Epic Superbowl ad burnished by genius

It cost $9m. It lasts for two minutes. It features Eminem. It’s epic.

I’m talking about the “Born of Fire” Chrysler Superbowl ad from Wieden + Kennedy which is storytelling genius.

I was hooked from the first line, a huskily delivered voiceover by a guy who sounds like he’s lived a lot of his life at the rougher end of the street: “I gotta question for ya…what does this city know about luxury, huh?”

This is laid over gritty images of a grim landscape and leads to the next question: “What does a town that’s been to hell and back know about the finer things in life?”

Two minutes later we know the answer as the perfect pay-off line – Imported from Detroit – is delivered.

In between we’re taken on a journey through the mean streets, a journey that makes a virtue of the harsh environment and the gritty reality of a place where “the hottest fires make the strongest steel”.

The opening sequences conjure up a Soviet-era vision of a bleak industrial hell but the chippy narrator tells us that’s a view of outsiders, people who have never been and don’t understand the back-story of the people and what’s forged them into who they are.

As Eminem’s Lose Yourself soundtrack bleeds in we get out first glimpse of the Chrysler grille and the briefest of shot changes to show the 200 marque.

Pegging the city’s attempts to re-shape its story to the launch of a new model from a bankrupted carmaker bailed out by government is both brave and brilliant.

The unspoken appeal is to root for the gutsy contender who just won’t stay down and won’t be beaten – the story of Detroit is the story of Chrysler and both are fighting back.

As the music swells the pride in outsider status is reinforced by the narrator: “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.”

We get the merest glimpses of the vehicle as the sullen rapper takes us through his territory. We then wind up at a theatre, empty but for a gospel choir whose voices rise in unison and suddenly stop.

As the sound reverberates the snarling bad boy points aggressively at the camera and says “This is the Motor City and this is what we do.”

The final shot brings up the legend Imported from Detroit and the Chrysler badge appears underneath.


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