Marty’s Marketing Minutia Special: Chrysler Sends in the Second Team

They make you feel good, but do Chrysler's Second Half commercials get you to buy a car?

by on Apr.02, 2012

A scene from the new Chrysler "Second Half" ad "Tommy and the Ram.".

Way back then, when Don Draper and his pals (and a few of us who were there in those halcyon days) were pitching a piece of new business from a major corporate client the conundrum was, “Should we pitch with product or institutional creative?”  More times than not, institutional – the warm and fuzzy, feel good, selling the big picture, aren’t we magnificent, munificent and magnanimous outlook — won hands down.

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It made the prospective client nod their heads in approbation because the company looked terrific which reflected positively on our not-so-noble, okay crass, intentions no matter how insincere our sincere ads were.  And, yes, it won some business too.

And that is what advertising is supposed to do – sell things!

Everyone in the automobile business knows that last year Olivier Francois, the French CMO of Chrysler, forever broke the mold of American auto advertising with the famous “Made in Detroit” anthem. I do not, in the purest sense of the word, call it a commercial. It was an ode of praise, a sacred reawakening, a nationalistic proclamation and of course, a damn good institutional ad and a ballsy one too. In autocentric worlds the praise was deafening, but elsewhere it was a polite “nice, very nice” and based on Ace Metrix research it was not that effective nationally.

Part Two. This year’s long form follow-up, “It’s Halftime in America,” with the iconic All-American narration of Clint Eastwood,  was not just bigger and better, it ranked sixth of all 45 commercials — and first in the automotive category — in terms of effectiveness with consumers as ranked by Ace during the broadcast of Super Bowl XLVI. So what’s a good CMO going to do?

You guessed it, say hello to “Second Half,” a group of four new commercials, one for Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram, the American brands in the Chrysler arena. If “Halftime” were a successful TV series, they’d be the typical spin-offs, each starring one of the many faces – and sub-plots — that filled the Eastwood spot.  Each extracts and extols nationalistic pride, passion and pathos using persuasive ‘stories heard from people around the country’ to inspire, motivate,  stimulate and elicit sales.  Olivier is too brilliant a marketer to sublimate the commercial message and Chrysler is not an eleemosynary company, he’s selling Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram vehicles.

And that is what advertising is supposed to do – sell things!

The production values are sensational. The copy is brilliant with compelling — if sometimes cliché ridden — scenes and lovingly shot, expertly cast, spectacular narration and music and edited beautifully. You don’t need me to describe each, just to see all four  if you didn’t see them Sunday. The message the CMO wants us to take from each comes from the Chrysler blog follows. Note the last phrase or sentence you hear in each “in quotes” becomes the super tag line of that commercial before the corporate logo.  And that’s the strong sell. And a damn good one too.

And that is what advertising is supposed to do – sell things!

My Son Steven

Not all of us grew up with everything we wanted. That’s why it’s important to take risks, as scary as they might be sometimes. Dream big, set your own course and shoot for the stars and “the world will hear the roar of our engines.”

Shaun with the Challenger

The word sacrifice has many meanings. Sometimes it can mean a man who serves his country. Other times it can mean a son who doesn’t get to see his father. In the end, what’s important is that we’re here for each other. “All that matters is what’s ahead.”

Jenny in the Jeep Wrangler

Sometimes change can be tough, waking up in a different town with different people. But it’s our resilience and our ability to adapt that sets us apart. “If we can’t find a way, we’ll make one.”

Tommy and the Ram

Times have been tough, but you didn’t complain. You didn’t stay home feeling sorry for yourself because you knew where there’s a truck, there’s a job. It’s that perseverance that defines America’s spirit of resilience. “This country can’t be knocked out with one punch.”

I don’t think these are great commercials, they’re semi-anthems and good commercials – I do wonder how they’re going to work in :30-second versions — but are not as compelling as the first Made in Detroit commercial (which I did not give a rave review); they do, however, deliver a thoughtful, alright  Pollyannaish message of hope for the millions in despair and desolation who have lost jobs, homes, health insurance, their retirement savings and have lost hope. They could be your neighbor. Will these institutional commercials sell more Chryslers, Jeeps, Dodge and Rams? Time and the economy will prevail.  My Martini rating:

Full Disclosure: I’ve been in the institutional commercial world when part of the WB Doner agency’s creative team that produced an iconic Christmas commercial for Canadian Tire Company more than two decades ago. .  But it was a different time with a different message.

 

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