ideas to help us make a positive association with the Chrysler brand.  First, it blatantly bends the old Ronald Reagan metaphor of “morning in America” which was Reagan’s positive, optimistic view of the country.   Second, the ad was perfectly positioned to run at half time of a hard fought game building upon the sports come-back metaphor.  And third, it awakens the reality that this economy is really not a game; real people have lost—we are turning a corner and refuse to lose again.

             Three ads, three takes.  Can’t wait for Super Bowl XLVII.

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