Well, yesterday was the Super Bowl and Chrysler showed a beautifully-produced, visually-engaging spot that utilized an American celebrity and got people talking. If you missed it, it starred Bob Dylan and can be seen below:
It started three years ago with Eminem and the “Imported from Detroit” tagline’s debut. Then, in 2012, it was Clint Eastwood and “Halftime in America”. And last year, it was a repurposing of a Paul Harvey speech about Farmers along with a Jeep spot that bugged me because it felt like Italians were trying to tell Americans how to be more American.
Each time, I’ve railed against the near-universal applause for the ads, to the point where friends of mine know it’s coming before I even say it:
— Jessica Best (@bestofjess) February 3, 2014
And I’ve had an ongoing back & forth with friend and media expert Sheree Johnson on this too:
@KyleRohde None of those began here – something about legacy
— Sheree Johnson (@SAJohnson) February 3, 2014
So what’s my issue with the ads?
In short, I don’t like that Chrysler has gone the direction of making patriotic, “buy American” ads when they’ve been taken over by an Italian company (Fiat) over the past five years, a takeover that just reached 100% in the past 30 days.
The ads are all designed to elicit an underlying feeling in the viewer of “I need to buy a Chrysler because they’re an American company that supports American workers”. And yes, it’s true that Chrysler employs approximately 65,000 Americans currently. Thankfully, that’s likely not going to change, even with Fiat ownership, since a huge chunk of the worldwide organization’s profits are being delivered by two basic things: RAM trucks and Jeep SUVs.
However, General Motors and Ford, the two car companies that genuinely could wave the stars & stripes in every spot they run, don’t. Just as Ford could have run huge campaigns saying “we never took your tax dollars”. But both of those companies believe their vehicles don’t need patriotism to sell, and I admire them for it.
Today, Chrysler is no different than Toyota, Honda, Nissan, VW, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Hyundai/Kia and any other car company that manufactures cars in the USA because it’s the 2nd biggest market in the world (behind China for the past few years) and it makes business sense to do so. Chrysler’s profits are going back to Italy to make up for the countless shortcomings of parent company Fiat, which has been almost run into the ground thanks to mismanagement and Italian labor challenges.
You might say that’s ok and I agree…with the caveat that misleading the public with the patriotism makes it a bit slimy, to me, and that’s why I don’t like it.
One spot from last night that I thought was great was the “Villains” spot from Jaguar. Here it is in case you don’t remember:
You might be saying, “Kyle, you hypocrite – that commercial is all about being British even though Jaguar is now owned by their former colony!” (Note: Jaguar is owned by Indian car conglomerate Tata Motors, along with Land Rover – you’ve got to smile at that irony)
Well, here’s why I’m not: the Jag commercial does a fabulous job of reminding people of the brand’s British origins without resorting to the over-the-top flag waving of Chrysler. It’s tongue-in-cheek and fun…and Jaguar doesn’t try to hide its current status:
@KyleRohde We are proud to part of the Tata Motors family, and that our cars are designed and made in the U.K.
— Jaguar USA (@JaguarUSA) February 3, 2014
Final thoughts: yeah, I’m probably overanalyzing this a bit but I’m a marketing guy and a gearhead, so it’s fascinating to me. So what do you think?