Deconstructing the Eminem / Chrysler Commercial

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.

Mother Jones – Chrysler’s Deplorable “Detroit” Super Bowl 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.

Lester Spence – From the DOGG to Eminem: Chyrsler then and now

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.

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22 Responses to Deconstructing the Eminem / Chrysler Commercial

  1. Thanks for linking me. I wouldn’t have been aware of the Mother Jones piece otherwise. Putting your blog in my RSS feed.


  2. admin says:

    Glad you found the Mother Jones piece. It’s hard to make critical theory accessible to general ed college students. I think this ad is going to be a great tool for doing so.

  3. admin says:

    JMC 100, Sec. 1: This is where you leave your comments.

    Dr. H

    • Colin Cimino says:

      I thought the ad was very moving and inspirational in its efforts to revive a country that was in the aftermath of one the worst depressions it has suffered in several years. Although I understand where the critics are coming from I must say that I respectfully disagree with their extremely critical point of view because it disrespects what the city of Detroit stands for as well as what it has done for this country.

    • Logan Krueger says:

      I thought that the commercial overall was very intriguing. I do not remember seeing it live during the Super Bowl. It definitely captivated my attention watching it this time. However, I could not be more upset when I heard that it cost nine million dollars to create and run this ad. If it was their own private money then I would not care but it happens to be money from the bailout handed to them from President Obama. I also find this Chrysler ad very interesting with it being November 5, the day before the election. This is another event that voters should be aware of before casting their vote for the presidency. That ad, that hardly anyone remembers, came straight out of taxpayers’ pockets. Although the ad was very interesting, I have to say I am not a fan of the politics behind it.

  4. Kaydra Brodine says:

    I thought the commercial was very compelling. It made me feel a sense of pride for Detroit, even though I have never actually seen the city and know very little about it. I would say that I disagree with the Mother Jones article because I didn’t read into the commercial that much. Commercials during the Super Bowl are usually feel-good ads so I believe we should just relax and enjoy the commercial.

  5. Meghan Forsgren says:

    I enjoyed the commercial. I think the Mother Jones piece is too harsh about it. Of course Chrysler is trying to change their image especially with the bailout. It is natural for companies to do so in circumstances such as that. I think it is also trying to improve Detroit’s image as well. Normally, the word “luxury” doesn’t come to mind when I think of Detroit. It showed areas of Detroit that are more developped and less of what it is known for. And of course using Eminem as a marketing ploy is brilliant in that respect. Overall, it is a strong commercial; different from the Super Bowl norm.

  6. Skylar Tatreau says:

    Chrysler’s Super Bowl commercial ad was fantastic! The rap music, Detroit atmosphere, and story line gave the whole piece a ‘bad-ass’ vibe. The commercial did a great job advertising Chrysler product, as well as the city and the hip-hop singer, Eminem. Sure, people may have background knowledge and problems that Chrysler and the city of Detroit faces.. But it got my attention, for one who knows hardly anything about either topic! That’s the point, right? .. The Super Bowl and it’s commercials have one of the largest audiences watching television, and the Chrysler’s commercial created a ‘positive’ lasting impression.

  7. Rachel Slowik says:

    I thought the whole commercial was a great way to introduce the Chrysler 200. It showed what Detroit really was about and gave a sense of what the city has to offer. I disagree with Spence. I believed it was a good commercial, but it was not moving for me. I think that commercials for the Super Bowl should be fun and light hearted. People actually watch commercials during the game so they shouldn’t be taken so seriously.

  8. Megan Nelson says:

    I disagree with Miss Jones opinion. Because it showed a side of Detroit that others may not see and it added something different then what most commercials show. I agree with Kaydra, I didn’t read that much into the commercial. Commercials aren’t really made for in depth thinking.

  9. Allyson Huntley says:

    This Chrysler commercial was interesting in both good and bad ways. It was a very good commerical from the aspects of grabbing an audiences attention and being captivating; however, the fact that the commercial took place in a run-down area of Detroit does not help the situation in which people living in that area are facing. As the Detroit area was facing much depression and hardship, advertisers had 9 million dollars to promote this commercial. Due to this, I can appreciate what both Mother Jones, and the intrigued critics have to say.

  10. Dana Slaymaker says:

    The advertisement had a great feel to it! Just watching it made me feel as if it was a place in which I belong. It brought the city of Detroit alive through a display of their pride and dedication. The makers of this ad knew what they were doing when they made Detroit so appealing. The only time anyone ever looks forward to commercials is during the Superbowl. It’s a genius idea to run this type of commercial in the Superbowl, because we all can relate to pride for our own city, or even as a united country.

