During the 2012 Super Bowl, two Detroit carmakers’ commercials showed extremely different attitudes about the future. In doing so, they illustrate both sides of a classic advertising concept — marketing messages can appeal to either hope (get something good) or fear (avoid something bad).
HOPE: Chrysler — Halftime in America, feat. Clint Eastwood
Chrysler and Clint Eastwood project a message of hope, determination, and can-do spirit. It’s an ad about the future, and the future is bright, if we roll up our sleeves.
Key line: “All that matter’s now is what’s ahead. How do we come from behind? How do we come together? And how do we win?”
FEAR: Chevy — Mayan Apocalypse, feat. Twinkies
It’s obviously a joke — Chevy even has Twinkies, the snack food industry’s answer to nuclear-proof cockroaches — but the message is one of fear, not hope. After all, their unseen friend Dave is dead because he drove a Ford.
Tagline: “From the beginning of your workday to the end of the world, Chevy runs deep.”
Analyzing the Two Ads
Both ads got my attention. Both tell a story that makes you want to keep watching ’til the end. I wanted to see what happened. That’s good. Am I going to buy a Chevy pickup truck or a Chrysler vehicle? No, I’m happy with my Honda Fit. That’s bad (for GM and Chrysler) but I’m not in the market right now anyway.
The Chrysler ad appeals to my desire for a better future, my conviction that we can bounce back from the economic downturn. They were appealing to all Americans. And it was all about context. I believe “Halftime in America” will become one of the classic Super Bowl ads.
The GM ad is all about snide exclusivity, which isn’t Chevy’s brand promise at all. The ad is designed to appeal only to smug Chevy truck owners, as opposed to people dumb enough to drive a Ford or Dodge truck. Chevy was preaching to the choir — never the best use of $7 million a minute.
If you want truly inspired this year, you’ll have to look to Honda’s funny CR-V riff on Matthew Broderick’s performance in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Which message works better — Chrysler and hope, or Chevy and fear?
Update: NFL Properties LLC pulled the original YouTube video from the Chrysler channel, so I’ve embedded from an alternate location. HT to Brian McDonald for the heads up. I already knew the NFL doesn’t want people using “Super Bowl” without permission… apparently they think they own “Halftime,” too?