American Ingenuity: The Car Company Made by You  

Chris BeecherAdvertisement Analysis, Argument, Film and Media, New Voices, Previous Editions, Visual Rhetoric

American-made cars are often seen as inferior in the automobile market. However, the “Imported from Detroit” Chrysler 200 commercial seeks to change this idea. This commercial first aired in 2011 during the half time of Super Bowl XLV, which saw the Pittsburg Steelers go against the Green Bay Packers. The Chrysler company paid the hefty price of $12 million to air this two minute commercial.  The commercial was a new beginning for the Chrysler company, as it introduced their new catchphrase “Imported from Detroit” and a new line of cars, the Chrysler 200 series. Set in Detroit, Michigan, the commercial stars native Detroit rapper, Eminem. While Chrysler is advertising its newest model car, it also tries to sell the idea of American ingenuity to get their audience to care and get invested in what their company stands for.

To the average viewer, this commercial appears like any other car commercial, with a well-known celebrity endorsing a car. But those with an eye for detail can see beneath the surface and see the true message of the commercial. The commercial barely advertises the car it’s selling, the Chrysler 200, only showing the car a few times, and only naming it in the end of the commercial. Instead it spends the majority of its time selling the Chrysler brand, thus employing a style of advertising called “brand advertising.”  Throughout the commercial, pathos is used, appealing to Americans’ emotions by trying to creating a sense of compassion between the American audience and the Chrysler Company. Chrysler does this by showing  that they are a company made up of average, working Americans, just like the audience, thus showing they have a lot in common. They also play to American patriotism by sending the message of taking pride in American-made Chrysler cars. It seeks to get Americans buying American made cars again after the 2008 economic downturn, along with trying to sell the city of Detroit with the message that it is back and that it is going thrive once more.

The commercial starts off with the point of view of a person in a moving car. In the first shot, a car passes under a bridge then through an industrial zone. The narrator starts talking and asks “what does this city know about luxury? What does a town that has been to hell and back know about the finer things in life?” Right from the beginning, the commercial seeks to build a connection with the audience by directly talking to them and asking them questions, thus establishing the basis for the use of pathos throughout the rest of the commercial.

At about the same time the narrator starts talking, a sign comes out revealing the setting of the commercial. It reads “Interstate 75 North Detroit.” This is followed by a shot of a car driving on a freeway and more shots of a industrial zone and a burnt-down building. The commercial then transitions from a dirty industrial zone to a much nicer-looking downtown Detroit. The narrator then says “You see, it’s the hottest fires that make the hardest steel. Add hard work and conviction and the know how that runs generations deep in every last one of us. That’s who we are. That’s our story.” The use of pathos is further strengthened as the connection with the audience established earlier on, is built upon as the commercial uses phrases such as “Every last one of us” and “That’s who we are.” These phrases build a sense of unity between the audience and Chrysler. Phrases like “hard work and conviction and the know how that runs generations” paints a picture of a hard working company that appeals to working class Americans,  thus successfully advertising the Chrysler brand.

A mural of men working in a factory appears, and then the shot moves back out to the streets of Detroit. It is now snowing in the commercial, and we finally see the car being sold in the commercial: a black Chrysler sedan. In the background we hear a choir singing, but the music changes to “Lose Yourself” by Eminem. Then we get a shot from the inside of the car we see a man driving the car wearing a black jacket and a luxury watch. We see the man’s  face for a brief moment in the rear view mirror. The choice of music in this part of the commercial is odd as it makes a transition from choir music which is used for dramatic appeal and then to hip hop music. The song “Lose Yourself” is from the movie 8 Mile; the meaning of the song is taking a chance at success and not letting anyone stop you from what you want no matter what. In the context of the commercial can be used to strengthen the use of pathos in the commercial as we all can relate to the song and it brings back memories of the dreams we had as children and bring us closer to the commercial.

The commercial then moves back out to the streets of Detroit, except this time it is in a nice neighborhood with snow covered lawns. The commercial moves out of the suburban neighborhood and back to the streets of Detroit. People run in the snow wearing matching blue hoodies and pants. We then get a shot of a ice skater skating and the narrator says “Now, it’s probably not the one you’ve been reading in the papers. The one being written by folks who have never even been here. And don’t know what were capable of.” We continue to see street shots of Detroit we see people walking in the snow, a police officer directing traffic and the view of a bridge over a lake from the view of a car. We see more views of the Chrysler 200 from different angles and the same man with the black jacket driving. The commercial is now painting the image of a perfect utopian American city of Detroit,  with snow covered lawns, nice suburban neighborhoods, and people doing what they enjoy, which are more examples of pathos and brand advertising as they are advertising the Chrysler brand by showing everything nice the city has to offer.

The narrator says “Now we are 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 camera switches to a overhead view of the car but then moves to the inside of the car showing the dashboard and finally revealing the driver as Eminem. It is now night in the commercial, and we see the car driving down a traffic-less street with steam rising up from the floor. In the front of the car we see the reflection of neon lights from a sign in front of a theater that reads “Fox.” The car parks in front of Fox theater, and Eminem gets out the car and walks into the theater. A sign in the front reads “Keep Detroit Beautiful.” The  commercial further uses pathos by acknowledging that Detroit is not perfect, further relating to the audience and making themselves appear humble.

The revelation of the mystery driver as the successful Detroit rapper Eminem is an example of celebrity endorsement and a mild form of the bandwagon strategy in advertising, as the Chrysler company wants you to take Eminem’s star power as proof as for why you should buy there Chrysler 200 car. This section of the commercial also further paints a perfect image of a utopian American city, except this time they show the Chrysler 200 car driving down an empty street, playing on people’s hatred of  city traffic. And the sign “Keep Detroit Beautiful” contributes to this idea.

Eminem walks into the theater. The only people present are the choir heard throughout the commercial, singing on stage. He walks down the aisle at which point the choir stops singing and the song “Lose Yourself” stops playing too. He walks onto stage and looks into the camera and says “This is the Motor City. And this is what we do.” “Lose Yourself” starts playing again and the commercial ends with the car driving down the empty street and the words “The Chrysler 200 Has Arrived,” and the final black screen with the words “Imported from Detroit” and the Chrysler logo. And that’s the end of the two minute long $12 million Chrysler 200 “Imported from Detroit” Commercial.

The recurring advertising technique of Brand Advertising is displayed again in the closing moments of the commercial when rapper Eminem further promotes the city of Detroit.  The commercial is trying to institute pride in the individual and more specifically American-made Chrysler cars, playing to American patriotism . The words “Imported from Detroit” are meant to give Americans a greater sense of quality of the overall car, as imported means from out of the country, which is associated with higher end cars like European cars, known for their great quality. And so people are going to make this connotation from these words and make this connection of superb quality although American cars are known for their notoriously bad long term quality.

In sum, the Chrysler 200 “Imported from Detroit” commercial, through the use of Pathos and brand advertising, is able to appeal to a vast majority of the American population simply by being a American company made up of average Americans just like the ones it’s trying to reach. Instead of advertising the car its selling, the Chrysler 200, the advertisement instead spends the majority of its time selling the Chrysler brand. Throughout the commercial, pathos is employed as it tries to appeal to Americans emotions by trying to employ a sense of compassion between the American audience and the Chrysler Company. They also play to American patriotism by sending the message of taking pride in American made Chrysler cars, thus, advertising its newest model car, while also selling the idea of American ingenuity to get their audience to care and get invested in what their company stands for.