It’s no secret that the city of Detroit has seen better days. Vacant lots, abandoned buildings and a high crime rate now define the Motor City in the minds of most Americans. Until recently, our state’s engine, the Big Three, was plagued by competitive foreign automakers, a global recession and a lack of quality products. But Detroit got the attention of millions of Americans thanks to a Chrysler advertisement that aired during the Super Bowl. The advertisement, featuring Detroit native Eminem, succeeds in giving Detroit an iconic image — with hope for a second chance.
The two-minute advertisement for the 2011 Chrysler 200 sedan, titled “Born of Fire,” aired to a record-breaking audience of more than 111 million viewers, according to a Detroit Free Press article. Super Bowl XLV was the most-watched television program ever, giving Detroit a rare, positive moment in the national spotlight.
The advertisement, produced only weeks before the Super Bowl, cost approximately $10 million to make. Chrysler should be applauded for not just spending to boost its image, but the image of the entire city. The advertisement never mentions the car it intends to promote. Instead, it advertises Detroit as a city that has “been to hell and back,” but still maintains technological expertise that runs generations deep. This selfless promotion of a city in desperate need of a better reputation was a bold move by Chrysler that will hopefully pay off.
Calling attention to Detroit wouldn’t have been advisable or possible if the Big Three hadn’t recently stepped up their game. After serious reorganization in the aftermath of government bailouts and plummeting sales, the Big Three have some of the strongest lineups on the market. They now build award-winning products like the Chevrolet Volt, the Ford Fusion and the Jeep Grand Cherokee — products Detroit should be proud of. The advertisement introduced Chrysler’s new slogan: “Imported from Detroit.” It’s uncommon for an automaker — especially Italian-owned Chrysler — to connect a product to a city with a less-than-glowing reputation, but the country has been forced to recognize that innovation, quality and excitement still exist in Detroit.
The advertisement’s narrator admits that the hardworking, iconic Detroit is “probably not the one you’ve been reading (about) in the paper.” Between crime rates, former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and city corruption, Detroit has had more than its share of bad publicity. Rolling Stone even called Detroit “the most epic urban failure ever,” in an article from their March 5, 2009 issue. But that isn’t the whole story of a city that is trying to get back on its feet. Detroit was once a hub city for Michigan, and many believe that it will be again. Detroiters and all Michiganders have a responsibility to follow Chrysler’s example and support a city whose reputation is so vital to the state.
The Big Three have returned from near bankruptcy to profitability and innovation. With their lead and the state’s support, Detroit has the ability to return to its status as a major American city.