2011-02-10_0019Did it (or would it) work is always the wrong ques­tion to ask around adver­tis­ing.

And that holds dou­ble for Super Bowl Ads.  So while I hardly rel­ish the annual jaw­bon­ing of the chat­ter­ing classes in their pre­dictable dis­dain for Go Daddy’s com­mer­cials, and equally pre­dictable love for things like VW’s com­mer­cials, there are things to learn from those discussions.

Specif­i­cally, when­ever you’re in the mid­dle of such a yam­mer ses­sion, it’s always worth asking:

  • How do peo­ple frame the debate?
  • How do they (fail to) define their terms?
  • What assump­tions go unexamined?
  • Which bias holds strongest amongst the public?

What you’ll typ­i­cally find is that most every­one jumps right into ask­ing, “did it work?” But almost no one stops to ask whether “did it work” is the right ques­tion to focus on.  Hon­estly, any­thing can be made to “work” given ever increas­ing resources and ever dimin­ish­ing def­i­n­i­tions of “work.”

The right ques­tion is: did (or does) this ad rep­re­sent the wis­est and best use of the company’s resources?

Or hell, I’d even set­tle for a wise use of com­pany resources.  But still, that ques­tion changes the dis­cus­sion rather pro­foundly doesn’t it?

Let’s take the Chrysler ad as an exam­ple: did that ad work?  Well, if you mean did its emo­tional mes­sage touch the hearts of most view­ers, then yeah, it “worked.” Mostly because peo­ple wanted to believe it. But in the larger sense of “did it rep­re­sent a wise use of Chrysler’s resources,” I think most peo­ple would be hard pressed to say that two minute spot was a wise investment.

Why? Because, as my col­league Tim Miles said, “I love the con­cept. I love the copy. I love every­thing about it. It made me want to check out the car. I just wish the Chrysler Eminem Detroit Love Story had been for Ford.”

And what I believe he meant by that was, “As much as I want to believe that mes­sage about Chrysler, I can’t and I don’t. But I would (and I do) believe it about Ford.” Which brings to mind a few questions:

  • Why wasn’t Ford adver­tis­ing in the Super Bowl?
  • What makes Ford a more cred­i­ble pro­tag­o­nist for the come­back kid story Chrysler was try­ing to weave?


1) Ford’s main adver­tis­ing goal has been to spot­light and rein­force the grow­ing REALITY that its cars and trucks are supe­rior to (or at least equal to) the best that Toy­ota and Honda have to offer. Bet­ter build qual­ity, resale value, fea­ture sets, style, etc.  They aren’t spend­ing money on a Super Bowl Ad because they’re too busy trum­pet­ing the fact that this or that car has a higher pro­jected resale value than a com­pet­ing Toy­ota model. Or show­ing how this or that prospec­tive cus­tomer likes the Ford model bet­ter than the Honda model. It’s pretty much the Pepsi chal­lenge with cars: you take a prospec­tive Toy­ota cus­tomer, have them drive around in a Ford, and “Oh my gosh, I actu­ally like the Ford bet­ter!”

2) Both Ford’s bet­ter real­ity and more con­sis­tent adver­tis­ing of that real­ity prior to the Super Bowl made us all more will­ing to believe a Ford-based come­back story.  And yeah, the fact that Ford didn’t take any bailout money also helps, but I’d bet that if Cadil­lac had made that Chrysler ad, we’d all have had a much dif­fer­ent reac­tion. Cadillac’s been pump­ing out world class vehi­cles for awhile now, and they also have a very con­sis­tent adver­tis­ing message.

So did the Chrysler Super Bowl Ad rep­re­sent the best and wis­est use of their ad bud­get? Remains to be seen, and I don’t really have enough info to answer that, quite frankly. I can say that it’s not only pos­si­ble but likely that tons of peo­ple will give the Chrysler 200 a look who never would have with­out the big splash that ad made. And it’s also pos­si­ble, though far less prob­a­ble, that just maybe that car is good enough to con­vert those “looks” into sales. With that last part the make or break factor.

But this post isn’t really about Chrysler and its ad; it’s about you and your adver­tis­ing. The same ques­tions I’ve been apply­ing to Chrysler are even more impor­tant for your mar­ket­ing.  So let me ask you:

  • Are you going to ask “would it work?” Or are you going to do the hard work to deter­mine, “does this rep­re­sent the high­est and best uses of my resources?”
  • Are you going to attempt to entrance peo­ple with a false nar­ra­tive that’s directly coun­ter­manded by what peo­ple see with their own two eyes?  Or are you going to tell your own authen­tic story, com­plete with strong proof ele­ments, eas­ily seen and con­firmed by your tar­get audience?
  • Are you going to spend an out­sized por­tion of your bud­get on a stunt? Or are you going to put your faith in a con­sis­tently repeated and rein­forced mes­sage that’s rel­e­vant to your prospects buy­ing motivations?