  11. Nathan Weintz says:

    I thought that the commercial was very well put together. The commercial had everything that a great commercial needs, something to sell, someone to sell it, and somewhere to sell it. The combination of all three of these are great. The commercial also adheres to Aristotle’s appeals of persuasion. It uses pathos and logos very well. I could go as far as saying the ethos in the commercial was the use of Eminem: someone that with a good guess has no clue about cars. Pathos is very obvious, the entire commercial is very emotional. Logos is the details about the “Motor City” and the hottest fire makes the strongest steel comment. I think that the response from the critics is over analyzing a well put together commercial. People need to remember that the commercials main reason for being there is to sell an idea, item, or person.

  12. Stephanie Moorberg says:

    I love football and I watch the Superbowl every year mainly for the football, but it is nice to see the new commercials that haven’t been played too much during every other television program. I don’t remember this commercial from the past Superbowl, which means it was not memorable for me. I enjoyed watching the commercial now for the “second” time, I guess. I like all the new Chrysler commercials because of the idea that these cars are made in the United States instead of overseas and the music. I am not a huge Eminem fan so he did not appeal to me as did the Chrysler commercial with Suh. I think the commercial kept with Chrysler’s theme of “Imported from Detroit” and did a good job, but I was shocked to see how much the commercial cost to make. This is the only thing that made the commercial a little unsettling for me. After being bailed out by our government I would hope Chrysler could find a cheaper way of promoting their product to the public.

  13. Shannon Courtney says:

    I don’t remember seeing this ad during the Super Bowl, but it was very interesting. I liked the vibe it gave off, and I liked that they included Eminem and his music with a twist. I don’t know much about this topic, however it gave a lasting impression. I like the idea that Chryslers are made in the United States, and I like that they made it clear that the car is made from Detroit.

  14. Nick White says:

    I thought the commercial was very good. I’ve always liked the chrysler commercials because they are so serious and give you that feeling like you want to be in Detroit. It illustrates America’s work industry at its finest, giving credit to the city that started it all. I’m glad they have made more commercials like this, such as the one with Ndamukong Suh.

  15. Katie Oliverius says:

    I thought this commercial was very interesting. The way it combined the pride of Detroit, the advertising of the Chrysler, and the famous rapper Eminem made it different from all other commercials. However, I do not agree with Mother Jones’ take on the ad. When people sit around their TV to watch the super bowl (or any other television show) their first instinct is not to critique everything they see. Commercials during the super bowl are meant to entertain while advertising a product. I couldn’t believe how much money they put into this one ad, but there is always a way to find cheaper advertising.

  16. Angelo John says:

    The fact that this commercial from chrysler wanted to give Detroit a good name and themselves a good name; I respect. I like how they used Eminem as a big catch in the advertisement. Before Eminem was well known in the rap game he worked at a car manufactoring plant as a full time job. I am sure that it one of the reason they used Eminem, because he is a living, breathing example of a average worker in Detroit’s auto industry. I thought that this commercial was an inspirational/redeeming for the city of Detroit and Chrysler. I do not agree with anything the critics have to say. I think that this commercial was great and nothing else. They say that “imported from Detroit” which is cool because it is from America. The fact that they are owne by Fiat a European company is not so good, but atleast the cars are made in America and are shipped from America. Which means that Americans make these cars, not Europeans, even though they are owned by Fiat.

  17. Jessica Porter says:

    I remember watching this commercial during last year’s Supper Bowl. Truthfully, I loved it. The simple fact that it’s different from the same old car commercials that you see everyday really made it stand out from the rest. I like the fact that Chryslers are made in the U.S. I don’t understand why Mother Jones was so upset with the fact that the commercial took place and promoted Detroit. I think it was very uplifting and positive towards Detroit. What’s so bad about that? I admit, however, that I found it appalling that the commercial cost $9 million. Chrysler was one of the major recipients of the big bailout from Obama. I feel that they could have sued that money in better ways rather than just spending it on a commercial.

  18. Keyli Aldana says:

    I happened to enjoy the Chrysler 200 commercial. It told a story about a city who has been through the rough and back. By including such a well-known person like Eminem, they were able to grab the attention of several people who are obsessed with pop culture. I believe Mother Jones was being much to harsh and were looking too deep into the commercial. They acted as though the commercial was intended to offend people. I was entertained by the commercial and I’m sure many others were as well.

  19. Jake Gentzler says:

    I liked the commercial. It showed a nice new Chrysler driving around the city of Detroit with Eminen with one of his songs in the background. It talked about the people who have worked very hard and with conviction in the automotive industry. When I think of Detroit I think of a city where cars are made. This city has been through some good times and lately some really dark times. I think this commercial is an attempt to not only sell the new Chrsyler but sell the city of Detroit. I agree somewhat with the critics but mostly think they put way too much thought into it. I believe it simply a commercial trying to sell a car a revive a city that’s been down. I don’t see any harm in that.

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