Commercial Appeal – “Halftime in America”

This was the most impressive commercial of last night’s Super Bowl:

They’ve got my attention
I knew I was going to write about it the moment I saw it because there’s something about Clint Eastwood that automatically gets my attention (in college, I put this poster up in my room because it just felt cool). My initial response to the spot was a brow-wrinkle accompanied by nodding approval. After listening to the audio more clearly during a post-game YouTube viewing, I couldn’t stop thinking that the Super Bowl seemed like such an odd place for a company to be leveraging sympathy, but maybe not (incidentally, the Chicago Tribune reports that Chrysler has not said how this 2-minute spot cost, but the 30-sec average cost for the big game is $3.5 million).

“Everyone loves a comeback story” is a phrase I’ve been using a lot lately. When you say it, most people will agree simply because it’s a statement that feels agreeable. What’s to dislike? Personally? Well, since most of my opinions sprout from a faith-induced childhood, I’d say there’s a redemption imperative in all stories I enjoy. But putting aside all logic, the statement might be more true than you think. Check out some of the keystone quotes from some of the biggest movies of the past several years.

  • 2005 – Batman Begins
    Alfred Pennyworth: Why do we fall sir? So we might learn to pick ourselves up.
  • 2006 – Rocky Balboa
    Rocky Balboa: You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But It ain’t about how hard you hit… it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much can you take and keep moving forward? THAT’S HOW WINNING IS DONE!
  • 2007 – 3:10 to Yuma
    Dan Evans: If I don’t go, we gotta pack up and leave. Now I’m tired, Alice. I’m tired of watching my boys go hungry. I’m tired of the way that they look at me. I’m tired of the way that you don’t.
  • 2008 – Iron Man
    Tony Stark: I had my eyes opened. I came to realize that I had more to offer this world than just making things that blow up. And that is why, effective immediately, I am shutting down the weapons manufacturing division of Stark Industries.
  • 2009 – Up in the Air
    Ryan Bingham: Anybody who ever built an empire, or changed the world, sat where you are now. And it’s because they sat there that they were able to do it.
  • 2010 – Inception
    Cobb: Because building a dream from your memory is the easiest way to lose your grasp on what’s real and what is a dream.
  • 2011 – Warrior
    Tom Conlon: You’re trying? Now? Where were you when it mattered? I needed this guy back when I was a kid. I don’t need you now. It’s too late now. Everything’s already happened. You and Brendan don’t seem to understand that.

Each story is fertilized by past hardship and mistakes.They center around perseverance in the face of adversarial change, whether it’s financial, professional, moral, familial, or a combination of some kind. They’ve combined to gross over $2 billion, which simply attests to their popularity. How much can you take and keep moving forward? Perhaps Chrysler’s years of financial failure have simply placed it at the beginning of a beloved American story

Now it’s time to deliver
I had a particular soft spot for Up in the Air as it used the national sympathy towards unemployment to fuel its own sales and draw attention to one man’s particular problems. No sarcasm there. I thought it was brilliant. It, more than any other movie, played to the tension between prosperity and devastation on a corporate level versus a personal level. Chrysler has been the antagonist in one of the largest layoffs of all-time, and they infamously announced chapter 11 in 2009. But maybe that’s what makes this such a powerful commercial. Losing your job because the company is trying to save itself is one of the harshest yet most commonly shared experiences in the world. To be basic, when the news says the American unemployment rate increased by one-tenth of a percent, that means that 300,000 people lost jobs. How many people can relate to this commercial? Millions.

Chrysler spent a lot of money to open their mouths. Hopefully they’ll live up to their own inspirational message. I’d hate to think that a giant corporation tugged on my heartstrings with a grandfatherly hero of American patriotism only to pedal costly, hybrid minivans over the next year. At the end of the day, I’m not more likely to “buy American” because of this spot. However, I will buy American if it’s the best product at the best price. So I hope Clint’s right because I’m ready to root for the American automaker on more than an individual level. I want to root for them at the corporate level too.

Everyone loves a comeback story.

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