Category Archives: Advertising/Marketing Business

Chrysler Super Bowl Ads – As Brilliant as the Masses Say?

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:

And I’ve had an ongoing back & forth with friend and media expert Sheree Johnson on this too:

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:

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?


Really Road America? That’s How You Treat a Fan?

Like 99% of people that start one, this blog has gotten stagnant. It’s hard to come up with topics that I have something interesting to say about, and even harder to find time to post them. Hence, I haven’t posted one in 13 months. But I was so irritated by the experience I had this afternoon with one of my favorite places to visit that I had to dust it off and post this. Enjoy.

2011 Mustang GT race red

The back end of Lucy, my 2011 Mustang GT

No, this isn’t a post about my car. It’s about Road America – yes, the “RDAMCA” license plate I have on my Mustang is in reference to the fantastic Wisconsin racetrack that has helped develop my passion for racing and cars. I try and make it back at least once a year, even though I now live in Kansas City. I’ve got a track map framed in our house, next to a framed illustration of a group of race car drivers throughout history hanging out in Elkhart Lake, WI (where Road America is located). I love that place. Love it.

I went back in July of this year for their epic vintage racing weekend. As part of most race weekends there, a lunchtime event called “track touring” takes place; that’s a time for ordinary people to take their street cars onto the racetrack and experience what it’s like to drive the track, with controlled speeds, of course. This was my second time doing the track touring and I had some concerns about how the event was run, so when I got back to KC, I wrote a letter expressing my concerns and offering some solutions. If you’d like to read the letter, download it here.

I didn’t expect them to call, thank me profusely and tell me all my ideas were being implemented immediately. But I did expect to at least receive a form letter or email, thanking me for writing. It’s now October 18 (almost three months later) and I’ve received nothing. So, I went to Twitter today and tweeted at @roadamerica, which you can see below:

My first tweet at @roadamerica today

Ok, this response was kind of vague and mildly sarcastic but no big deal. So I replied.

My 2nd tweet at @roadamerica

More unnecessary, insulting sarcasm. Don’t get me wrong, I love sarcasm – just ask my wife. But not in this way. So I replied once more.

My 3rd tweet at @roadamerica

And this person still doesn’t realize I’m getting more and more irritated, or they just don’t care – either excuse is bad. Would it have been that hard to respond with “Sorry to hear that – not sure what happened. I’ll DM you the correct person that it should go to in a sec.” Or even better, “Email it to me – I’ll make sure it gets to the right person.” Not to mention this person not understanding the purpose of retweeting – it’s to share answers/info that your other followers might find useful. Pretty sure most of their followers don’t care about my simple question.

It’s not like I was trying to write a letter to Tim Cook or Alan Mulally; we’re talking about a privately-owned business that has 10 people listed in their staff directory. Two of those ten people are the Marketing & Promotions manager and the Communications manager. Two people that should care enough about the brand they represent to make sure whomever manages their social media accounts does it right. And this sure as heck isn’t it.

Instead of taking the 30 seconds to help me, they took the sarcastic way out. So I’m going to use the power that I have by posting about it, and probably using this in future case studies, presentations, etc. about the wrong way to use social media. I did email my letter to the Track Operations manager, so we’ll see if he responds or not.

That response won’t change the point of this post though: if you’re going to have a social media presence, do it right. Don’t use it to anger your loyal fans.

EDIT: Finally received responses from Road America today (10/19), the morning after I posted this.

That’s all I was looking for…in August. It’s just disappointing that it took a bunch of tweets and me calling them out in a blog post to get the canned, basic response that meets average customer service standards. I shouldn’t be baffled by great brands that can’t even get basics right, but this is just one of many examples out there. It’s a great reminder that, as marketers, we can’t ignore the basics even as we chase the next big thing.

Rebutting Chris Suellentrop’s “Hard Times in the Paris of the Plains”


I decided I really didn’t like this piece anymore, but I’ll leave it up since I wrote it and tweeted about it. Chris said a couple things on 610 Sports with Nick Wright that made some of what I wrote incorrect, especially the last part about the KU/MU thing so I’ve crossed that out.

