Each year there are a handful of Super Bowl ads that inspire controversy instead of accolades and this year was no exception. Coca-Cola got a lot of vitriol from a certain segment of the population who seemed to object to the idea that these United States are strengthened by the melting pot of cultural identities that unify under the stars and stripes. Budweiser was criticized by some for co-opting small town America’s celebratory return of its young soldiers to sell an image of a corporation (that is no longer American) to sell a white washed image of “average” America to sell beer. Yet a commercial that was seemingly inexplicable in its mixed message was Chrysler’s ad featuring Bob Dylan.
The ad itself was supposed to promote a nationalistic pride in the American car company. Chrysler was boasting that their cars were made by Americans for Americans. Yet I feel that the ad really missed the mark in two major ways. The first and arguably most offensive was the choice of featuring Bob Dylan as its spokesperson. Dylan is undeniably one of thee protest voices for an extremely volatile and revolutionary time period in American history. Invoking his image might seem to imply that Chrysler cars are equally rebellious and revolutionary and thus worthy of praise and purchase but Dylan is too on the nose for this subtle suggestion. Dylan’s “sell-out” moment here is a complete departure from the idealism of his youth and thus taints the very image they are trying to sell. Dylan was one to rail against the status quo, not seek financial gain by advertising its bland, corporate normalcy. By using him as a spokesperson you essentially sell the image of “sell-out” rather than rebel. At least in my opinion.
This was compounded by the inexplicable move to trump Chrysler’s own patriotism by suggesting that Chrysler is in part a superior car company because it is an American company producing an American product with an American workforce by strongly stating that we as Americans let other countries create other products. The commercial suggests that we, “let Germany brew [our] beer. Let Switzerland make [our] watch[es]. Let Asia assemble [our] phone[s].”
I know that I am not alone in thinking what the hell is that supposed to mean.
Lines leading up to this travesty of marking embrace the American worker’s spirit that is applicable to any and all industries that are still left in America. “Making the best, making the finest, takes conviction,” is a sentiment that applies to the crafting of any quality good or service. Craft beer brewers pride themselves on their labor of love and breweries like Stone, Dogfish Head, Brooklyn, and the innumerable other have the conviction to create the finest craft beer imaginable. While you can import a ton of amazing beer from all over the world there is something to be said for American craft beer, “[W]hen its made here its made with the one thing you can’t import from anywhere else … American pride.”
I’m sure Chrysler’s ad agency, GlobalHue, was unaware that in the world of beer that America has a reputation of craftsmanship, experimentation, growth and success that is unrivaled in the world. We may not have such a storied history, such a lengthy tradition, or a stirling reputation as our European cousins but America is pushing the art of brewing into brave new territories and we are leading the craft beer revolution.
New Holland Brewing Co’s Fred Bueltmann seems to agree with that. He wrote Chrysler an open letter where he said:
Shame on you, Chrysler for insulting the hard-working people of Detroit, Michigan and America, by forgetting what craftsmanship is all about – authenticity, artistry, trust and respect. American pride and legacy aren’t about buying local out of obligation. These ideals are about celebrating beautiful things made in our communities and being proud because they’re great. So, if Chrysler is going to try and sell us on some warm and fuzzy American pride rhetoric, why don’t you actually show some first?
So, while Chrysler makes more Super Bowl ads, we’ll keep making the beer; in Michigan and every other corner of this great land. We’ll raise our glass, look each other in the eye and mean it when we celebrate our country’s heart and soul.
While it doesn’t really matter what Chrysler thinks of beer as they aren’t exactly experts in the field. It was just disappointing to see such a brutal example of dismissing industries by suggesting they somehow are un-American in such a horrible commercial.
But before outrage, anger, or even annoyance bubbles up to ruin your day remember that in the halls of commercial history this pathetic attempt to embrace a nostalgic time where Bob Dylan was an unstoppable force of alternative culture will be forgotten. This is beautiful illustrated by the ads opening line, “Is there anything more American than America?”
Is there anything more illustrative of the vapidity of marketing than that? For shame Chrysler, for shame.