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Published: Tuesday, 2/8/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Chrysler's Super Bowl ad pumps up Detroit

Commercials fuel pride in Motor City

BLADE NEWS SERVICES

A scene from the company's two-minute commercial that aired during the Super Bowl on Sunday. A scene from the company's two-minute commercial that aired during the Super Bowl on Sunday.
CHRYSLER Enlarge
DETROIT — To a pulsating beat, hip-hop star Eminem drives a sleek Chrysler through Detroit's streets, proudly cruising by the city's landmarks, towering skyscrapers, and the hopeful faces of its people. His journey ends with an unapologetic message: "This is the Motor City, and this is what we do."

A day after it aired, one of the most-talked about Super Bowl ads sent shivers of pride through the battered city, which hopes car buyers are willing to look past Chrysler's billion-dollar bailout and embrace the idea that if a vehicle is "Imported from Detroit," that's reason enough to buy it.

"It's like an anthem or rallying cry for Detroit," Aaron Morrison of Mason City, Iowa, told the Associated Press via Facebook. "It makes me want to buy my next car made in America."

Mr. Morrison, a photographer, said the ad inspired him to consider moving to Detroit to work for Chrysler.

The Super Bowl telecast featured several ads from the auto industry, including Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Hyundai, Kia, Audi, Volkswagen, and General Motors, which sat out the last two Super Bowls.

But Chrysler's ad stood out. The 2-minute ad was unusual for length, airing during a broadcast in which a 30-second spot costs $3 million. And it framed the urban images, including vacant factories, with an attitude that embraced the city's past and survival instinct. "What does this city know about luxury, huh?" the narrator asks. "What does a town that's been to hell and back know about the finer things in life? Well, I'll tell you — more than most. You see, it's the hottest fires that make the hardest steel."

The Chrysler ad was "the big story of the night," according to NM Incite, a Nielsen/McKinsey Co. that tracks online buzz. Consumers repeated the "Imported from Detroit," slogan in online comments.
For Chrysler, which emerged from bankruptcy in June, 2009, the ad kicked off a campaign it hopes draws buyers back to showrooms and revives the brand.

"Detroit's ascendancy mirrors Eminem's own struggles and accomplishments," Olivier Francois, Chrysler brand chief executive officer and president, said in an e-mail. "This is not simply yet another celebrity in a TV spot. It has meaning. Like his music and story, the new Chrysler is ‘Imported from Detroit,' with pride."

The "Imported from Detroit" tag line is not without irony: Italian automaker Fiat Group SpA owns 25 percent of Chrysler, and the ad was produced by Wieden + Kennedy, a Portland, Ore., agency known for its work with Nike. Chrysler switched after its previous advertising agency, a famous firm called BBDO, closed its Detroit office.

Still, Chrysler said, the spot was shot in Detroit with local cast and crew; the voiceover was done by Kevin Yon, who is from Michigan.

The Detroit News reported the ad was a one-shot deal. It will not be seen in its full form on television again, although it likely will continue to live on the Internet.

The agency is working on 30-second and 60-second spots for Chrysler, most of which will be more product-oriented and will use Eminem's music, but will not feature the artist, the News said.

The stirring ad painted a picture that the outside world doesn't often see, said one retiree who was walking through downtown Sunday.

"It was very touching. It gave me goose bumps," said Mario Succurro, 64, of Plymouth. "People don't know the city of Detroit … And there's some problems over here, of course … Detroit is coming back. We're down because of autos, but it doesn't mean that we're dead."

The real test will be whether the ad stirs consumers to reconsider Chrysler — and by extension, the town that put the world on wheels.

"I think it is a defining moment for the auto industry. It really was good for all the carmakers," said Bob Kolt of the Michigan State University advertising, public relations, and retailing department. He and his colleagues have tracked and rated Super Bowl ads for 14 years. The Chrysler ad drew high praise, but the Top 2 rankings went to Volkswagen. "Will it work? I don't know. We'll probably know soon. It really sort of tried to redefine Chrysler, and it did that effectively."



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