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For the second straight year in the Super Bowl, Chrysler took a big chance, spending millions of dollars to advertise a message that doesn't have a lot to do with selling cars, but rather an idea, or ideal, and a message about the city of Detroit.

This year's Super Bowl ad in the "Imported from Detroit" campaign the company kicked off last year, though, has elicited plenty of admiring Tweets, but also some charges and suggestions that Chrysler went political, producing an ad that is clearly consistent with the message strategy of President Obama who is seeking re-election.

The ad, featuring Clint Eastwood talking to viewers about "Halftime in America," is a poignant and dramatic piece that came off as almost a "Letter from Clint to The Republicans" about America bouncing back in a metaphorical economic second half. It's tough, though, not to draw a line between the metaphor in the ad and Obama seeking a second term. The messaging in the ad, after all, seems to be right out of the Obama rhetoric book: "After those trials, we rallied around what was right and acted as one. Because that's what we do."

Eastwood's lines were referring to the bailout of General Motors, Chrysler and auto suppliers in late 2008 and 2009. Detroit has been bouncing back strong, with General Motors and Chrysler, as well as Ford, earning billions and hiring again. Republicans, including the presumed nominee, Michigan native Mitt Romney, have been flatly against the bailout of the auto industry. Ironically, Eastwood, a well-known libertarian Republican, has also voiced objection to the bailout, so the casting of the 81-year old actor is ironic.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Chrysler also shot a version of the ad with actor Al Pacino, and that rocker Bruce Springsteen was considered as well.

Chrysler Chairman and CEO Sergio Marchionne flatly denies that the ad was intended to have any political overtones. Marchionne­, in an interview during Detroit WJR's Paul W Smith news radio program, said: "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."

Tim Skubick, political consultant for Detroit's FOX 2 affiliate, thinks different. "Here's this commercial touting the comeback of America with Detroit and Chrysler leading the way," says Skubick. "I think this does play into the dialogue in this presidential race."

For fans and followers of political advertising, it is tough not to draw a line between "It's Half-time in America," and the storied Ronald Reagan re-election ad of 1984, "It's Morning Again in America."

Eastwood's involvement in the ad is especially puzzling. "I'm a big hawk on cutting the deficit," Eastwood told the Los Angeles Times last November. "I was against the stimulus thing too. We shouldn't be bailing out the banks and car companies. If a CEO can't figure out how to make his company profitable, then he shouldn't be the CEO."

His appearance in the ad set off both conservatives and progressives. "Agh. WTH? Did I just see Clint Eastwood fronting an auto bailout ad???" Michelle Malkin, the conservative columnist, tweeted during the game. Greg Mitchell, blogger for the liberal paper The Nation, also weighed in, tweeting, "Republican Clint Eastwood claims 'we all pulled together' to save Detroit--wrong, your party did not, big guy."

The headline in the Hollywood Reporter asked: "Was Chrysler's Super Bowl Commercial a Nod to Obama?"

And here's Amy Walter writing in The AtlanticWire.com: "President Obama's senior adviser David Axelrod took to Twitter and highlighted Chrysler's chill-inducing, Clint Eastwood-driven 'Halftime in America' Superbowl ad--no surprise since it makes for a pretty good Obama re-election ad."

Eastwood's role in the ad could also be tied to his turn as a retired autoworker in Gran Torino, a film that was as much about the decay of the city of Detroit as it was about the redemption of Eastwood's character. While that movie was shot in Detroit, the ad was, in another twist of irony, shot in Los Angeles and New Orleans, according to several published reports, while just stock footage from Detroit was used.

Is it a sequel?

In many ways "Half-time in America" is definitely a sequel to Chrysler's Super Bowl ad last year, "Born of Fire," featuring Detroit native and rap icon Eminem. That ad, hailed by many as the best of the game, broke all conventions in that it was two-minutes long and held up Detroit as a selling point for Chrysler. Most of the country has come to regard Detroit as an urban wasteland. Many pundits on the east and west coast criticized the multi-million dollar ad buy as irrelevant to people on the coasts.

Chrysler has stuck with the strategy, though the 2012 version was meant to support all of Chrysler's brands, not just Chrysler. The ad was tagged with Chrysler, Dodge, Ram, Jeep and Mopar.

Last year's ad was more about the city, the people of Detroit, the grit and fight in the people and workers, and the idea that the cars and trucks that come from the Motor City are equal to the competition or better. This year's ad reaches further, making a bigger connection between where the country is and where Detroit is, and has been. The idea in this ad is that the country can learn something from the comeback of the automakers, and the fight that is in the hearts and heads of Detroiters.

In an election year, with the Michigan Republican primary just a few weeks away, and the battle-lines drawn between the anti-bailout Romney and GOP against the architect of the bailout, Obama, it is very difficult to understand how Chrysler executives can say they didn't think the ad would be or could be taken as political.

But since the goal of a Super Bowl ad is to get attention, this ought to do it.



