Monday, February 3, 2014

Bob Dylan's Off-Key Commercial

I remember watching the 2011 Super Bowl and being absolutely floored when Chrysler's commercial featuring Eminem played. The commercial was for the Chrysler 200, but anyone who loves Detroit felt like it was a love letter to the city. It was gritty and beautiful at the same time, kind of like Detroit.

It called out people who had never even been to Detroit for writing and saying ignorant things about the city. The marquee of the Fox Theatre reminded us to "Keep Detroit Beautiful." And Eminem defiantly pointed at the rest of America and said, "This is the Motor City, and this is what WE do!"

Chrysler came back the next year with a Clint Eastwood commercial that may have not been as forceful as Eminem's, but it still pulled at the heartstrings of Detroiters. Clint's raspy voice reminded America that Detroit had seen hard times but was bouncing back with a vengeance. He told America that if Detroit could come back from behind, so could everyone else, if they followed Detroit's lead.

This year, Chrysler used Bob Dylan as a spokesman for their cars and for American automobile manufacturing. I am a fan of Bob Dylan. His music has inspired millions of people for more than 50 years, but his Chrysler commercial fell flat.

The commercial begins with Dylan asking this ridiculous question: "Is there anything more American than America?"

The commercial continues with images of "American" things: cheerleaders, a girl with an American flag on a rocky beach (apparently, this is what we Americans do), a grumpy old man at a diner who is not happy about the scrambled eggs that his waitress just delivered, baseball, and Bob Dylan playing his guitar.

Dylan then says that you cannot import vision, fake cool or duplicate legacy because "what Detroit created was the first and became the inspiration to the rest of the world." He then says, "Detroit made cars, and cars made America." These words feel a little bit too much like living in the past, instead of the forward-thinking vision of previous Chrysler commercials.

Dylan continues by saying a bunch of nice things about American conviction, pride, and manufacturing. An image of Downtown Detroit appears on screen, with Dylan saying that things made in Detroit are made with an American pride that you cannot import from anywhere else. If the commercial ended here, it would have been decent.

But the commercial takes a turn for the worse when Dylan finishes the commercial with:

"Let Germany brew your beer. Let Switzerland make your watch. Let Asia assemble your phone. WE will build your car!"

In other words, do not let Americans build anything else. We can only build cars.

Apparently, Michigan and American brewers do not brew their beer with pride. Maybe the ad executives who wrote this forgot to try the fine Michigan brews from Bells, Founders, Shorts, and New Holland, or the many other fantastic Michigan and American craft beers.

Celebrities and politicians wear Shinola watches, but apparently no one at Chrysler does. The Detroit watchmaker makes their luxury watches in the city with skilled Detroiters putting together these time pieces with precision and pride.

Chrysler came close to another great commercial, but fell far from their goal by telling us not to bother to make beer, watches, or phones.

Chrysler can build our cars, but WE can build anything if WE put our minds to it.

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