Those who aren’t sports fans watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. It is the most watched television event of the year, with advertisers paying millions of dollars for a short spot and putting their most creative advertising minds to work on the product.
As a Canadian, I rarely watch the game – and if I did I wouldn’t get to see the most talked about commercials. Canadians see different ones.
That has been a bone of contention for years, though less so now that we can see the commercials on the internet as soon as the Americans see them. That helps us not to feel culturally illiterate.
I tend not to watch the ads unless I hear about one that sounds worthy of my time. Four years ago there was a brilliant ad from a lumber company I had never heard of, an ad that celebrated America and took a swipe at the President at the same time. You can find various versions online – the uncut version (the one I linked to) was considered too controversial for broadcast.
There have been other famous Super Bowl commercials. There may have been a few that were actually worth watching over the past few years, but I don’t remember any since 2017. I am naturally skeptical of people trying to sell me something.
The advertisers are hoping to touch a chord, to spark discussion and clicks, to get eyeballs on their ads. My guess is the humorous ones are best at that, though I clicked on a couple of this year’s crop and didn’t last until the end. I’m looking for something that engages my brain and my heart.
The Jeep commercial did that this year. It is a voyage into the heart of America with a living icon (Bruce Springsteen if you don’t recognize the voice or the face in his first-ever product endorsement). It is a reminder that there is an ideal of America that has not been as evident in recent years as perhaps it should be.
It is a message of hope and a statement of faith, maybe more than Jeep intended.
In 2017 I wanted to buy some lumber and build something. Today I want to buy a Jeep. I am quite aware that my emotions have been manipulated by these ads. Maybe the people behind them are extremely cynical. But as 84 Lumber’s ad touched my soul in 2017, so too did Jeep in 2021.
There are no new cars in this commercial. No flash, no sizzle, no new features. The one Jeep pictured actually belongs to the narrator – Springsteen does drive a Jeep.
Springsteen may not have written the first draft of the script, but there is no doubt the final words are his. This is a commercial that feels authentic – probably because it really isn’t intended to sell cars. Actually, it isn’t selling anything.
“The Middle,” as the spot is titled, is a reflection on where America has been and where it is going. It is about rooting the future in the past. And not just America’s past.
You have to wonder if the people at Jeep realized just what sort of mini-film they were making. If you pay close attention to the interplay between the words and images you can see and hear a message probably even more controversial than that 84 Lumber ad four years ago. I will admit to being surprised that any corporation, even in America, would put their name on such a blatantly Christian message.
I probably won’t buy a Jeep. I’m not in the market for a new vehicle, and if I was I doubt a Jeep would be in my price range. But I am feeling very favorably toward the company today. Not buying a car, but I have given them some free advertising. If you watch the commercial, like 23 million other people as I write this, probably a few million more by the time you read it, I hope you agree it was worth the time.
Then take a few minutes and ponder the message.