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Super Bowl ad sends shivers through Motor City

DETROIT — To a pulsating beat, hip-hop star Eminem drives a sleek Chrysler through the streets of Detroit, proudly cruising by the city's landmarks, towering skyscrapers and the hopeful faces of its people. His journey ends with an unapologetic message: "This is the Motor City, and this is what we do."

A day after it aired, one of the most-talked about Super Bowl ads sent shivers of pride through the battered city, which hopes car buyers are willing to look past Chrysler's billion-dollar bailout and embrace the idea that if a vehicle is "Imported from Detroit," that's reason enough to buy it.

The two-minute ad was unusual for its length, airing during a broadcast in which a 30-second spot costs $3 million. And it framed the gritty urban images, including vacant factories, with an attitude that embraced the city's past and its survival instinct.

"What does this city know about luxury, huh?" the narrator asks. "What does a town that's been to hell and back know about the finer things in life? Well, I'll tell you — more than most. You see, it's the hottest fires that make the hardest steel. Because when it comes to luxury, it's as much about where it's from as who it's for. Now, we're from America, but this isn't New York City or the Windy City or Sin City, and we're certainly no one's Emerald City."

The Chrysler ad was "the big story of the night," according to NM Incite, a Nielsen/­McKinsey Co. that tracks online buzz. Consumers repeated the "Imported from Detroit" slogan in online comments, the company said.

For Chrysler, which emerged from bankruptcy in June 2009 — right before General Motors — the commercial kicked off an advertising campaign that it hopes draws buyers back to showrooms and revives the brand.

"Detroit's ascendancy mirrors Eminem's own struggles and accomplishments," Olivier Francois, Chrysler brand's chief executive and president said in a statement. "This is not simply yet another celebrity in a TV spot. It has meaning. Like his music and story, the new Chrysler is 'Imported from Detroit' with pride."

Of course, the tagline is not without some irony: Italian automaker Fiat Group SpA now owns 25 percent of Chrysler, and the ad was produced by Wieden + Kennedy, a Portland, Ore., agency known for its work with Nike. Chrysler switched after its previous advertising agency, a firm called BBDO, closed its Detroit office.

And the automaker still owes around $7 billion to the U.S. and Canadian governments from its 2009 bailout, prompting Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Fla., to tweet: "Imported from Detroit" … "borrowed from China." In an e-mail Monday, Ross' chief of staff, Fredrick Piccolo Jr., described his boss' Twitter post as a "tongue in cheek commentary on the irony of Chrysler touting its 'American made' ideal, with the reality that it survives because of money borrowed on the backs of the taxpayer, from China."

Still, Chrysler said, the commercial was shot in Detroit with a local cast and crew, and the voiceover work was done by Kevin Yon, who's from Michigan.

Super Bowl ad sends shivers through Motor City 02/07/11 [Last modified: Monday, February 7, 2011 9:31pm]

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