Some weeks ago, the chief marketing officer of
Chrysler and Fiat said he didn't
think it would be possible in 2012 to top last year's highly
praised, much-viewed two-minute "Imported From Detroit" Super Bowl
"Yet," Olivier Francois said in January, a sly smile on his
face, "I'm tempted."
Enter Clint Eastwood.
Olivier Francois, Chrysler CMO
This past week, "Halftime in America," a rallying cry for a
strong America to emerge "in the second half" generated special
attention, not just because it starred Mr. Eastwood or because the
two-minute spot expanded last year's Detroit-themed ad to encompass
the entire country. It also raised a political hue and cry from
former Presidential adviser Karl Rove and other
Republicans, who claimed the ad was a subtle approbation of
President Barack Obama's auto industry bailouts.
"I'm really delighted, we all are here, we were able to make
this dream happen," Mr. Francois told Ad Age in a phone interview
this week from Chicago, where he was attending the Chicago Auto
Show. The spot, which hammered home a message about America's
resiliency, delivered in Mr. Eastwood's trademark gruff manner,
"was exactly the message we wanted. ... The whole idea was designed
Mr. Francois, who joined Chrysler in 2009, expounded further on
the game spot, on working with Mr. Eastwood, and on a variety of
On the concept behind "Halftime in America":
"The idea was to expand on last year's message, which was a
rallying cry around Detroit, to bring that to another level. ... We
were very ambitious. Our brief to [Wieden & Kennedy] contained
two things: We wanted a follow-up of 'Imported' but saying
something totally different; and we wanted the halftime idea, that
was something we started talking to NBC about a long time ago."
On Mr. Eastwood: "He's maybe the wisest guy
I've ever met; he feels deeply in everything he says. I had no
other idea [for the spot] than Mr. Eastwood. It was totally
designed around him, he's the only man that , when he talks, you
listen and you believe ... because he's an American icon, and he's
in his 80s and he hasn't got anything to prove.
"I approached him myself. It hasn't been a very easy journey --
he isn't someone you approach easily. Clearly we had to convince
him, but it wasn't me, it was the message.
"We had to be very clear with him that this wouldn't be a
commercial. ... I call it a video."
On the supposed political connotations in the
ad: "It's a strange controversy. ... I think it is a most
neutral and universal message. We say, let's stand up, because what
makes us strong is our collective power. ... It's a universal, not
a political message."
"It isn't about bailouts. We are not politicians; the language
of this video is what a real person, what real people, would
On the script: Mr. Eastwood "was part of the
writing of the script, it was tailored for him and with him, and
with strong involvement of [Sergio] Marchionne," CEO of
Chrysler/Fiat, and Mr. Francois' boss. "Being French, I had to go
through the filter of my American team, and have the coaching of my
boss, who is much more Anglo-Saxon than I am."
On the two-minute buy: "That has been an
amazing collaboration with NBC and the NFL, to create something
very special for us. ... We wanted it at the very end of halftime.
... There's only one position for that ad. It was almost alive, in
that placement. It was not really a negotiation, [more] a
relationship between automaker with supplier; we had to work as a
On the cost for the two-minute buy: "Lots of
white hair and 10 years of my life."
On the Fiat spot for the new Abarth: "In the
case of the Fiat, I don't know if I should be proud or ashamed to
tell you, it is the cheapest production of all ads you [saw] that
night. It was shot for a ridiculously low price. It was never
designed to be an ad, but to create some buzz on the web."
"I think it is a smart commercial, it really speaks about the
product. The lady embodies the car, she wears a dress the color of
the car, she speaks the language of the car, with the energy and
passion and Italian-ness of the car."
On the NFL's glitch that removed the spot from YouTube
for more than five hours Monday morning: "It really was a
misunderstanding. Someone was under the impression we were taking
advantage of the NFL show [which is copyright protected]. We are
attempting to assess what the impact was. I'm not saying we're
satisfied with what happened."
On "Gran Torino," Mr. Eastward's film about -- among
other things -- a Ford: "I
watched the movie recently. In Torino. I enjoyed it."