Chrysler ignored some of the unwritten rules of Super Bowl advertising – be brief, be funny – for the second year in a row, but it didn’t matter to msnbc.com readers.
Those readers voted the automaker’s “Halftime in America” spot that aired before the start of the fourth quarter best of the game with 23.4 percent of the vote. Volkswagen’s “The Dog Strikes Back” was a distant second and M&M’s dancing candy ad polled third (results here).
“Halftime” featured a croaking Eastwood ruminating on hard times in America and how the country has always recovered, linking it to Detroit – and by implication Chrysler’s – comeback.
“It’s halftime in America too … and we’re all scared because this isn’t a game,” the Oscar-winning director said.
The ad stood out for several reasons:
- It was long – at two minutes the longest in the game. Rates reportedly ran $3.5 million for a 30-second segment.
- It was serious. Other winners leaned predictably on sight gags and the battle of the sexes.
- It was a surprise. Chrysler mostly kept it under lock while other advertisers rushed out “viral” (as if spending millions on a YouTube campaign was spontaneous) campaigns with teasers and/or making-of footage in the weeks before the game.
The ad, which noted current divisions in America, perhaps accidentally stirred them up online. Chrysler received $5.9 billion in government loans and took a bankruptcy before posting its first profit since 1997 this year. Online, fans and detractors noted the timing.
“Why can't our so called leaders inspire us, be positive and optimistic,” posted Joc Jacquay on Facebook.
“Agh. WTH? Did I just see Clint Eastwood fronting an auto bailout ad???,” Tweeted conservative pundit Michelle Malkin.
“It has zero political content,” Chrysler and Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said on a Detroit talk radio Monday morning. “The message is sufficiently universal and neutral that it should be appealing to everybody in this country and I sincerely hope that it doesn’t get utilized as political fodder in a debate.”
Underscoring his opinion was Fiat’s decidedly non-political ad that used an Italian hottie to sell the company’s new compact.
Chrysler scored last year with a similar, long form, serious approach. It’s “Imported From Detroit” campaign began with a spot featuring Eminem.
We have calls into Chrysler about production of the ad. We’ll share when they call back.