Wednesday, February 9

Eclipsing Brands: How A Good Commercial Still Fails For Chrysler

Eminem
According to Motor Trend, the average age of a Chrysler buyer is 62. The average age of an Eminem fan is about 24. The average age of an advertising executive is about 36. The average age of a journalist is about 42.

While Volkswagen easily won Super Bowl pre-buzz, it seems the Chrysler ad (more often called the Detroit ad, Motor City ad, or Eminem ad) by Portland-based Wieden + Kennedy is catching the most post-game buzz. More than 2,000 news organizations have mentioned it. More than 3.7 million people have viewed it on YouTube. Both Edmunds and Chrysler reported surges in searches for the brand.

But does the buzz-up alone make the measure of the ad, especially because much of the attention is marred with curiosity and confusion? Maybe. Maybe not. Watch the spot and then consider both sides of the same Motor City coin.


What worked for the Chrysler advertisement.

Production. By most measures, the production value is on target. It's a stylized mood piece that borrows some of its feel from Gotham City (even if Gotham is based on New York City with a Chicago toughness) and ample inspiration from past Nike commercials. The tight shots on some iconic symbols in Detroit work too; as does the slow reveal of Eminem.

The copy is honest, garbled, and unapologetic. And while some people have questioned whether Detroit can claim to be experiencing a resurgence, no one questions that Detroit natives have an underlying sense of pride. Some might even say that it was this same pride that convinced Eminem to accept the gig. I don't think he sold out.

Nostalgia. Although most Super Bowl commercials passed on what's proven to be the most effective television commercials for the Super Bowl, Wieden + Kennedy stayed true to them, with an emphasis on nostalgia.

This is one of the underlying reasons for the appeal. The ad doesn't only resonate for what people want out of Detroit. It resonates for what people want out of America. People are weary and generally feel beaten down by constant a rehashing of the country's considerable challenges. They want someone tough enough to get the job done. The spot taps the need for better leadership and a pull yourself up attitude.

Eminem Appeal. Of all the songs ever cut by Eminem, Lose Yourself has universal appeal. People who don't generally like hip hop or rap genuinely like the song. The instrumental alone is enough to pique interest. On iTunes, it remains his number one (explicit) and seventh (clean) most purchased song.

It was made famous in part because of its inclusion in 8-Mile, the underdog movie about Eminem. Only the recent hit Not Afraid comes close to having as much crossover appeal. And his presence in the commercial almost convinces me that he might outsell the product placement in the Detroit spot.

What didn't work for the Chrysler advertisement.

Brand EclipseConfused Demographics. There is nothing wrong with an automotive company with an aging buyer trying to infuse some youth into its brand. Having worked on campaigns for Lincoln and Mercury in the past, I appreciate the challenge.

However, when the commercial aired during the Super Bowl, I noticed agency creatives and communication professionals were much more likely to rave about it than the non-industry people I follow on Twitter. That could be a concern. If the ad plays better to industry professionals than anyone else, Chrysler will be more than disappointed as the 200 is not an industry car.

Brand Eclipse. While the advertisement has earned considerable buzz, the headlines reveal something else. As mentioned earlier, the advertisement is just as likely to be called the Detroit spot or an Eminem ad or a combination of those two, sometimes pairing it with Chrysler.

Of the three brands, Chrysler is clearly the weakest. And I suspect that it doesn't help that it is owned by Fiat, an Italian company. Even worse, days before the $9 million spot aired, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne had to apologize for describing the $12 billion U.S. bailout as a "shyster loan."

Curiosity Buzz. The commercial shows so little of the Chrysler 200 that people have no choice but to look it up. The curiosity will be short lived as people discover the truth. Reading Edmonds' review of a refreshed Sebring worthy of consideration doesn't hold the same excitement as the commercial. Wieden + Kennedy clearly over promised.

Over-promising in an advertisement raises awareness but it also drives up negative impressions. In fact, in reading a cross section of reviews, I was disappointed to discover the best feature is the price point. But even that promise seems silly. Few people will want to drive that much ugliness with a cost-saving four-cylinder automatic.

It begs the question. Who cares if you pique the interest of the mid-sized sedan buyer (average age 41) but fail to deliver what they really want? I can write a commercial that promises McDonald's will add steak to its menu and drive buzz. But it is patently irresponsible for an agency to do so without any concern for whether people will figure out the steak is still a Big Mac.

What the people who appreciated the commercial really want.

Sebring TransformationIt's painfully easy to appreciate what people want: The ability to break free from adversity, retain some semblance of attitude as they age, praise artists who are willing to stand up for their cities instead of gripe, and for Chrysler to succeed as a tough-as-nails innovative American car company so it can pay off those "shyster loans" and employ people.

That is the dream. And Wieden + Kennedy delivered it brilliantly.

The only problem is that they delivered a dream that their client cannot deliver. Haven't you noticed? People aren't talking about the Chrysler 200 (formerly Sebring) as much as they are talking about Eminem and Detroit.

And that's the real lesson of a mixed brand commercial. As an Eminem for Detroit commercial, most people are all in; as a Chrysler commercial, it only underscores that the most dangerous assessment in the advertising industry is "I like..."

"I like" has nothing to do with it. The phrase we're supposed to shoot for is "I buy."
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