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Chrysler Winning Points for Selling Detroit in Super Bowl Ad

Monday, February 07, 2011 - 08:49 PM

(Alex Goldmark, Transportation Nation) In Super Bowl XLV there were more car commercials than beer ads, most out of Detroit and many touting the eco-elements of new models. But the most noteworthy was the classy ad for the new Chrysler 200 featuring Eminem.

"Chrysler 200" was the top trending Google search this morning. Not bad for the new name of what used to be the Sebring, a car the Detroit Free Press called "arguably the most maligned vehicle to ever come out of Auburn Hills."

The ad works because it sells Detroit pride as much as it sells the revamped 200. A gritty baritone announcer apparently speaks for all Detroit intoning, "What does this city know about luxury. Huh? What does a town that's been to hell and back know about the finer things?"

The answer is more poetic than we're accustomed to in car ads: "We'll tell you... it's the hottest fires that make the hardest steel." It's all set over dramatic cinematography, with shots of famous art from around the city celebrating manufacturing including the pro-union Diego Rivera mural, a centerpiece of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Eventually, Eminem rolls up to the ornate Fox Theater where the marquis reads "Keep Detroit Beautiful." And the hometown rapper's one line is, "This is the Motor City, and this is what we do." It's all set over the thumping lead to his Oscar-winning "Lose Yourself." The ending graphic reads "Imported from Detroit."

The city is the ad. The ad also states, "When it comes to luxury, it's as much about where it's from as who it's for.  Now, we're from America, but this isn't New York City, or the windy city ... and we're certainly  no one's emerald city." Reaction from Michigan has been ecstatic. Detroit has been notoriously stigmatized in the media and in various "ruin porn" documentaries, but Detroiters say this ad did a better job capturing the spirit of the Motor City than most national portrayals. Plus, it's unexpected and appreciated to to use the city's proud heritage as the key argument that Chrysler can turn itself around with a new luxury model.

At a rate of $3 million for 30 seconds of ad time, this mini-movie was a bold buy from Chrysler. Right now though,  it looks like touting the city, and a hometown hero with internet-click-worthy charisma, is paying off.

A version of this post appears in GOOD.

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