P.S. It was also inter­est­ing to see how this old school ad medium was dri­ving the oh-so-new-school Social Media “con­ver­sa­tion.”  Don’t tell me offline adver­tis­ing is dead…

P.P.S. On the other side of the coin, is it just a coin­ci­dence that Ford has opted to invest their mar­ket­ing resources in launch­ing a mas­sive Social Media cam­paign around the launch of their new Ford Explorer?  Me thinks not.

P.P.P.S. Bitch about Go Daddy ads all you want, but those ads not only have proven, dra­matic ROI, they’ve also made Go Daddy THE house­hold name for domain reg­is­tra­tion — even amongst the Church groups who have peti­tioned against their adver­tis­ing practices.


  1. dirt on 02.10.2011

    Bulls­eye … every small busi­ness that mar­kets needs to read this post. This is what I call “Meat & Taters”.

    Am I ask­ing the right ques­tion … just might be the right question.

    One of the biggest chal­lenges for small biz folks is they fail grasp what mar­ket­ing really is … the most com­mon idea is that mar­ket­ing is about sales … they want their agency to paper over their weak­ness, bam­boo­zle the con­sumer and hus­tle up some bucks.


    MARKETING is telling your STORY.

    The real ques­tion is “What’s our STORY?”

    The fol­low up ques­tion is “Is our STORY worth hearing?”

  2. Grammar Maven on 02.10.2011

    It’s is a con­trac­tion for IT IS. Its is the possessive.


  3. Jeff on 02.10.2011

    Thanks, Gram­mar Maven. I am, in fact, aware of the difference.

    As you may know, most blogs are self-edited and some­times these things slip through. That said, if you are going to point out a gram­mat­i­cal mis­take, your cor­re­spon­dent just might find it help­ful if you also point out where to find the mis­take. Just as you may also find it help­ful to avoid act­ing like a smug jack­ass in the future.

    - Jeff

  4. Phil Wrzesinski on 02.10.2011

    Excel­lent post (as usual). What i found most com­pelling with the Chrysler ad was how it por­trayed Detroit. As a Michi­gan­der, it was a refresh­ing look that will do more good for Detroit over the long term than it prob­a­bly will for Chrysler.

    But as to whether it was a good and wise use of resources, I think it will prove to be in the long run. My rea­sons for this are two-fold.

    First, they don’t have the com­pelling story to tell that Ford does right now. They have this one new car, but not a lot of feel-good or civic gen­er­a­tion story behind it. Try­ing to tell the story the way Ford is going about doing it would not work as well (plus would be seen as a “me too” campaign).

    Sec­ond, the cache with putting this type of cam­paign out there is already get­ing peo­ple to talk about the for­got­ten third (as most of us in MI think of Chrysler) more than since the days of Lee Iaccoca.

    And as a bonus, the por­trayal of Detroit will win them some local business/local favor.

    So I believe the goal of the ad is already being reached and tip my hat to Chrysler for hav­ing the balls to run it.

    Yes, the long-term ROI will depend on if the car meets the expec­ta­tions. That remains to be seen. But the con­ver­sa­tion is going strongly in the direc­tion they wanted.

  5. Jeff on 02.10.2011


    I agree that the ad def­i­nitely recast the Chrysler nar­ra­tive and won the hearts of view­ers. I just don’t think it proved cred­i­ble in the end, though, as I admit, the final result remains to be seen.

    What has me scratch­ing my head is that the new Chrysler 300 is com­ing out (or is out) and that may have been a bet­ter prod­uct to plug as the last 300 was one of Chrysler’s few real suc­cess sto­ries. The Chrysler 200 may be a nice car, but I’m not sure plug­ging it as a lux­ury vehi­cle was a smart move. Echoes of Chevy’s lame attempt to brand the Cobalt as a “Pre­mium Com­pact” still ring in my ears.

    But you are right that, when you need to rad­i­cally re-alter the way peo­ple FEEL about your brand, a big splashy, high pro­duc­tion value ad on the Super­bowl may be exactly what’s needed. You just have to have a real­ity to match the message…

    Finally, if you liked that ad, you may want to google “Pure Michi­gan,” which is another bril­liant cam­paign that rad­i­cally altered America’s image of Michi­gan from rust belt to pos­si­ble Vacation-land (though we all know the real vaca­tion land is in Maine ; )

  6. Smug on 02.10.2011


    you can feel the deeper OOOOMPA of the Chrysler theme that was revealed last year in the new Jeep ads … Just lis­ten to the dark under­tones of the Johnny Cash tune that anchors this ad …


    The Super­bowl ad nar­rowed the beam from the Amer­i­can worker to the city that Mr. Ford built … Detroit. This is drilling down into the thick loamy soil of Amer­i­cana … a place where men roll up their sleeves and get work done … is great mar­ket­ing … even if I can’t stand the vanilla fla­vored M&M as the front man.