About a month ago, launched as the brainchild of my favorite sportswriter, Bill Simmons. There’s a lot of back story to its genesis, but I’ll skip that – the point of the site, to me, is to cover sports and pop culture in a long-form manner that doesn’t get done very often in this era of TMZ, Twitter and instant analysis. So far, I’ve enjoyed the site a lot – it’s got a ton of talented writers covering all sorts of different topics.

Last week, the biggest Royals fan I can think of (Rany Jayzayerli of Rany on the Royals) wrote a Grantland column about the historical ineptitude of KC’s hometown team. Though a bit depressing for Royals fans, it was all true and can’t really be disputed.

Today, another column about Kansas City appeared on the site, written by Chris Suellentrop and titled “Hard Times in the Paris of the Plains.” Its intent was to discuss the failed attempts to bring a NBA team to Kansas City’s Sprint Center and how that feeds into the Midwestern inferiority complex that we (supposedly) have. Though Chris had some good points, I really took issue with a few things he said and want to offer my counter-opinion here.

“Currently the Sprint Center is home to an arena football team and not much else.”

While it’s true that there is no anchor tenant at the Sprint Center (other than the Kansas City Command, formerly the Brigade), the lack of a NBA/NHL team has probably helped the arena overall, as it was ranked by Pollstar Magazine (the concert industry’s leading trade publication), as the 5th busiest arena in the United States and 12th busiest in the world. From the Kansas City Star: “In 2010, Sprint Center hosted 17 of the top 20 North American tours, including Bon Jovi, Roger Waters, Michael Buble, Lady Gaga, Paul McCartney, Elton John and Billy Joel, Justin Bieber, the Black Eyed Peas, and James Taylor and Carole King.” Those rankings are for concerts only, so undoubtedly, Kansas City would not be ranked as high if sports events were included. However, the Sprint Center is home to the Big XII Men’s Basketball Tournament and has hosted event like WWE, PBR and others. The point is; the place is not sitting there unused like Suellentrop makes it sound.

“I didn’t know yet that if you want to do something reasonably creative for a living and get paid for it, pretty much the only way to do it in Kansas City anymore was to write for Hallmark cards.”

This is, without a doubt, the most untrue line in the entire piece and the only one that was truly offensive to me. Since you’ve been gone since the late 90′s, Chris, let me catch you up on the creativity of town you grew up in:

  • The Crossroads area fills up every month in a celebration of this town’s artists and other creative people called “First Fridays” –
  • The American Advertising Federation – Kansas City (AAF-KC) is one of the biggest AAF chapters in the country. Just last month, its members won more National ADDY Awards than any market outside Chicago or Los Angeles. KC’s large marketing/advertising community is home to clients like McDonald’s, On the Border, Krispy Kreme, Gatorade, Ford (Canada), Kellogg’s, and many, many more.
  • Incredibly gifted photographers like rw/2, Ron Berg, Austin Walsh, Alistair Tutton, Nick Vedros and David Morris all call KC home.
  • The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art added on the architecturally-renowned Bloch edition a couple years ago and it, along with the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, are both world-class art museums.
  • Oh yeah, Hallmark is still the industry leader too.

“Though as a Kansan, I am trying to be mean to Missouri, even though I went to journalism school there. In Kansas City, collegiate rooting affiliations are bound by blood and soil, not matriculation. I root for the Tigers in journalism and for the Jayhawks in everything else.”

Where to start with this one? It doesn’t matter where you grew up; it matters where you went to school. A lot of Kansans used to do this split loyalty thing and say they rooted for Kansas State football and Kansas basketball. But splitting loyalties between KU/MU is far worse than that – sorry, Chris, but you forsake your right to cheer for the Jayhawks when you went to Mizzou. In case you didn’t realize, KU has a fabulous journalism school too, so the argument of going there for that program doesn’t really hold up. You’re a Tiger now, for better or worse, so please donate any Crimson & Blue you have to Goodwill and embrace your Tiger-ness.

I know you wrote some of this lightheartedly but it’d sure be nice if Kansas City wasn’t stereotyped and bashed nationally by a guy who thinks of himself “as a resident out-of-towner in New York.” Maybe it’s time you came back and saw some of what’s happening in this town – you might be surprised.