The Motor Country

by nkronos on February 7, 2011

If I were planning to run for a big-time office in 2012, I would want Wieden-Kennedy in my corner to produce my ad spots. Fresh off their Old Spice triumph, the agency scored a touchdown with their Super Bowl spot about Detroit.

Unlike the many critics of the city the ad references who have never been to Detroit, I have, and let me say upfront the commercial puts some mighty powerful whitewash on the city’s grimy exteriors. Don’t take my word for it, however: YouTube isĀ  replete with videos showing a dying metropolis resembling nothing so much as Chernobyl in the way it seems to be rusting back into a prairie oblivion.

Wieden-Kennedy, however, use Eminem’s music and some potent visuals to present Detroit as a tough, no-nonsense but sexy guy who–not surprisingly–is best represented by a powerful, sleek sedan (the Chrysler 200).

Although Detroit has certainly gone to hell, I’m not sure the ad is correct in saying the city has already made the return trip. Nevertheless, the viewer can’t help but buy into that message when it presents current conditions as so attractive: “Yeah, it’s cold, but ice and snow are the best kind of weather for building fit bodies.” (Not to mention whether the city’s best route out of the doldrums is driving the same kind of transportation as put it there in the first place, but that’s Chrysler’s problem, not Wieden-Kennedy’s.)

America has a history of belief in this kind of machismo working as cure, rather than being resigned to times continuing to decline. Think of Charlie Daniels’ 1980 hit “In America,” which coincided with the triumph of Ronald Reagan. Its lyrics are likewise a litany to rising up and a return to greatness through sheer masculine pride.

Americans want optimistic leaders who argue that failure is a result of attitude and habit more than circumstances. With hard work and a determined spirit, any adversities will yield. This ad conveys that message perfectly. Seeing as how Detroit’s problems are America’s problems in an exaggerated microcosm, I think a similar ad done well would work wonders for a presidential hopeful.

Hear that, Tim Pawlenty?

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