Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Halftime Speech

It's all anyone can talk about:  What did Clint Eastwood mean with his "Halftime in America" ad during halftime of the Super Bowl on Sunday?  MSNBC talking heads are positive it was an implicit endorsement of President Obama for a second term in office (Halftime of his 8 years in office, get it?).  Fox News talking heads are positive its a condemnation President Obama, because it talks about getting off your lazy duffs and doing something constructive to get the country moving again.  Yesterday, Clint added to the mystery, when he issued a statement saying he "certainly doesn't endorse Mr Obama" but "if he wants to run with the spirit of the ad, go for it."

It might be easier to define the ad by figuring out what it ISN'T and narrowing down the possibilities.

The ad WAS NOT a personal manifesto of Clint Eastwood.  Clint didn't write it--just like Eminem didn't write the Chrysler ad that aired during last year's Super Bowl.  Chrysler hired Eastwood because he has an easily distiguishable voice--and he starrred in a movie "Gran Torino" that was set in the decay of inner city Detroit.  Conservatives worried that Eastwood is endorsing President Obama need to keep in mind that the reason Clint ran for Mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California back in the 90's is because he HATED the overbearing regulations and high taxes imposed on businesses and developers by the previous Mayor and Council.  Does that sound like a guy that would backing the current administration?

The ad WAS NOT a "game plan" for how to "win" the "second half".  When teams come back to the locker room for halftime, coaches diagram adjusted game plans on the chalkboard and give their players direction on what to execute or a visual representation of what their opponents are doing against them.  Unless a lack of effort is the problem, platitudes like "let's come together and start working as a team" aren't going to bring a team from behind.  Another complaint about the current administration--plenty of platitudes, not a lot of game-planning.

The ad WAS NOT a story of real recovery of a once proud American company.  The federal bailout of Chrysler and its unsustainable pension and retiree health care plans cost taxpayers $1.2 Billion dollars.  And the company is now under the majority ownership of Italian carmaker Fiat.  I'm still embarrassed that my beloved Jeep brand--which for decades represented the rugged individualism of the American Spirit--has been dragged down into this boondoggle.

And the ad CERTAINLY WAS NOT this generation's "It's morning again in America" moment.  Survey after survey shows neither business owners nor consumers are seeing any light at the end of the tunnel--unlike 1984 when the Reagan re-election campaign correctly captured the far more optimistic mood of a nation that actually saw the impact of lower taxes and reduced government regulation on their lives. 

You can see or hear whatever you want in the "Halftime" ad but here is the very simple message it meant to convey: "PLEASE BUY A CHRYSLER VEHICLE."  That's it.  It was a car ad--nothing more, nothing less.  For Chrysler to have spent $4-million dollars to say anything else--would have been the stupidest marketing decision in American history.

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