Brand Honesty: Assembled In Detroit

For a cartoon dog named motownmutt who is neither a dog, nor currently residing in motown, to lecture on brand honesty, seems a bit hypocritical.

Before I talk about the ads that are the main subject of this, let me dispense with my misgivings, and biases, as well as I can. I didn’t like the way the bankruptcy/bailout proceedings were handled. I thought it blatantly wrong that secured investors were denied their lawful rights under bankruptcy law in favour of rewarding politically sympathetic shareholders. That the government was involved in manipulating the deal in an unprecedented, and from appearances, unlawful way is enough to raise the emotion of disgust whenever I’m reminded.

This is the second Chrysler Super Bowl ad. The first one, “Imported from Detroit”, also raised my ire. First as someone who is from Detroit, I’d like to state unequivocally that I’m not an import, am an actual citizen of The United States, not an immigrant. Maybe if people started treating the issue of citizenship a little more respectfully, they would understand Native pride, something the Detroit I knew had in abundance. Secondly, are the cars even made in Detroit? Chrysler has been sued for false misleading advertising by a Made In USA trade organisation.

These ads might try to convey the native pride of Detroit. But marketing deception, or distortion, to be more charitable, doesn’t help Detroit as a brand, much. It damages it.

Now, the second big Chrysler Super Bowl ad got a lot of buzz. I could practically sense the tears of sentiment in the eyes of Detroiters commenting on it. Like the first ad, it was a huge “feel-good” moment. It’s good to be the center of sympathetic attention. Unlike last year, I didn’t see the ad as it debuted, so I had plenty of time to read people’s reactions before seeing the ad. The sentiment changed, as the emotion of the moment wore off. By the time I finally saw the ad the next morning, I’d already read quite a bit about it.

My first reaction, was, “well, I guess you had to be there, in the moment, maybe a few half time beverages wouldn’t have increased its appeal”. I didn’t see what the big deal was. But, like the first ad, I found it vaguely insulting more than inspiring. Poor Detroit, we need an annual halftime pity party, was the essence of how it struck me. Detroit doesn’t need a pity party. It needs to get its shit together. I don’t know if turning as phony as Hollywood is the way to go, but if that’s which side your bread is buttered on, go for it, I guess. Just change your name to “The City formerly known as Detroit”, or something, because that’s not the Detroit I recognise.

Onto Chrysler, and the ad itself. I’ve been trying to summarize in one sentence the glaring inconsistency of marketing an 60% Italian car company with an ad about Detroit that wasn’t filmed in Detroit, and didn’t even have any cars in it. I’m not sure if that covers it, I might have to revise it later.

Clint Eastwood had a lot of influence on me as a kid growing up watching his western movies. I’ve always admired his success, and think he stands for what he sees right. I don’t fault him for his part in what is to many an inspiring film. I just thought I’d point out the reasons it didn’t connect with me in the way it was probably intended.

P.S. the cars aren’t prominently featured, but they’re in the ad.


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