It took guts on many levels. Chrysler created a two-minute ad for the Super Bowl in just the last couple of weeks to promote its new 200 sedan. Cost: About $10 million give or take.
The ad, starring Eminem and showing scenes and sites of Detroit that many outside Southeast Michigan won't even recognize, is a love-letter to the city of Detroit as much as an introduction of a new risky ad tagline for the brand: "Imported from Detroit."
It's unlikely that any car company has ever used "Detroit" in an ad slogan. It is even more unlikely that any company would think about it now given the awful image the city has not only in the rest of the country, but even within the state of Michigan.
The ad and the strategy is the work, ironically, of Portland, Oregon-based ad agency Wieden & Kennedy, which is perhaps best known for its long-running Nike work, as well as work for Coca-Cola. It is also the brainchild of Chrysler chief marketing officer Olivier Francois, who also holds the title of CEO of Chrysler brand.
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Photos copyright ©2010 Drew Phillips / AOL
[Source: Chrysler via YouTube]
"Super Bowl advertising is about making a statement and capturing the attention of the audience," said Olivier Francois, President and CEO, Chrysler Brand and Lead Executive for Marketing, Chrysler Group LLC."'Born of Fire' is designed to generate conversation about the brand and the new 2011 Chrysler 200. The spot reflects where the brand is headed and pays tribute to our industrial roots."
The actual title of the ad is "Born of Fire." Besides using rap star Eminem to star in the ad, it uses the rapper's "Lose Yourself."
There will undoubtedly be cat-calls from ad critics, bloggers and commenters on blogs, including this one. My own beef is that the ad was done in support of the 200 and not the new redesigned 300 sedan. After all, the 200 is a restructured Chrysler Sebring. Improved from the that class-trailing car? To be sure. But it does not represent the best Chrysler can do with its new Fiat parent by any means, and it certainly doesn't represent luxury, American or otherwise. The redesigned 300 would have been a smarter choice, or perhaps a corporate ad that showed off the 300, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Dodge Challenger and Dodge Durango.
I also have some questions about the writing in the slogan. "Imported from Detroit." "Imported?" The tough thing about a slogan like this is that it is a huge vote of confidence for the company's hometown. If it flops, and Chrysler feels compelled to pull it after six months, it will be a big thumb in the eye to the city, and workers who are building Chrysler's in Sterling Heights, MI and the city itself.
Olivier, a French-born executive who has been running the Lancia brand for Fiat in Europe, wants this positioning for the Chrysler brand alone. And we hear it won't stop at advertising. Olivier said in a recent interview with Autoblog/AOL Autos that he "has a lot of ideas about how to make the comeback of Detroit very much a part of the story of Chrysler."
It's bold, and it will have the Internet dogs barking and wagging their tails and tongues this week, ridiculing Olivier, and charging that he has lost his marbles. They'll say he is the R.P. McMurphy of the auto industry. But they will talk, I predict. And all that talk will drive Internet traffic. And that's more than I can say for most of the rest of the automotive ads that ran on the Super Bowl this year, which will be forgotten by Monday lunch.
*UPDATE: Olivier Francois told Autoblog by email from Europe Monday morning that the reason he used the Chrysler 200 was that the 300 is built in Ontario, while the 200 is built in Sterling Heights, MI. Given the Detroit-centric nature of the ad and the campaign slogan, he thought it best to kick it off with a Michigan product. The Chrysler Town & Country is also built in Ontario, not far from Detroit. "Detroit's ascendancy mirrors Eminem's own struggles and accomplishments," added Francois. "This is not simply yet another celebrity in a TV spot. It has meaning. Like his music and story, the new Chrysler 200 is 'Imported from Detroit' with pride."