Ten years to the day after unleashing "Imported From Detroit" on the 2011 Super Bowl, Olivier Francois released his latest magnus opus—a two-minute Super Bowl spot from Jeep featuring Bruce Springsteen, in his first-ever commercial, issuing a plea for unity in America at a time of remarkable pain and strife.
Francois, the CMO of Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler), has overseen a number of celebrated Super Bowl spots, from Chrysler's "Imported From Detroit" and "Halftime in America" to RAM's "Farmer" and Jeep's own "Portraits" and "Groundhog Day."
The new Jeep spot, titled "The Middle," feels like a cross between "Halftime in America" and "Farmer," with shots of Springsteen in Lebanon, Kansas—the geographical center of the lower 48 states—meditating on what divides us ... and what might reunite us, too.
The spot was made by the agency Doner and directed by Thom Zimny. The ad doesn't use a recognizable Springsteen song—he has said he would never sell an existing track for an ad—but the Boss did writer and produce the original score with frequent collaborator Ron Aniello.
"Olivier Francois and I have been discussing ideas for the last 10 years and when he showed us the outline for 'The Middle,' our immediate reaction was, 'Let's do it,' " says Springsteen's manager, Jon Landau. "Our goal was to do something surprising, relevant, immediate and artful. I believe that's just what Bruce has done with 'The Middle'."
The spot rolled out on YouTube late Saturday, Feb. 6—exactly 10 years after the Feb. 6, 2011, Super Bowl, which featured Eminem in a two-minute Chrysler spot that introduced the "Imported From Detroit" theme. The automaker followed that spot with "Halftime in America" in 2012 and "Farmer" in 2013—soulful spots that aimed to explore the heart of the American experience, much as "The Middle" aims to do as well.
"From 'Imported from Detroit' and 'Halftime in America' to 'Farmer,' and most recently 'Groundhog Day,' we have looked at making meaningful and emotional connections with millions of viewers, with cultural relevancy at the core of our communication," Francois says. "'The Middle' is a celebration of the Jeep brand's 80-year anniversary and, more timely, it is a call to all Americans to come together and seek common ground as we look collectively to the road ahead."
With many of the 2021 Super Bowl ads offering escapism through humor, "The Middle" will surely make an impression when it airs Sunday night. (It's expected to air on TV just this once.) Whether a deeply polarized America, just emerging from a brutal election season and an uneasy transition of power, is open to a message of unity remains to be seen.
Springsteen, after all, narrated ads for then-candidate Biden last fall (the only ads he's done in his career—he's never pitched a brand before), so it's not hard to predict at least some backlash to the commercial from some on the right.
For more on this spot, here's a Twitter thread:
Some (conflicted) thoughts on the @Jeep ad ... (thread)— Tim Nudd (@nudd) February 7, 2021
Check out the full voiceover from the spot below.
Jeep | "The Middle"
VO: There's a chapel in Kansas.
Standing on the exact center of the lower forty-eight.
It never closes.
All are more than welcome.
To come meet here, in the middle.
It's no secret …
The middle has been a hard place to get to lately.
Between red and blue.
Between servant and citizen.
Between our freedom and our fear.
Now, fear has never been the best of who we are.
And as for freedom, it's not the property of just the fortunate few; it belongs to us all.
Whoever you are,
wherever you're from.
It's what connects us.
And we need that connection. We need the middle.
We just have to remember the very soil we stand on is common ground.
So we can get there.
We can make it to the mountaintop, through the desert ...
and we will cross this divide.
Our light has always found its way through the darkness.
And there's hope on the road … up ahead.