An advertising copywriters perspective on Bob Dylan’s astonishing Chrysler Ad

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"Advertising signs that con you
Into thinking that you're the one
That can do what's never been done
That can win what's never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you"

Bob Dylan

In his self-penned 1963 song ‘It’s Alright Ma I’m Only Bleeding’, Nobel winning poet, singer and songwriter Bob Dylan mused that advertising is a lie and the promise unattainable.
There’s no denying bad advertising exists 
Volkswagen’s ill-fated diesel emissions claims became a PR disaster. And billionaire Elon Musk's purported $72 million investment in BitCoin Code duped thousands of people with a website using stock images of a fictitious Managing Director and voiceover artists masquerading as real customers. 
Promising what can’t be delivered is bad — advertising untruths are dishonest — and businesses using these tactics soon get found out.
So in 2014 when Detroit automotive manufacturer Chrysler announced that Bob Dylan would be the face of its new ad campaign, the news was met with scepticism. Dylan, after all, was anti-establishment and anti-capitalist.
Chrysler is no stranger to using music celebrities in their commercials. Eminem and Jennifer Lopez have been the subject of successful campaigns. But what did they see in Dylan that the sceptics missed?
Far from blowing in the wind, the answer is all the story
During the early twentieth century, Detroit emerged as the epicentre of American automotive manufacturing. A powerful symbol of capitalism and the labour that worked there. 
By the mid-twentieth century, one in every six working Americans was directly or indirectly employed by the automotive industry. Detroit became known as ‘Motor City’.
But by the 1970s, Detroit was in decline. Buffeted by an oil crisis and the rise of international competition from Japanese and German carmakers.
Although Detroit is now a shadow of its former self, the industry has been steadily fighting back and Chrysler was keen to capitalise on this with a new campaign.
Selling features and benefits wouldn’t cut it in the competitive world of car advertising. Chrysler needed to make people proud to buy American again.
Bob Dylan may have his critics, but he’s a worldwide celebrity loved by millions of people. To many, a national treasure.
But above all, Dylan is fiercely patriotic.
Chrysler’s new commercial was broadcast during the 2014 Super Bowl. The cries of ‘sell-out’ aimed at Dylan weren’t concerning as this increased the number of people talking about the ad.
The scriptwriting highlights the value of Detroit’s legacy and is designed to connect with an America at odds with the influence of the outside world:

“Is there anything more American, than America?Cos you can’t import a visionYou can’t fake . . . true coolYou can’t duplicate legacy
Because what Detroit created was a first, and became the inspiration to the rest of the worldYeah, Detroit made cars, and cars made AmericaMaking the best, making the finest takes conviction
And you can’t import the heart and soul of every man and woman working on the lineYou can search the world over for the finer things, but you won’t find a match for the American road and the creatures that live on it
Because we believe in the zoom, and the roar and the thrustAnd when it’s made here, it’s made with the one thing you can’t import from anywhere elseAmerican pride
So let Germany brew your beerAnd Switzerland make your watchLet Asia assemble your phone
We . . . will build your car”


The Ad played out over a well known Bob Dylan song called ‘Things Have Changed’.
Exactly the point Chrysler wanted to communicate.
The visuals are strong. But it’s the words that make the impact. 
It’s one of the most emotive and effective car Ads ever scripted.

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About the author

Phil Allen | Copywriter

I write sharp, succinct, persuasive copy for websites, blogs, emails and advertising. Businesses have trusted me to deliver clever ideas and sales-busting content for over 20 years. I write copy that persuades people to take action for businesses in Healthcare, Finance, Manufacturing, Technology, Retail and Leisure.

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