Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Was Joe Biden’s Chrysler endorsement a missed opportunity for other

My 18-year-old daughter and I was calling around for a new car and stumbled upon this ad for the Cadillac, with its celebrity endorser.

Joe Biden Gives Chrysler a Boost: https://t.co/t92v7flTl0 pic.twitter.com/PjITr92uPJ — PennLive (@PennLive) December 22, 2016

Neat. Impressive. Not exactly a headline-grabbing, tippy-top headline-grabber. Oh wait. Here’s the story: Biden on Monday became the first prominent American politician to endorse the potential automaker’s commercial of a Goliath being kissed by a fanged fly, “To Build a Better Chrysler,” the automaker’s preferred brand slogan.

It’s an interesting promotional stunt by Chrysler, something that might not get a place in a typical ad, but hit the spot (not that there is really a spot) for the not-to-magnificent-yet-sleepy automaker. Now, I’m no in-depth political expert (I try to stay out of campaign ads), but it was notable that Biden’s op-ed came out just as the “Chrysler advert” began airing—for instance, during the NFL game in which he posted the op-ed. Also, the one at the end, where he gives a little anodyne speech (“I applaud you for continuing to build a better automotive experience for our customers”) seemed poorly timed. I mean, how inconvenient for Chrysler—and for Biden—to have the only real Trump-reaction ad air during the game.

But because it is a political ad, it’s gotten a lot of play, and my thoughts below are from the perspective of a parent, a little embarrassed. Not that I shouldn’t be comfortable in my own skin, but I get a little uncomfortable when it comes to the influence of political advertising on kids. Plus, sure, this could be good for the brand, but by then, will we really be remembered as the year that politicians launched the hot new political meme?

Truly the advertisement could be good for brands. A few years ago, we might have seen ads about which cereal brands could wring the most (admittedly unfair) mileage out of the student loan debt crisis (which is what you’d think a cereal advertiser would be called), but there isn’t really a clear answer to this. Or, more specifically, a road map of good economic thinking.

Of course, if you know advertising, you already know the tricks that a few more could adopt to propel themselves further into the zeitgeist. No doubt there is one powerful company with both the political willingness and the marketing acumen to spearhead a truly shocking ad about the economics of taxes or reproductive rights or whatever else isn’t connected to food or beverages (c’mon, KFC).

So if you were sitting in on those Coke commercials—you know, the ones that featured scantily clad girls or pretty boys and girls with cute smiles and those occasional plug jacks, or the ones that wound up on SNL and the ones that only aired in the run-up to the Super Bowl? You know what I’m talking about. And if you were watching presidential debates in 2015, you could (and should) count on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton doing similar commercials. You could certainly see the message of recycling oversexed performances that is older than hamburgers and burgers that are older than McDonald’s. See? You have to be a forward-looking brand to break through. Even in your age group.

Even if you’re more too strict about Trump impressions on purpose (and, ultimately, he’s kind of a zombie in the make-believe satire stakes) and focused on puns or call-outs, I think it’s still a scary time when political ads are capable of selling you a new Mazda.

It’s ironic, because I doubt there’s any other car company out there making better commercials for cars than Volkswagen or Ford. But you know what? Maybe Chrysler can suck it up and go out there for a chicken or fish sandwich, too. If the ad, like the product, doesn’t come right out with, “This is from the people that built the Bugatti Veyron.”, I guess we’ll see.

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