In last night’s only Super Bowl commercial that wasn’t punctuated with a soda can to the groin, animals in various states of LOL, or Roseanne Barr being pummeled by a tree trunk, Chrysler (yeah, that Chrysler) made a statement regarding its legacy, and more vividly, the city that spawned it — Detroit, Michigan. The commercial, “Imported From Detroit,” clocked in at two minutes in duration, and according to NPR’s Morning Edition, cost around $12 million in airtime. The product being promoted was the Chrysler 200, a car that Jalopnik’s Ray Wert laments as “the renamed and re-skinned rental car of the masses, the Chrysler Sebring.” But poor product choice aside, the undercurrent of the piece is surprisingly powerful, especially for a car commercial.
Produced by Wieden + Kennedy, the same agency that stoked controversy with its Levi’s campaign shot in Braddock, Pennsylvania, “Imported From Detroit” strikes a similar chord, casting Detroit as America’s forgotten child — an alien in its own country. The narrator covers much of what you would expect, highlighting the city’s roots in manufacturing and automobile production (told as a reminder, not necessarily a history lesson). But as the Chrysler 200 weaves through the streets of Detroit, the narrator also acknowledges that the city is well-versed in its current reality and aware of its less-than-favorable national portrayal. The oft-repeated images of the city’s ruins are shown, momentarily, then offset with footage of houses with lights on and steam puffing from chimneys, a downtown populated by people, and a final stop at the historic Fox Theatre.
Emerging from the car at the end is Detroit rapper Eminem, the phrase “Keep Detroit Beautiful” glowing on the theatre’s marquee above him. The message is more than just a nod to the 200 as a luxury sedan. It’s seemingly intended as a proclamation that Detroit is beautiful, struggles and all. The message is certain to resonate with Detroiters far and wide. And, if nothing else, it’s refreshing to see a serious issue broached amidst the Super Bowl’s parade of Dorito-eating pugs and GoDaddy softcore porn.