Showing posts with label Chrysler. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chrysler. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 8

Inferring Context: The Clint Eastwood Commercial

In one of the most peculiar advertising case studies in recent history, the Clint Eastwood Super Bowl halftime commercial has been highjacked by politics. The irony? The advertisement was apolitical.

The only possible way anyone in politics could imagine that the commercial was political, especially with a subliminal message, is if they loaded it with inferences that just aren't there. It seems some people, on both sides of the aisle, have done exactly that.

Some on the left say the advertisement is about them. Some on the right say the advertisement is about the left. And I say they are both full of themselves. The commercial is about America, carrying forward the message and imagery from last year's Eminem commercial on a much grander scale.

While the spot itself won't do anything to bolster car sales, it does attempt to align Chrysler with the illusion of American toughness. Never mind that the company is controlled by Italian carmaker Fiat.

Among the most outspoken has been Karl Rove, who said he was offended by the advertisement. While Rove can be considered a brilliant political strategist (even if I don't agree with his tactics), he seems to have drank his own Kool-Aid. And unfortunately, Michelle Malkin too. They see Eastwood fronting a bailout ad, with Rove racheting up the rhetoric with the claim it somehow conveys Chicago-style politics. To be fair, CNN reporter Wolf Blizter thought it was an Obama Super Pac ad too.

The impossible nature of inference and the missed opportunities that come with it. 

To really understand why they miss the mark and allowed inference to steal what could have been their own opportunity, you really need to read the copy contained in the spot (full transcription below). After, I'll demonstrate how it works both ways (making it neutral), much like Clint Eastwood saw it before he signed on to read it.

It's halftime. Both teams are in their locker rooms discussing what they can do to win this game in the second half. It's halftime in America, too, People are out of work, and they're hurting. And they're all wondering what they're gonna do to make a comeback. And we're all scared because this isn't a game. The people of Detroit know a little something about this. They almost lost everything. But we all pulled together, now Motor City is fighting again.

I’ve seen a lot of tough eras, a lot of downturns in my life. Times when we didn’t understand each other. It seems that we’ve lost our heart at times. The fog, division, discord and blame made it hard to see what lies ahead.

But after those trials, we all rallied around what was right and acted as one. Because that's what we do. We find a way through times and if we can't find one then we'll make one. All that matters now is what's ahead. How do we come from behind. How do we come together. And how do we win. Detroit is showing us it can be done. And what is true about them is true about all of us.

This country can’t be knocked out with one punch. We get right back up again and when we do, the world’s going to hear the roar of our engines. Yeah, it’s halftime America. And out second half is about to begin.

The charges that it is a thinly disguised pro-Obama ad could be argued once someone has planted the seed. But is it really? Only certain lines can carry the case forward, especially the one suggesting that we pulled together to save Chrysler with an auto bailout, but the reality of the inference doesn't hold.

The auto bailouts were a bad idea. I know the point is debatable to many people, but the reality is that when government protects big companies, it inadvertently hurts smaller companies that want to rise up and take their place. Regardless, there comes a point when you have to move beyond the argument and forge ahead. We cannot reverse the auto bailouts. We made it clear no one ought to do it again.

So where does that leave us? If someone added the direct line that Obama was at the halftime of his career, and things are going to get better, then the case could be made. Likewise, people like Rove and Malkin could have made the claim that the American people are about to take back their government from the Obama administration in the second half, which is why things are going to better.

In fact, about the only wiggle room anyone has is that the Chrysler marketing team behind the ad picked an image of protestors in Wisconsin as a visual. They knew it might be politically charged, which is why they masked the signs. Still, they could have picked a protest image that was less political (although please note that I have to really stretch the intent to make a case. I really don't see it).

The sad truth is that neither side seems to get it, even after Eastwood issued a statement. 

"I am certainly not politically affiliated with Mr. Obama. It was meant to be a message about job growth and the spirit of America," Eastwood said. "I think all politicians will agree with it. I thought the spirit was OK ... If Obama or any other politician wants to run with the spirit of the ad, go for it."

And there you have it. If anyone wants to pick a side on the unexpected Clint Eastwood commercial debate, I suggest we forego right and left and pick Eastwood's side. His side is America's side.

Of course, the rub up shows why inferences are very dangerous things. They tend to show weaknesses in the people who make them. The conspiracy around every corner from the right. The audacity that anything good must be about them on the left. The zeal of feeding the angst machine by the media.

Along with Eastwood, Bill O'Reilly got it right too. He didn't see it as a propaganda spot either, which is no doubt why Eastwood sent his statement to O'Reilly rather than the media at large.

Friday, March 11

Commenting On Chrysler: Farcical From The Start

ChryslerIt's almost impossible to classify the recent communication focus surrounding Chrysler. Crisis Communication? Overreaction? PR lesson? Damage control? Best practice? PR disaster? Obscene tweet? Social media failure?

Are you kidding me? It's farcical.

All of it. It's especially farcical that less than 140 characters can create a global reaction. But to really appreciate how farcical it is, you need a broader context. The post (that some people have called a best practice) from Chrysler CEO Ed Garsten nails it. (His words in italics).

The hurtful tweet that sparked a firestorm. Oh my.

When a reporter called yesterday snarkily asking, “seen any good tweets lately,” I knew exactly what was coming next -- a firestorm across the web regarding an errant tweet by a now-former employee of Chrysler’s social media agency.

The tweet denigrated drivers in Detroit and used the fully spelled-out F-word. It was obviously meant to be posted on the person’s personal twitter account, and not the Chrysler Brand account where it appeared.

The tweet, reportedly written by Scott Bartosiewicz, account supervisor at New Media Strategies, on Chryslar's Twitter stream, read "I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to fucking drive."

tweetHe worked for the agency for eight months. He's a long-time Michigan resident, maybe a native. He made a mistake. It wasn't even a big mistake.

