Super Bowl ad revs up Detroit

Motor City emerges from rust to show renaissance

DETROIT | Days after Chrysler’s defiant testament to the resilience of Detroit broke through the Super Bowl bluster and hype to capture the nation’s attention, the two-minute-long commercial has become something of a rallying cry for battered-but-proud residents of the Motor City and its resurgent American auto industry.

The epic spot features shots of rap star and favorite son Eminem behind the wheel of an imposing black Chrysler 200, cruising the gritty streets of Detroit.

The ad’s swagger and steely tone — the tagline tells the rest of America that these cars are “Imported from Detroit” — has especially captured hearts in Michigan.

On YouTube, the commercial has been played about 5 million times since Sunday, and Facebook and other social media platforms have been flooded with comments about how the ad evokes pride and optimism for the city and its future.

“If you watched the news, you’d think, ‘Oh, I have to run from this place.’ But I think a lot of people who haven’t really been here don’t know what’s going on,” said Amy Cronkite, 38, a creative manager at a Detroit-area publisher. She said plenty of urban problems persist, but outsiders often miss the full picture. The sense of a renaissance, she says, is palpable.

The Monument to Joe Louis is seen in Detroit on Monday. One of the most talked-about Super Bowl ads showed hip-hop star Eminem driving a sleek Chrysler through the city streets, proudly cruising by the city's landmarks and the hopeful faces of its people. (Associated Press)

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The Monument to Joe Louis is seen in Detroit on Monday. One ... more >

“I think people here are worn out on folks coming in and doing these photo essays of the ruins of Detroit,” said Mrs. Cronkite. “The Chrysler commercial touched so many because it focused on people a little bit and how hardworking they are. It said: This is not just a city to be forgotten about.”

Another hometown favorite, Kid Rock (real name Bob Ritchie), tapped into the same sense of civic pride when he admonished a fist-pumping crowd of 60,000 last month at Ford Field to “Never forget your roots.”

There is, added native Linda McIntosh, a collective feeling that says “We won’t” — even as many across the nation, after years of political scandal and fiscal meltdown, have written off the Motor City to the trash heap of inner-city decay.

Ms. McIntosh is the director of marketing for an area shopping center that hosted a holiday storefront featuring all local products — stoking the fires of nostalgia for Detroiters who lined up for Sanders Candy, Better Made Potato Chips and Faygo Soda in glass bottles.

“We shipped packages from one end of the U.S. to the other. People were sending a little bit of Detroit all over America,” she said.

“There is a remarkable sense of place here,” Ms. McIntosh said as she paused to hide her tears. “I think you have to remember that Detroit was one of the original melting pots. People came here from all over the country and world to work for the automotive industry, and there was so much pride in that. That spirit remains in everything still. And despite all of the challenges, I think the resilience of the people here, its unmatched by any city in the country.”

Not everyone found the commercial inspiring, especially conservatives who found the ad’s defiant tone at odds with the taxpayer-funded $130 billion bailout of the city’s auto industry.

Conservative columnist and radio broadcaster Mark Steyn, guest-hosting Rush Limbaugh’s national radio show on Monday, argued that Detroit was fully to blame for its problems and that Eminem, with his raw lyrics and drug-fueled past, was a poor role model.

“Youre going to need more than an Eminem commercial to turn this town around, and it’s the braggadocio of the brain-dead to say, ‘Hey, we saved America in World War II, and cars is what we do,’” he told a Detroit radio station. “If Detroit citizens were as tough, gritty, blue-collar and hard-hat as the ad and my e-mail suggest, they wouldn’t have destroyed their own inheritance over 60 years,” he said.

Chrysler’s ad chief, Melissa Garvin, defended the spot.

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