Like members of some ancient tribe huddled around a big campfire, the first thought of Michiganders who were watching the second half of the Super Bowl on Sunday when the Chrysler ad came on was: This is good for our race!
The down-but-not-out depiction of a heroic Detroit in the Eminem spot literally had thousands in Chrysler’s hometown cheering and clapping by the time the two minutes were over — and millions more beyond.
From shots of local icons such as the Diego Rivera mural at the Detroit Institute of Arts, to an appeal to car buyers to consider luxury “imported from Detroit,” the spot's title, the ad was a veritable paean to why people still survive and even thrive in southeast Michigan.
Then, as only a people living in the hyper-connected 21st Century could, they quickly wondered: What did everybody else think? And like a group resigned to perpetually being a national and global underdog, many concluded that the commercial was only a parochial feel-good moment, at best.
But they would be wrong.
It won’t be clear for a while how much the ad — nominally for the new Chrysler 200 sedan — actually will do for sales of the re-skinned and renamed Chrysler Sebring.
Yet almost immediately, signs surfaced that the rest of the country not only loved the ad but also thought maybe there was something they had been missing in Chrysler’s comeback and its new products. NFL Fanhouse called it "an astonishing work of art."
Sunday-evening consideration of the 200 and of the Chrysler brand on Edmunds.com skyrocketed, way past that for any other products or brands. Ditto on KBB.com.
And Monday morning, "Chrysler 200" was the top trending Google search term. Commentators from across the nation were weighing in with kudos as well.
Chrysler even has begun nurturing the ad into a bit of mythology: Executives have said that they won’t show the full two-minute spot again, though parts of it may show up in future marketing for the 200 and for the brand. And of course it will live forever on the internet.
So where does Chrysler go from here?
Presumably, only upward. Sales have been recovering more smartly than many industry sages had predicted – and that has occurred even without the benefit of the slew of new and overhauled new products the company is promising for its Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge and Ram brands over the next several months.
Interestingly, while this has been unfolding on American television, Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne also has been saying and doing some things that demonstrate a personal combativeness on behalf of the Chrysler brand his company acquired in the wake of the U.S.-government bailout a couple of years ago.
Marchionne has suggested that a Fiat-Chrysler combination could be headquartered in the United States, prompting a skeptical summons of the Fiat chief by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is dealing with Italy’s ailing industrial sector.
And last week, Marchionne referred to his desire to pay back high-interest “shyster” loans from the U.S. and Canadian governments (though he later apologized for the reference).
Maybe someday, “Born of Fire” — as Michiganders are calling it — can serve as kind of a trailer to a new buddy-movie / docudrama: "Mathers & Marchionne."
In the meantime, as GOOD commented, "Eminem sure can sell some cars" — not to mention local pride.