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  • 492 Comments
      Gary Gentile
      • 3 Years Ago
      Amen, my friend. Even going in with the spin the political pundents tried to put on it, I did not think Democrat or Republican. I thought of the character of the American people. I am proud to be an American. I wish these reporters in print and on tv would stop trying to make everybody take sides. I am a patriot of this great nation and it galls me that people in power and the media try to fix something that works so well and has since it's inception.
      knightoell
      • 3 Years Ago
      Why does the media and people have to put a political spin on everything??? I thought this was a great tribute to our country and it's resilience and had nothing to do with any political party or person. It seems we let the media influence all aspects of our lives including our thinking! I do not let a political party define me and I take umbrage that people define others by their beliefs or opinions or what the media reports. Why would a Republican deliver a pro Obama ad? Answer is, it was not political! Cynicism is going to ruin this country!Great tribute to Detroit and our country!
      krayfun1
      • 3 Years Ago
      No, this ad is pro-truth & a wake-up call to America's eligible voters that our system of democracy is not a game, so treat it seriously by staying informed and voting after careful thought. If in 2004 the voters had paid more attention to the political corruption of the 2000 presidential election, our nation very likely might have prevented or corrected the destruction of Bush in causing the Great Recession & its repercussions, trying to undermine our freedoms, dividing our nation by burdening the middle class to pay the revenue lost by his tax cuts to the rich, his "if you tell a lie often enough, people will believe it" GOP philosophy, running up the deficit to pay for his war/s based on lies by borrowing from China, and setting up a "slam dunk" for Citizens United. I hear frightening echoes of the Bush administration/failures and worse in the "misspoken" comments, gaffes, and speeches of every current & past GOP potential. I'm convinced that the informed and alert GOP voters of the mass would rather elect for the good of the nation for all than side with their mindless and only-GOP self-serving "one-term Obama" mantra of the 30% base (the same % that supported Bush when he left). I believe this because all through summer 2011, no GOP potential got even 30% in the polls, but "none of the above" kept getting 40%+. I think in Nov 2012 they'll care more about a better future for their kids than in being lock-step in line with "the base" on orders by Norquist, McConnell, & House Speaker John. Informed voters use facts, and though Pres. Obama hasn't pleased all the people all the time (who can?), his track record shows nothing but success and continued improvement. He avoided a 2nd depression, killed bin Laden, got health care for millions of kids previously denied and young adults thru age 26, has the consumer agency able to operate now w/ his appointed leader, has the stock market stable & above 12,000, pulled the troops from Iraq, has restored a global respect for America, is relentless w/ his ideas for jobs & green energy, and with the help of negotiated concessions by union members saved the auto industry. Compare this to Romney's track record in business (Bain), finance (off-shore accounts, orchestrated 11% tax rate), flip-flops in positions on issues, and videoed retorts "of course corporations are people" & "$345,000 isn't a lot of money" among so many others?? For any informed voter, how could there be a contest? No, this ad was pro truth & democracy.
      • 3 Years Ago
      JDiLauro - Baldwin, NY So-oooooooooooooooooo Terrific!
      • 3 Years Ago
      Clint Eastwood is a great actor and a great director. This ad proves he is also a great American. He is trying to make the point that the country must come together in order to reclaim our greatness. What a refreshing message in the midst of all of the ugly political bickering. And it is all the more powerful BECAUSE he is a Republican and Libertarian!
      GoldWing Group
      • 3 Years Ago
      truly a stupid comparison to the president and the republican party. ad had nothing to do with either one. it had everything to do with Chrysler only. anyone who reads into the ad that much needs a new job.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Sorry -better thinking
      poopyhead
      • 3 Years Ago
      I took this ad to my heart and soul . I felt like it was pep talk for american people , not a endorsment or push for either party . I loved it and hope and pray for all americans to do whats right and get back in the game, and fight for what we been fighting for for over 200 hundred years now . They are right its half time and we need to step it up and get moving forward , nt sitting back bitching about this party or that party , We all know by now both parties are the same , they are all in it for themselfs and dont give a crap about the amercain people . Lets not look into whats is there or not there . Way to go Chrysler and Clint !
      jwbasinlaw
      • 3 Years Ago
      Why not Pro President Obama, he is doing a great job in the face of the GOP/Bagger BS?
      dta4306682
      • 3 Years Ago
      man get your head out of your ass AUTO WORKERS DON'T MAKE 70 DOLLARS AN HOUR anyone who believes that is still living in a world way beyond their understanding
      • 3 Years Ago
      The ad is not pro-Obama, its for the American people, reminding them of their strength and resilience, It can also be a Republican presidential candidate ad if only they are not so negative.
      Rich
      • 3 Years Ago
      When you find the time to stop looking under rocks for serpents, you might just see that we, as a people, need wake up calls every now and again to remind us that it is we that are at stake. What I see in the Eastwood ad is that at least on person of high visibility took the lead in saying lets not be short-sighted. Hate blinds. Wake up!
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