In a Super Bowl that was nearly halted by a blackout at the New Orleans Superdome, advertisers provided plenty of distraction for an estimated 111 million viewers. And a handful of marketers turned to long-form mini-dramas to stand out from the clutter.
Along with Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson’s pitch for milk and Budweiser’s tale of a baby Clydesdale, Chrysler delivered two long-form spots, doubling up after scoring some of the most memorable moments at the previous two Super Bowl.
In keeping with those earlier mini-epics, Chrysler maintained a low-key approach, its products almost secondary to the subjects at hand, the first spot saluting the American “heroes,” the men and women serving in the U.S. military, while the second 2-minute spot focused on the nation’s farmers.
“For the past two years, we have used the largest television viewing audience to highlight the pride, the resilience and the determination that form an integral part of the American character,” said Sergio Marchionne, Chairman and CEO, Chrysler Group LLC. “Both the Jeep and Ram Truck brand’s campaign videos express Chrysler Group’s commitment to America and to helping build a better future for this great country.”
With 30 seconds of airtime going for a reported $4 million, having even a minimal presence on the Super Bowl doesn’t come cheap. And with the huge audience, CBS and the NFL have routinely packed in as many spots as they could. But while humor has traditionally been the trademark of Super Bowl advertising, Chrysler took a unique route when it delivered its first two-minute mini-drama in February 2011.
Titled, “Imported from Detroit,” it featured Rapper Eminem and highlighted the challenges and resilience of the Motor City, almost incidentally highlighting the launch of the then-new Chrysler 200 sedan. The spot drew widespread applause – and seemed to trigger a sharp resurgence in sales for the smallest of the domestic maker, then still struggling to rebuild after its 2009 bankruptcy.
Last year, Chrysler repeated, this time taking an even broader theme, actor Clint Eastwood narrating and acting in “Halftime for America,” which presented a series of vignettes about the nation’s struggle to climb out of its financial morass.
The spot drew some criticism from Republicans during the start of the presidential campaign – a few GOP pundits contending the 2-minute commercial was a payback for the Obama Administration’s automotive bailout which helped Chrysler survive that ’09 bankruptcy. Viewers were much more positive, and according to Ace Metrix, which tracks Super Bowl spots, Eastwood’s ad was among the 2012 game’s most effective and enjoyable.
Initial reaction to the two new Chrysler long-form advertisements was also solid. “I had trouble, at first, hearing all the narration, but the images were absolutely compelling,” said Ellen Martino who, with her husband, watched Super Bowl XLVII from the lobby of a hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where they were vacationing.
A variety of professional analysts also hailed the Chrysler spots, particularly the first of the two to air, dubbed “Whole Again.” Linked to the maker’s Jeep brand – appropriately, considering the marque’s roots in the military during World War II – it featured an homage to service men and women narrated by Oprah Winfrey, who called it “an honor to lend my voice in support of those that serve us all.”
Perhaps surprise helped Chrysler considering the maker was, this year, among the few Super Bowl advertisers not to release even a tease of its commercials ahead of time. In fact, it didn’t even reveal to journalists the spots’ airtime until the game had already begun.
The second long-form commercial, it turned out, was scheduled for the first break during what turned out to be the critical fourth quarter of the game. But, for a while, it was a question as to whether there might even be a finale to the tough match-up between the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens, power unexpectedly going out at the New Orleans stadium.
After a more than 30-minute break, the teams again took to the field, and CBS frantically tried to pull its broadcast – especially those costly ads – back into shape.
Chrysler’s second spot again relied on striking images – including stills shot by National Geographic’s William Albert Allard and documentarian Kurt Markus – as well as a familiar name to carry it through. But in this instance, it quite literally revived a now-gone voice.
Explained the maker in a news release, “The new Ram Truck spot, “Farmer,” was inspired by the stirring “So God Made a Farmer” tribute delivered by legendary radio broadcaster Paul Harvey and used as an anthem in grassroots videos created by farm families over the past three decades.”
As with the first Chrysler ad, “Farmer” triggered a viral flood on social media, in part due to the maker’s promise to donate $1 for Operation S.A.F.E. Return for Twitter posts. But the solid response continued for the second spot, Chrysler also announcing it will donate up to $1 million to the National Future Farmers of America Foundation.
Mainstream media also hailed the spots, the Associated Press listing “Whole Again” and “Farmer” at the top of its 10 Best list. Meanwhile, former General Motors global marketing czar Joel Ewanick called the Paul Harvey-narrated spot the best of the night, with Winfrey tribute to servicemen and women the second-best.
As with the long-form works Chrysler aired in years past, product took a back seat for the tear-jerking messages. It remains to be seen whether consumers will reward the maker for tugging at their hearts rather than slamming them with a sales pitch.
Tags: Sergio Marchionne, auto news, car news, chrysler farmer, chrysler news, chrysler super bowl, chrysler whole again, oprah chrysler, paul a. eisenstein, paul eisenstein, paul harvey chrysler, super bowl ads, super bowl marketing, thedetroitbureau