Chrysler’s “Halftime in America” ad featuring Clint Eastwood has generated a high-profile debate about whether it accurately portrays the country’s most economically distressed city or amounts to a campaign ad for President Barack Obama and the auto bailouts. That ad notes the company is “doing our part to move America forward. To help win this country’s second half for all of us.”
“People are out of work and they’re hurting,” the 81-year-old Eastwood says. “And they’re all wondering what they’re gonna do to make a comeback. And we’re all scared because this isn’t a game. The people of Detroit know a little something about this. They almost lost everything. But we all pulled together. Now, Motor City is fighting again.”
The 2-minute ad, via Wieden + Kennedy Portland, OR, holds up Detroit as a model for American recovery while idealistic images of families, middle class workers and factories scroll across the screen.
Conservatives, including GOP strategist Karl Rove, criticized the ad as a not-so-thinly veiled endorsement of the federal government’s auto industry bailouts. Rove told Fox News on Monday that he was “offended” by Chrysler’s ad, saying it amounted to “using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising and the best-wishes of the management which is benefited by getting a bunch of our money that they’ll never pay back.”
“I can’t stop anybody from associating themselves with a message, but it was not intended to be any type of political overture on our part,” Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne told Cumulus Media’s WJR-AM Detroit. “You know, we’re just an ingredient of a big machine here in this country that makes us go on.”
See the ad here:
Last year saw a turnaround year for Chrysler, which nearly collapsed in 2009. The company and its financial arm needed a $12.5 billion government bailout and a trip through bankruptcy protection to survive. Chrysler has since repaid its U.S. and Canadian government loans by refinancing them, but the U.S. government says it lost about $1.3 billion on the deal.
The ad with Eastwood, who previously publicly slammed the auto bailout, follows last year’s Super Bowl featuring hip-hop star and Detroit-native Eminem driving a Chrysler 200 through stark city streets – and introduced the tagline “Imported From Detroit.”
Monday editions of USA Today came wrapped in a four-page ad that features Eastwood and images from the commercial. It also touts investments outside Detroit, specifically in Belvidere, IL, where it’s making the new Dodge Dart.
Obama spokesman Jay Carney told the AP that the White House had no role in the ad’s production, but said it pointed out “a simple fact, which is that the auto industry in this country was on its back and potentially poised to liquidate three years ago. This president made decisions that were not very popular at the time that were guided by two important principles. One, that he should do what he could to ensure that one million jobs would not be lost and, two, that the American automobile industry should be able to thrive globally if the right conditions were created, and that included the kinds of reforms and restructuring that Chrysler and GM undertook in exchange for the assistance from the American taxpayer.”
On Monday, Eastwood told Fox News he is “certainly not politically affiliated with Mr. Obama…It was meant to be a message about just about job growth and the spirit of America,” Eastwood said of the Chrysler ad. “I think all politicians will agree with it. I thought the spirit was OK.”
Eastwood’s longtime manager Leonard Hirshan told the AP that any stance Eastwood took on the auto bailout “has nothing to do with the commercial.”
RBR-TVBR observation: Huh? How could this be construed as being political in nature? Being proud of an American company recovering during a major recession is good fodder for a Super Bowl spot. Nothing in the ad implied anything about Obama, bailouts or the like. If nothing, the ad underscored how bad shape the country is still in—and many blame Obama for that.