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Chrysler Back – Minus Dirty Harry – With New “Halftime in America Ads”

Despite GOP criticism, theme resonates with American consumers.

by on Mar.30, 2012

A shot from Chrysler's new "Second Half" ad campaign.

Perhaps the biggest touchdown during this year’s Super Bowl was scored by Chrysler, which topped the charts with the response to its 2-minute “Halftime in America” ad featuring Clint Eastwood.

The unusually long spot, which reportedly cost the maker more than $10 million generated tremendous interest among American consumers – though it also triggered some wild criticism from the GOP.   Now, minus “Dirty Harry,” the Halftime campaign is coming back.

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Chrysler is turning the original spot into a series of commercials for each of its four individual brands: Chrysler, Dodge, Ram and Jeep.  Only the Fiat brand will be left on the sidelines.  The move is similar to what the smallest of the Detroit makers did in 2011 when it followed up another 2-minute Super Bowl spot, dubbed “Made in Detroit” with a series of shorter ads minus rapper Eminem.

Clint Eastwood and the "Halftime in America" ad have proven a "viral" for Chrysler.

The new campaign will debut tonight with an emphasis on major sporting events, such as the NCAA basketball semi-finals, and high-profile entertainment shows like the new season of ‘60s drama “Mad Men.”

“As you watch, you will see familiar scenes from the Super Bowl spot that weave their way in each of these commercials, all of which were scripted and filmed at the same time,” wrote Chrysler’s marketing chief Olivier Francois, in a blog entry on the Chrysler media site.

The original spot, four times longer than a typical 30-second Super Bowl commercial, was narrated by Clint Eastwood, who appeared in several key scenes, but it also showed a variety of Americans, from a young girl riding in her mother’s car to a trio of firemen.  The cinematically shot commercial focused on the troubles the nation has faced in recent years but used Eastwood’s gritty voice to stress that the nation has a way of “getting back up again.”

That triggered cries of foul from some members of the Republican Party who, in an election year, contended that Chrysler was paying back President Barack Obama for approving the automaker’s post-bankruptcy bailout in 2009.

Chrysler marketing chief Olivier Francois during a NY Auto Show preview.

Chrysler executives have repeatedly countered that the message reflected the mood of the country and wasn’t political in any way, the maker’s CEO Sergio Marchionne saying, “I thought that the Republicans’ reaction to this was — was unnecessary and out-of-place,” during an interview on the CBS newsmagazine “60 Minutes,” last Sunday.

The new commercials, produced by Chrysler ad agency Wieden+Kennedy, was influenced by real-life stories, the maker says.

A spot called “Tommy and the Ram,” is centered around a wife reflecting on her husband’s to keep his family fed through hard work, whatever the situation.  “Where there’s a truck, there’s a job,” it concludes.

The spot for Jeep’s Wrangler picks up with the young girl from the original “Halftime” ad as she adapts to life in a new city as her family searches for work.

Ironically, both political parties might want to embrace the new commercials, collectively called “Second Half,” as they stress classic American themes of self-reliance and hard work, picking up on the original Eastwood commercial’s message that “this country can’t be knocked down with one punch.”

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