If the Chrysler spot covered in the last post (here), suggested America could recover the glory days of its stylish past, this even newer spot insists we already have:
By personifying the brand and the city in the figure of Eminem, Chrysler is implying, I guess, that "we're making a comeback, just like one of our favorite sons."
From what I've read, Eminem's 2010 album was considered by many a sort of return to creative power. As USA Today's review put it: "If Eminem seemed to be losing his footing in recent years, he regains it here with his fiercest and most focused work in a long time."
Informed by his still new sobriety, the music is said to exhibit a bit more vulnerability and social conscience, without losing its edge. It's appropriately titled Recovery.
Proof of Chrysler's own comeback can be seen in its increasing market share, which, according to Ad Age, went from 8.9% to 9.45% in 2010.
And by featuring Eminem, the spot may even be hinting that just as the hip hop star is older, wiser and more sober, the brand likewise is letting go of its past bad habits and designing higher quality machines.
But here's where the message of the spot becomes a bit ironic, for me at least. Despite the patriotism, and proudly defiant regionalism of the message, it took a merger with Fiat, a European company, to tackle the brand's problems. From the recent Ad Age piece:
"The Chrysler-Fiat team has worked at breakneck pace since sumer 2009 to make dramatic improvements to core vehicles. The 300 makeover alone cost $1 billion. 'We are no longer ashamed of the products we are selling,' said brutally frank CEO Sergio Marchionne.
"The biggest obstacle is the mostly the mostly terrible quality ratings from Consumer Reports and J.D. Power. The makeover has corrected many past sins, but it will take two to three years for the ratings to move up...and even longer for consumers to trust."
Through European Eyes...
One thing that was particularly striking to me about this spot was its sheer defiance. It aggressively reclaims the idea that Detroit makes the best cars. It makes the case that the city's and its industry's troubles have only made them stronger. In what sounds to me like a bold allusion to the civil unrest of the past, it states: "the hottest fires make the strongest steel."
If this certainty sounds unusual to me, it may be because, ever since the advent of popular Japanese and Korean cars -- and especially during the period of the bailout -- angry criticism of Detroit's "big three" has become almost a cliche.
Perhaps that's why, though created by a U.S. ad agency (Wieden and Kennedy) only a European-born executive, such as Chrysler's new Chief Olivier Francois, would be enthused enough by this approach to champion it. (He even helped direct a key moment in the spot.)
You might even call this version of Detroit, and in fact the U.S., partly French (not unlike Poe and Jerry Lewis). This "slightly foreign" quality made me feel, despite its aggressive, no nonsense stance, that there was something idyllic about its vision.
For one thing, in the guise of Eminem, you see the return of a more forceful image of someone with working-class roots. And the fact that he's a cross-over artist suggests (along with the Gospel Choir) the possibility of overcoming the racial tensions that, historically, have especially troubled blue-collar culture.
In other words, perhaps only a European, unburdened by our specific, heavy sense of history, would green light this hymn to a city that makes its products cool again.
Or, as Francois put it, "Maybe it takes people from outside the city to see the possibilities and passion." The tag at the end captures this radically refreshed take on the town perfectly: "Imported from Detroit."
Detroit's Competitive Double...
This newly hopeful version of the Motor City does make it seem like a place where an industry might be reborn. It's an almost magical (and spiritual) locale. And such a positioning may be necessary for recreating the brand's and its city's identity.
For 800 hundred miles to the south, another "Detroit" has been in formation. The Hyundai/Kia plants around Montgomery Alabama, have produced a series of fuel efficient, low-priced cars that took off during the recession -- gaining upwards of 20% in sales, so that now, the two brands together are "only 5,000 short of surpassing Chrysler."
The sheer cost-efficiency of these smaller, boxier cars not only offers an alternative for utilitarian-minded people to the "luxury" alluded to in this spot, but, in one sense, even "lowballs" its "neo-working-class" ethos. The non-unionized workers at Hyundai/Kia are paid about $20/hr. (compared to UAW's approximately $28/hr.).
Will Detroit win this battle? Does its industry's comeback have "legs"? Anyone have speculations on these question or other thoughts about this spot?