Although it was neither the most watched nor the most remembered, for me the 2-minute long Eminem / Chrysler / Detroit ad was by far the best of the Super Bowl commercials. Why? It told a compelling story in a format that really could only work during an event where people actually deliberately watch commercials.
But not everyone was enamored of this love-letter to Detroit as I was. While I can’t say that I disagree with any of the points made by the following critics, I still really liked the ad.
If you’re not familiar with it, Mother Jones is an aggressively progressive magazine (and website) that wears its political heart on its sleeve. And Mother Jones was not impressed with Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit” ad. Adam Weinstein writes there:
“In case you missed it, Chrysler—a car corporation that’s better known for bailouts, buyouts, and management shuffles than reliable cars—somehow succeeded in winning hearts and minds last night with its two-minute Super Bowl ad buy, the longest and most expensive in the Big Game’s marketing history… “
Aside from the whole idea of the ad, what did Weinstein dislike?
- Positioning Chrysler as an “urban core” brand using a tough, gritty image using “Detroit poverty porn.”
- Chrysler is celebrating Detroit while it has been busy closing plants in the area.
- The fact that Chrysler is now heavily owned by Fiat, a European partner.
Dr. Spence, an assistant professor of political science and Africana studies at Johns Hopkins, gives a somewhat more nuanced critique of the ad, noting that this was not Chrysler’s first foray into hip hop advertising. Several years ago the auto maker used rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg to create a youthful and hip image for its cars.
Spence argues that the ad makes effective use a number of types of counterculture, anti-corporate material, including an “urban nationalist manifesto” of “ruin pornography” and a Diego Rivera mural that uses Marxist imagery. All this rebellious imagery is subverted to promote a mainstream, corporate product.
He concludes his post by saying:
“I suspect that this commercial will ALWAYS move me, as I am and will always be a Detroit patriot. But given my work both on hip-hop and on urban politics, I cannot ignore the narratives this POWERFUL commercial shunts aside.”
Great stuff to think about.