The Great Super Bowl ’11 Car Ad Debate

No sooner did the Super Bowl end than the debate over the auto industry ads began.  And there were a bunch of them.

Chrysler’s two minute spot promoting Detroit had a lot of people buzzing.  It seems Chrysler has a new spokesman, one Marshall Mathers, who goes by the name “Eminem.”  He seems to be well known in certain circles.  I was in a cigar bar in San Francisco for the game and the ad drew a lot of attention.  My first impression was I was impressed, but mostly based on how the ad advocated on behalf of Detroit.  I thought the Chrysler 200 in the ad was a kind of an “after thought.” 

But no one in the bar knew the spokesman. I estimated the crowd to be in the 45 – 55 age group, a demographic that is much more capable of buying what Chrysler needs to sell than the age group who instantly recognizes Mr. Mathers.  Further dialogue indicated that in that 45 – 55 age group, of those that know him, most don’t like him and certainly don’t want him as any kind of a role model for their kids.

So the debate was on.  I find that younger consumers, especially those who aren’t parents yet, were particularly fond of the ad.  They also sympathize with the plight of Detroit.  Who doesn’t?

I gather that Mr. Mathers is somehow a hero of theirs.  They haven’t gotten to the point in life where they feel threatened by angry young people yelling a form of loud poetry from under the cover of a hoodie, and everything that represents.  I find that many parents with children old enough to be influenced by hip hop type entertainment tend to do what they can to protect their children for as long as they can, for better or worse. 

The other ad in the debate is now referred to as Mini-Darth. The ad was from VW and was introducing the new Passat.  The ad features a cute kid dressed as Darth Vader testing his force powers on his Dad’s new Passat, assisted by his father operating remote control functions from inside the house using his remote key fob.  Everyone in the cigar bar hooted and hollered over the VW ad driving me to conclude that it had much more universal appeal than the Chrysler ad. 

Here are YouTube links to the two ads:

Chrysler 200 –
Mini Darth –            

Advertising costs for the Super Bowl reportedly approached 3 million per 30 seconds, making the Chrysler ad cost about 12 million dollars plus production costs. 

But the entire discussion brought me back to car ad campaigns of the past that are always discussed when the subject of advertising failures and/or counter productive advertising comes up.  In particular, Lisa Marie Presley and “Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile”. 

People who tended to like the ads weren’t Oldsmobile buyers.  It turns out the new Oldsmobiles were NOT anyone’s father’s Oldsmobile.  Dad’s Olds was much better.  The ads turned out to alienate Oldsmobile’s core constituency group, older buyers.  One certainly cannot blame Oldsmobile’s demise solely on the ad, but perhaps history speaks for itself.   

Folks who really liked the Chrysler ad have been quite passionate about it, especially as it pertains to defending Chrysler’s new spokesman.  It certainly will become clear if they will buy a Chrysler because of him.  If the 200 takes the Chrysler Sebring’s place as a ubiquitous fleet and daily rental vehicle, we will have our answer. 

Mini Darth cost about 6 million plus production costs.  Chrysler/Eminem cost about 12 million plus production costs.  Who got the most “bang for the buck?”  Time will tell.

For my own part, I can’t imagine anyone recruiting Keith Richards, my favorite rocker, to sell Toyotas or Hondas, and I can’t imagine Chrysler’s choice this time.  I remember thinking it strange to see Snoop Dog with Lee Iacocca in a Chrysler commercial a few years ago. I heard nothing but complaints about Celine Dion efforts as a spokesperson on behalf of the Chrysler Pacifica a few years back.   But as “hip hop” goes, I AM a fan of the Kia hamsters!  I think they work cheaper than Mr. Mathers, too.  And they don’t seem to have any alienation quotient.

Nevertheless, just because you don’t agree with him, or share his viewpoints, you must now realize that Eminem is as main stream as it gets.


OUTTAKES: Here are a couple of quotes I found particularly interesting from the online debate:

Don S. – I feel compelled to chime in here, Marshall or whatever his name is, is simply an angry young man, and in my humble opinion, standing on stage screaming hardly qualifies as talent. He is rude, profane, and supports through his rantings a culture that is anything but mainstream. My children are not allowed to listen to his rantings (can’t call that music, as there is no tune). As much as I try to not become my father, I allow much of what I don’t agree with as a father but Marshall is off limits.

Kyle Z. – I couldn’t help but to think about our debate while watching the Grammys last night. I know it is a program that is targeted to a very narrow age demographic with low ratings, but I was hoping you caught Eminem’s performance and acceptance of his 12th and 13th Grammy Awards. Not too bad for an “Urban Drug Dealer” that would have to attribute his success to “thuggery and drug dealing”, not his hard work, sheer talent or years of dedication.



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2 responses to “The Great Super Bowl ’11 Car Ad Debate

  1. I’ve always subscribed to the belief that celebrity spokespeople in ad campaigns never reach their expected “buzzworthiness” other than people merely debating how much they either like or dislike that person. (See Don S. and his brilliant breakdown of Eminem. Insert Sarcasm now.)

    It would seem that fictional celebrities are where it’s at though.

    I enjoyed both ads. As a car enthusiast, VW won me over. Mixing a fun car with awesome Star Wars imagery, that invoked memories of how I acted as a child, was pitch perfect – to me.

    The Chrysler ad was nicely done and told an excellent story. Unfortunately, it was just a story that didn’t hit any emotional hot buttons. (And yes, I’m a an Eminem fan)

  2. Pingback: Chrysler Rant «

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