Imported From Detroit
Why our Senior Writer still loves the commercial nearly a year later.
Web2Carz Senior Writer
Published: December 8th, 2011
A little more than ten months ago, I was watching the Super Bowl at a party, like millions of other Americans, when one commercial in particular grabbed my attention. It started out with a shot of a freeway underpass before moving on to shots of industrial plants, thus making it different from just about every other Super Bowl commercial out there. Almost immediately, I recognized the locations as likely being in the Midwest, although it wasn’t til I saw the shot of the freeway exit for Detroit that I identified the city.
Now curious as to what the ad was selling, I started paying closer attention. The initial voiceover talks in general terms about Detroit’s struggles and luxurious items, and how the two are thought to be mutually exclusive. It takes almost thirty seconds out of the two-minute ad before we even see first shots of a car, letting us know that this in fact an ad from an automaker, and only those with a trained eye would recognize the car as a Chrysler 200 in that shot. It’s not until almost 45 seconds in that a long shot gives the viewer time to recognize the car, and the music starts right around that time. Smart work by the ad agency—the viewer stays hooked for a while, trying to figure out what’s going on.
That’s not the only reason I like the ad. I like that it sparked controversy—the automotive press was all abuzz about it the next day—and I like how different it was from the usual Super Bowl ad fare. But mainly I applaud it, even all these months later, for the underlying message.
It’s not just that Chrysler was trying to rally from bankruptcy—it’s that the company said “enough is enough” and fought back with a vengeance, using the city it calls home (well, sorta, Chrysler HQ is in Auburn Hills, Michigan) as an avatar. The message wasn’t “buy the new 200,” it was “hey, we were down, now we’re back, and we aren’t going away anytime soon.”
Yeah, the ad had flaws. The 200 was introduced to make us forget about the Sebring, but really, it's a heavily refreshed and renamed version of its predecessor. And it's not often mentioned as one of the top cars in its mid-size class. Also, Chrysler needed to forge an alliance with Italian automaker Fiat in order to survive, which undermines the message somewhat.
So what? Yes, the facts do stand in the way of a good story, but advertising of this type is about forming an identity and selling a message, not a particular product. And the first “Imported From Detroit” ad did just that.
It also makes you root for Detroit as whole, no matter where you’re from or where you live. As a Chicagoan, I’m supposed to hate Detroit (at least its sports teams) but I can’t but help root for the underdog. Of course, working in this industry and living only four hours away means that I also have many friends and colleagues in the area, so I’m biased.
If you’re wondering why I’m bringing this up now, it’s because I keep seeing follow up ads on the same theme, with the same music. But they just don’t have the same impact. I remember very few Super Bowl ads, and most of the ones I do recall were humorous (like the VW Darth Vader spot, also from 2011). However, “Imported From Detroit” will stick in my mind, and with advertising preparation beginning for next year’s big game, I hope someone comes up with something just as impactful.Related Vehicles: chrysler