In 1984, as part of his re-election campaign, Ronald Reagan ran a now-famous commercial titled “It’s morning again in America,” which was written and narrated by legendary adman Hal Riney. The spot, which in a very soothing and optimistic manner spoke to economic prosperity, was in short a hit, and while it did not single handedly re-elect President Reagan, it didn’t hurt. So here we are twentyeight years later and the perception is that we’re (America) in the pot with the only option left being to teach our children simple Mandarin for the impending doom. No longer a manufacturing and industrial powerhouse or even financial capital of the world, we are left with the last thread hope of a knowledge economy, yet burdened by a dysfunctional public school system that’s brand essence is anything but “knowledge.”
Things don’t look so great, but wait, somewhere in the hub of the rust belt a company which Lee Iacocca brought back from the ashes has something to say and it’s worth listening to folks. Chrysler rattled and moved audiences during the Super Bowl with the Clint Eastwood spot. So effective was it’s bold, straightforward message that it even created an Oliver Stone like conspiracy theory surrounding the President’s 2009 bailout of Chrysler and ties to his re-election. Well folks, advertising is theatre when it’s good and the follow up to Dirty Harry is no exception. Four new spots (“The Second Half”) which broke during the NCAA Tournament this past weekend, play on the themes of war, unemployment, divorce and entrepreneurship, managing to find a way to make the hair on the back of your neck stand up to attention. A short synopsis:
The unemployed husband who finds work day to day in his Dodge Ram “wherever there’s a truck, there’s work.” His wife laments over his fortitude and strength and it’s beyond genuine and real. The closing remarks (as there is already a tag line established) says it all: ” This country can’t be knocked out with one punch.”
Then juxtaposed is the spot about the successful businessman, almost eulogized by his father (the voice over) who partly attributes his son’s success to his mother letting him as a youngster stay up once and a while to watch his Dad and friends play poker. The lessons learned those nights on his father’s lap built confidence and courage (like the guy we just spoke of), which is re-affirmed by his father who states : “he took a gamble – making the game call him.” The son is a self made man as evidenced by his pretty but understated wife, apartment and 4 door luxury sedan which he drives to his company – “the world waits – hear our engines roar.”
Next up a soldier and a father talks about his 8 year old son “stepping up” for the family while he (Dad) was overseas. There is a scene where Dad drives son to school and if it does not make you well up … well then something’s not right . ”Just the two of us, we ride” the father says while the camera shares with us these precious moments between father and son in the Dodge Charger – “all that matters is whats ahead.”
A single mother and her daughter rounds out the pool of spots, the daughter providing the narration about moving to a new town presumably after a divorce. A new home, school, early mornings etc. “Mom says the school bus is a good place to make new friends” but she’s not ready for that yet, so she rides to school with Mom and brother in the Jeep Cherokee because Mom works now – “if we can’t find a way we’ll make one.”
The message - well we’re not done not by a long stretch. We just need to get back on our feet and we are as evidenced by these stories of a road to recovery. Hat’s off to Wieden & Kennedy on creating great advertising, rooted in “smart emotion” that should live on as content creating further dialogue about Brand Chrysler and Brand America. But will it sell cars and trucks or at lease get folks to consider Chrysler? Well, coming from the guy who in an earlier blog post about Chevrolet said “I’d rather push a Chevy than drive a Ford,” it’s hard to say. Brand loyalty runs deep in this place, but I will tell you this, I have not given but taken notice.