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Chrysler Follows Up on Clint Eastwood 'Halftime in America' Campaign

Posted by Dale Buss on March 30, 2012 01:12 PM

It's finally the "second half" for Chrysler, and this weekend the automaker is rolling out a quartet of new TV ads that pick up where its "Halftime in America" commercial with Clint Eastwood (above) left off during February's Super Bowl. Don't expect anything like the punch delivered by Eastwood's craggy rallying cry or the alleged political innuendo in the spot that ran at halftime of the Big Game, urging Americans not to give up on themselves, their economy or their nation. And, of course — buy a Chrysler.

The new fleet of commercials is somber in tone, reflecting that of the original "Halftime in America" spot. They stick with the notion of making a comeback. And each shows a line at the end of the spot that repeats one of the themes uttered by Eastwood in the Super Bowl ad. But there are no overt references to Detroit as in Chrysler's celebrated advertising of the last year or so, just a few glimpses of a gray and gritty metropolis that might be Detroit. They offer "hope and encouragement," as Chrysler CMO Olivier Francois blogged about them.

Yet the new spots—watch them below—do shed some fresh light on Chrysler's strategy for each of its U.S. brands, depicting the stories of four individuals, each of whom relates to Ram, Dodge, Chrysler or Jeep in particular tell-tale ways. Below, meet Chrysler's post-Eastwood brand ambassadors: Tommy, Shaun, Steven, and Jenny.

Ram, "Tommy and the Ram": Tommy is a scrapper, apparently with construction skills, who's relying on his Ram truck to help him regain traction in his trade, presumably after a tough go of it in the housing business. "You never once complained," his wife says in the ad. "You said, 'Where there's a truck, there's a job."

The spot ends, "This country can't be knocked out with one punch." And Francois said the piece "highlights the meaning of persistence, determination, dedication and taking on the path of responsibility."

It also is a great reflection of real life and of Ram's strategy. More and more, full-size pickups are the purchase province of "professional" buyers such as handymen and no longer a segment where "lifestyle" buyers play. So Ram must keep boosting its appeal to this main market. And while it may seem to be barking up the wrong tree by pitching to employment-challenged contractors, the truth is that the construction industry was the fastest-growing sector for startups last year precisely because the business has been going through a shakeout at the top, said the Kauffman Institute, which tracks U.S. entrepreneurism.

Dodge, "Shaun in the Challenger": The brand strategy here is a bit more oblique. Dad is a military veteran who has returned from service and talks about how his family met the challenge of living without him for a while. "Shaun stepped up," he says of his son, though "I know he missed me."

Now that Dad's back, the two can tool around in his cool-looking Dodge Challenger. "Now that I'm here again, he's going to learn everything I know," the Dad says — presumably including how great it is to be able to buy and enjoy a retro car as one of the finer things in life, rather than have to squeeze into some kind of fuel-sipping econobox. Which is good, because Dodge doesn't have many of the latter.

The spot ends, "All that matters is what's ahead," and Francois said that it emphasizes "the importance of family and this great country."

Chrysler, "My Son Steven": Chrysler's attempt to move itself up once and for all to premium-brand status is as bald and bold here as the ad's appeal to 1-percent wanna-bes. Told through the voice of a father, "Steven" has absorbed the lessons of hard work and gamesmanship that Dad taught him and has applied them gainfully to the business world for 30 years. That must be why the ad shows Steven driving a sharp-looking Chrysler 300, which the brand has positioned as an excellent vehicle for just such self-achievers.

"When he started his own firm," Dad says, "people thought he took a gamble. But it isn't that way when you know what you're doing ... He's making the game follow him." Just as Chrysler hopes it's doing with the newly overhauled 300.

"The world will hear the roar of our engines," the ad ends. Francois's take: This commercial "encourages one to dream big, set your own course and shoot for the stars."

Jeep, "Jenny in the Jeep Wrangler": Presumably, Jenny's parents have just gone through a divorce, and she, her brother and her mother have had to relocate. Now she's got to share the bathroom with him, she complains, and Mom has to get up early because she's "got a job now."

One of the only bits of solace the family enjoys at this point: why, riding to school each morning in Mom's Jeep Wrangler. But while Jeep clearly is trying to broaden the demographics of the SUV brand to include more women, this is a curious bit of positioning. Because while Wrangler consistently is one of Jeep's top-selling nameplates, it remains largely appealing to twenty-something males.

In any event, Francois likes the ad because "we see our characters reinvent, persevere and embrace the spirit of American resilience." The ad ends, "If we can't find a way, we'll make one."

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