A big mistake might be having to recall 248,000 crossover wagons and minivans or 20,459 Jeep Wranglers. A tiny mistake is saying the wrong thing to 7,000 people who happened to follow Chrysler at the time ... minus spam accounts, minus people who weren't on Twitter, minus people who don't pay attention but follow the brand anyway.

Right. About seven people saw the tweet, including a "snarky reporter" as characterized by Garsten. Hopefully, the reporter is less sensitive than Detroit drivers are toward being "unfairly criticized."

The mean agency fired the guy before they were fired. Oh my.

First, Chrysler did not fire this person since this wasn’t one of our employees. The agency did. It was their decision. We didn’t demand it.

No, Chrysler did not fire the employee. They fired the entire agency. However, some have suggested the change was already top of mind. The errant tweet was just the final straw.

Let's be honest. Had the employee not been fired, he would have been after Chrysler pulled the account.

The sheer horror and anguish of being powerless to stop it. Oh my.

Second, as the day and night wore on, comments on various social media sites increasingly expressed either dismay that someone would lose their job over an online oops and that Chrysler was acting, as one poster put it, “in a stiff, corporate way.” Some posters even asked why we didn’t make light of an accidental “f-bomb."

Exactly right. The mistake didn't cause any sensationalism. It was the initial lie — our account was compromised — that sparked conversation.

You can even see it in the screen shots. The initial tweet wasn't retweeted even after being up for more than three hours. The correction, however, drew immediate attention.

And then, after the firing, the audience for the "incident" swelled from seven people to seven million. And on. And on.

The insensitivity of people for not recognizing all the hard work. Oh my.

So why were we so sensitive? That commercial featuring the Chrysler 200, Eminem and the City of Detroit wasn’t just an act of salesmanship. This company is committed to promoting Detroit and its hard-working people. The reaction to that commercial, the catchphrase “imported from Detroit,” and the overall positive messages it sent has been volcanic.”

chryslerVolcanic? Chrysler is doing better, but it still has a long, long way to go. U.S. sales might have risen 13 percent, but Chrysler Group sales were already up 17 percent in 2010 compared with 2009.

But even those numbers don't tell the whole story. You have to appreciate how far sales had to drop before the company could have a gain.

The entire future of the town rests right here. Oh my.

Indeed, as an automaker that went through the roughest of times just two years ago, we appreciate the challenges Detroit faces in reclaiming its place as a vibrant, world-class city. Inside Detroit, citizens are becoming even more proud of their town, and outside the region, perception of Detroit is rapidly improving.

With so much goodwill built up over a very short time, we can’t afford to backslide now and jeopardize this progress.

We need to keep the momentum going -- rebuilding a region and an industry, and not let anything slow us down. It’s what we do.

Is he really saying that 140 characters could somehow undermine the entire economic future of the region and erode all the pride that Detroit citizens have in their town? That's crazy talk. If Detroit is a tough town, one accidental tweet would not undermine their spirit. Heck, even if they did care, hurling a few F-words back at Bartosiewicz would have sufficed.

Suck it up. Unless a crisis is catastrophic (e.g., oil spills and product recalls), the organization establishes the severity of the so-called crisis. This wasn't a crisis. It has, however, become a publicity circus. And honestly, it's not even a very good circus.

The farcical commentaries that suggest tweet "recovery" strategies.

SquirrelWhen you consider what constitutes news, the entire incident can be likened to the :15 second clip of a squirrel on water skiis. It's an oddity that we all might chuckle about it instead of trying to frame it within the context of tragedy.

And yet, hundreds of communicators have treated the entire affair like a serious crisis communication case study. The worst of it includes offering up of social media safeguards and running down communication response punch lists. They might as well write a contingency plan for an employee with a hangover. The seriousness of it all just can't be taken seriously.

No one needs a communication strategy for one errant tweet. All anyone needs is common sense. Use common sense and lighten up.

Wednesday, February 9

Eclipsing Brands: How A Good Commercial Still Fails For Chrysler

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."

Friday, May 8

Starting Over: Chrysler, Not Campaigning

"When we asked consumers what they wanted to know about Chrysler, they told us to tell them about our products, tell them why they should buy our vehicles and give them a reason why they should be confident in the future of this company," — Steven Landry, executive vice president - North American Sales for Chrysler, told Adweek.

According to the article, that is why the first 30-second ad is a corporate anthem spot called "Bright Future" despite the company's filing for protection under Chapter 11. While the new commercial will air on prime time, it's anybody guess whether consumers will embrace the campaign from Omnicom Group's BBDO in Detroit.

Some of it follows the tone set by its ENVI oriented site. The main site, on the other hand, still leads with a contradictory message that says "Celebrating 25 years of innovation." Whatever happens, we're pretty sure it will be very different than when Chrysler really was a new car company.

Chrysler has plenty of ground to make up. Ford clearly has an advantage, being ranked first in the ability to connect with consumers via social media. One wonders whether the new campaign, apparently grounded in traditional media, can shift sales despite the strong online presence Ford has built.

After all, what Landry says consumers want to know is what they've always wanted to know: what do you sell, why would I buy it, and will you be around if I do? In some circles, that's called a value proposition. But according to the Adweek article, Chysler says it is "part of our continuing mission to build cars and trucks you want to drive."

That would be as opposed to those other car companies. You know, the ones who build cars and trucks we don't want to drive.

Regardless, it will be interesting to watch whether the new partnership with Fiat and a traditional campaign from BBDO will be enough. Based on the partial sneak peek of the television commercial Under The Pentastar and the smart comments made by a handful of consumers on their blog, we're not so sure.

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