    Smug J. Ass

  7. Jeff on 02.10.2011


    I actu­ally like that Jeep ad quite a bit, but I had the same reac­tion to it: I want to believe they’re telling the truth about the new Grand Chero­kee, but I really didn’t. At least not until I checked out the reviews. And what do you know? The reviews are look­ing pretty good. It may not be what every­one is look­ing for, but then that’s not the point to a jeep. As one reviewer put it: “think of the Grand Chero­kee as a much less expen­sive Range Rover Sport.” Awesome!

    And that’s my point with the Chrysler Ad — it’ll def­i­nitely get peo­ple to check out the car, but is the car good enough to make that extra atten­tion profitable?

    - Jeff

  8. Smug on 02.10.2011

    you are cor­rect sir

  9. Human Persuasion on 02.10.2011

    Great piece of com­men­tary Jeff! After I saw the ad I was left confounded.

    I liked Eminem appear­ing and don’t want to see the Motor City or its peo­ple not doing what they once did…robustly con­tribut­ing to the American/global economy.

    But with all that, the ad did not change my opin­ion of a Chrysler vehi­cle at all, not that I had an opin­ion any­way. I’ve never thought about it until now Jeff, but it just occurs to me that the only opin­ion I’ve ever had about a Chrysler is “I know one place we’re going to have to go to look for a car…the Chrysler lot.”

    I don’t mean that in a con­de­scend­ing way, but I’ve never been in a place where I liked or felt good about one of their cars. Not say­ing that wouldn’t change.

    For me, Eminem’s appear­ance and the Motor City pitch added enough pos­i­tive men­tal lever­age w/ me ABOUT THE AD (but surely, I didn’t just dis­like THAT ad, did I?).

    Noth­ing changed with me about the vehicle.

    What if Eminem would have just said,

    There was a time when we lost our way. We stopped mak­ing the best cars in the world. Start­ing NOW, we make the best cars in the world again. And this is the first one that proves it.”

  10. Jeff on 02.10.2011


    Well, that’s the rub, isn’t it? You can’t say “and this is the first one that proves it” unless you actu­ally have a car that would, uh, prove itself as a world-beating best in class vehi­cle. Ford DOES have those kind of vehi­cles and that’s why their ver­sion of the Chrysler ad is titled “Proof,” and specif­i­cally talks about the accom­plish­ments of their vehi­cles while ALSO res­ur­rect­ing the brand’s heritage:


    - Jeff

  11. Human Persuasion on 02.10.2011

    Yep I hear ya there Jeff.
    That’s the ad that could have pos­i­tively affected my attude about Chrysler though.
    Of course, it’s easy to say all this NOW.

    Remem­ber I don’t know about these proofs dur­ing Super Bowl and I’m not even in the mar­ket for a car any­way. Most view­ers are in a sim­i­lar place.

    A big point in the ad was “Detroit makes fine lux­ury cars. Eminem thinks so. Here’s the proof. Come drive it and see for your­self.” That wasn’t said.
    That way Chrysler pur­chases a bet­ter loca­tion in the mass men­tal real estate, with­out seem­ing like a cor­po­rate char­ity drive or ask­ing the wrong ques­tions, like,

    What does a town that’s been to hell and back know about the finer things in life?”

    If the ad will make me feel bad about Amer­i­can auto indus­try, then the right ques­tion to start the ad was,
    “Why did this town go to hell and back? Why were we the world lead­ers in vehi­cles and why are we not any­more? Well we fixed all that. Here’s how, etc. etc.”

    Even if most view­ers aren’t in the mar­ket, most want the Amer­i­can can indus­try to be strong again.

    With Unde­fined Terms :),

  12. t on 02.11.2011

    Jeff … last word from me on this … at least Chrysler didn’t fum­ble the ball like GROUPON. What where those idjits think­ing? later t

  13. how to make hair thicker on 12.06.2011

    It’s any shame you don’t use a donate but­ton! I’d most cer­tainly donate to this unpaid blog! My part­ner and i sup­pose right now i’ll set­tle for book­mark­ing and also attach­ing the Rss feed to be able to my own Yahoo con­sid­er­a­tion. My part­ner and i seem for­ward to be able to inno­v­a­tive updates and defi­nately will share this kind of blog page together with my own Fb group: )

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