Imported from Detroit – Chrysler 200 Super Bowl commercial

I thought the hands-down best commercial during this year’s Super Bowl was the 2-minute ad for the Chrysler 200 featuring Eminem. Brilliantly written and produced with a pitch-perfect narration by voice-over artist and Michigan resident Kevin Yon, the commercial shows downtown Detroit in all its glory as Eminem slowly drives the new Chrysler 200 through the Motor City.

The soundtrack begins with ominous low electronic rumblings and sound effects. Then, at about the 40-second mark, the instantly recognizable guitar riff from Eminem’s song “Lose Yourself” (from the 8 Mile album) is layered on top. Finally, the addition of a gospel choir at the commercial’s high-point adds a sense of triumph to mix. It’s a brilliantly constructed soundtrack.

Camera shots create a poetic montage intercutting Detroit’s gritty industrial landscape, with American flags, modern factories, boarded up buildings and Diego Rivera’s mural of factory laborers (from the Detroit Institue of the Arts). Shots of snow falling on downtown buildings add to the creation of a tough, resolute image. We end up at Detroit’s historic Fox Theatre. The marquis out front reads “Keep Detroit Beautiful” Inside, Eminem takes the stage in front of the gospel choir and confidently utters these words, “This is the Motor City and this is what we do”.

All of the elements; the voice-over performance, the text, the soundtrack, the camera work, Eminem’s passion, work toward a climatic celebration of Detroit. It gave me chills the first time I saw it.

Known as the Motor City, Detroit was built on manufacturing and as manufacturing has left the US economy, outsourced to other nations with cheaper labor costs, Detroit, like a lot of smaller manufacturing towns, has suffered. Suffered greatly. Must the American economy be so bereft of manufacturing? Are we right to just cede this important segment to emerging nations with cheaper labor costs?

The “Imported from Detroit” ad reminded me of a video produced last year by filmmaker Scott Smith. Scott’s company, River Run Productions, created a film for the trade organization Opportunity2 called Advanced Manufacturing in Southern Iowa. Scott used UniqueTracks’ music as underscore for this 9-minute industrial film.

The film shows one-way manufacturing can exist in the American economy. Actually, the advanced manufacturing, using robotics, laser optics and other high-end technologies shown in this film, are probably best done in America. The idea of factory work being associated with dimly lit, dirty, over-crowded spaces is not the reality in these high-tech manufacturing plants.

Scott adds, “Iowa is known for its farming, but in Southeast Iowa, where we shot the video, 30% of the jobs are in advanced manufacturing. I didn’t even really know what advanced manufacturing was before I produced this video. I learned that everywhere you go you are surrounded by the results of advanced manufacturing. And once I realized that advanced manufacturing involved welding and robotics I knew I’d have some cool visuals to play with. Then we began looking for stories that would be of interest to the intended audience of middle school and high school students. And because of that young audience and the interesting visuals we wanted to find some high energy music that would help drive the video.

Note: Scott used primarily rock stock music from UniqueTracks.com.

I grew up, on the other side of the Detroit River, across from Detroit, in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Both cities are manufacturing towns whose economies are linked to the making of cars. By the mid-1970s, when the automobile industry first bottomed out, almost everyone I grew up with in Windsor had left the city.  As a boy, I watched from across the river as Detroit burned as fires swept the city during the riot of 1967.  In a way, this event seems to be the flashpoint from which Detroit never fully recovered.

The “Imported from Detroit” ad succeeds in attempting to show the human side of a city that has, as the ad says, “been to hell and back”.

I am grateful to Scott Smith for his contributions to this article. Scott W. Smith is an old film school grad who after living in Miami, Los Angeles, and Orlando ended up in Cedar Falls, Iowa in 2003. He and his company, River Run Productions, have worked on a variety of projects over the years including commercials, web videos, promotional DVDs, short films, and documentaries. They’ve also provided camera support and field producing for various groups including the national TV programs The Montel Williams Show and The Doctors. In February, Scott added two Addy Awards to his shelf full of hardware that also includes two Regional Emmy Awards.

I enjoy reading Scott’s blog articles on his site Screenwriting from Iowa

This is what TomCruise.com said about the blog last year: “For a more off-beat look at writing, the Screenwriting from Iowa blog provides screenwriters with a slightly removed take from the Hollywood norm. Scott Smith blogs about how people outside of Los Angeles can have their stories told and sold for production in Tinseltown. It’s inspiring for those of us around the world who aspire to Hollywood magic without having to live in Hollywood itself.”

I thought the text to the “Imported from Detroit” ad was incredibly well-written. I could not find out who wrote the copy but this text and it’s delivery by Mr. Yon really pack a punch.

Here is the full text of the ad
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I‘ve got a question for you. What does this city know about luxury? What does a town that’s been to hell and back know about the finer things in life? Well, I’ll tell you. More than most. You see it’s the hottest fires that make the hottest steel. Add hard work, conviction, and a know-how that runs generations deep in every last one of us. That’s who we are. That’s our story. Now it’s probably not the one you’ve been reading in the papers. The one being written by folks who’ve never even been here and don’t know what we’re capable of. Because when it comes to luxury, it’s as much about where it’s from as who it’s for. Now we’re from America. But this isn’t New York City, or the Windy City, nor Sin City and we’re certainly no one’s Emerald City.

This is the motor city.  And this is what we do. The Chrysler 200 has arrived Imported from Detroit.

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