Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Motown Blues

You've probably seen this line before.

Clint Eastwood breathed life into it at this year's Super Bowl, in a Chrysler commercial that made all the headlines. And the folks at Wieden/Kennedy, the ad agency for Chrysler, have been pimping it for more than a year now. What you don't know is that now famous tagline, which is being merchandised on T-shirts, coffee mugs, backpacks, etc., almost belonged to Chevrolet, not Chrysler.

Wait. What?

The year was 2009. My art director partner, Laura Sweet (a wonderful ex-CD who blogs here and is available for freelance) and I were doing work for Publicis in Seattle. They were in the process of courting Chevrolet and pulling the account away from Campbell Ewald.

The effort was all hands on deck. And for a $600 million account one can understand why. There were weekends, late nights and fast, fast turnarounds. But Laura and I were all too willing to ride the freelance gravy train. Those were heady, well-paid days. And Publicis reaped the rewards. They won the account and celebrated accordingly. (Sadly, the victory didn't last long as months later, the account was yanked and handed to GS&P, but that's a different story.)

At one point in the transition, Laura and I were asked to do a tagline exploration. The goal was to rebrand Chevrolet and give people a reason to believe in American-built cars were as good as the ones being exported from Germany and Japan.

Well, you guessed it, one of the lines we submitted was: Chevrolet. Imported from Detroit.

For reasons that elude me, the Creative Director rejected the line. I don't hold it against him. When you look at 1000 possible tag lines they often blur together and become meaningless. Maybe he thought the line was a bit of an overpromise. It doesn't matter because a tagline is only as good as the work that surrounds it.

I'm not sure what work we would have done around that particular line. I am sure I never would have arrived at that signature piece of music that is now on every Chrysler commercial. I like the music, it feels gritty and urban and Detroit, and it sure sticks in your head, it's just not in my repertoire. Which tells me I need to expand my repertoire.

In the end this story gets filed under the 100 Monkey Phenomena.

In the U.S. there are about 20-30 different car brands. Those brands are handled by different ad agencies. Each agency has about 10-15 creative people coming with ideas for the brand. Writers and art directors, working night and day, saying the same thing about the same cars, everyday of every week of every month of every year. So, in accordance with the theory obviously there's going to be some duplication.

The way I see it, I'm one of 450 monkeys.
I just happened to get snakebit by one of them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Years ago when I was in school, a guest teacher - then a well-known CD at a then"hot" shop - came in to crit our concepts. Another student and I came up with EXACTLY the same concept: headline word for work, and even the layout was eerily similar.

She presented first, possibly 10 minutes before me. Although there was no way I could have conjured up the same ad during those 10 minutes with no computer, printer, even layout pad, I was treated with deafening silence and sidelong glances. I didn't know her, didn't hang out with her, etc.
She got a coveted junior job at his agency. I'm still stewing about it. Damned monkeys.