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Alain Sylvain: Did Jeep’s Sappy Spot Go Too Far? [Super Bowl 2013]

What are the limits for a brand when attempting to seek sympathy with viewers?

Alain Sylvain, Sylvain Labs
Alain Sylvain, Sylvain Labs on February 10, 2013.

Image and credits: Motortrend, Jalopnik and Autoguide

It was right after halftime. It was like the great American apocalypse – celebrity, patriotism, and consumerism collided in a 5 minute span, ultimately bringing the country to a stop. It started with Beyonce dancing and singing (?) in the midst of bursting flames and raging images of herself, and ended with the sideshow of the evening, the football game, coming to a screeching halt after the power failed in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The culprit? Jeep’s Super Bowl commercial. It set Twitter ablaze as people admitted to crying, pledging to buy Jeeps in honor of the spot.

The commercial cut to the core of a sad and piercing American truism: companies prey on our most vulnerable human emotions in order to motivate us to buy more stuff.

It just wasn’t fair. Two full minutes of sap. A formula that included weepy music, patriotic hyperbole, and images of families crying, praying, and wincing. All narrated by Oprah, whose primacy over our collective emotion made this commercial so damn effective. Or rather, predatory.

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Chrysler’s 2012 “Half-time in America” commercial seemed so much more poignant and well-placed. The bankrupt car industry, after all, was a character in the story of America’s recession and redemption. At least Lincoln tries to evoke Americanism and cue its namesake by randomly interspersing top hats throughout their commercials, albeit weird.

Yes, I guess Jeeps seem like the sort of cars you might find in the military. But here and now in 2013, what right does Jeep have to the story of veterans coming home? Why is that an appropriate context to sell a car? And how does airing this commercial actually “support our nation’s heroes?”

This commercial has nothing to do with the utility of a car. At best, it’s a strategic effort to hold up a mirror and empathize with American guilt vis a vis the military. But at worst it’s a calculated effort to prey on our emotions and guilt us into shopping. When does that sort of brand arrogance just go too far?

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Thinking...