Is Anything More American Than A Dylan Spot?

“Was that Bob Dylan?” asked those who were old enough to know. “Who’s that?” asked most everybody else. And so it was that another rolling stone from the Sixties settled snugly into the role of pitchman, this time ostensibly for the new Chrysler 200 but really for American Pride.

“Bob Dylan Just Did A Chrysler Commercial At The Super Bowl, And Nobody Can Believe It,” reads the hed on a short piece by Business Insider’s Aaron Taube published on SF Gate shortly after the two-minute spot created by GlobalHue aired last night during the tail end of the Super Bowl, which was by then — fittingly, as some commentators would have it — a parody of itself.

Sara Morrison collects some hand-wringing tweets on The Wire but points out that the “Bob Dylan Ad Outrage Is So 2004,” when he did a spot for Victoria’s Secret. 

Oh, yeah. Then there was that spot in 2007. For Cadillac.

And, to be sure, not everyone was negative.

Writing on Forbes.com, Allen St. John observes that it was unfortunately timed given that people were already heading home from the Super Bowl party he attended but thought it “was nicely crafted. Stylistically, it takes its cue from the Eminem spot that ran in the 2011 game, content to simply increase the star power.” 

Bloomberg’s Mark Clothier and Anthony Palazzo, noting that the Dylan spot began trending on Twitter as soon as it ran at the end of the third quarter, chose to highlight the observation of Seth Mnookin, a Vanity Fair writer who teaches at Massachusetts Institute of Technology: “He’s someone who has confounded expectations for 50 yrs. Why anyone expects him to embody their squishy idealism is beyond me.”

The 50-year figure is a critical part of the argument, to be sure.

“Partly because his music is no longer current pop, there is no risk of fans perceiving him of being co-opted by big business,” John Covach, director of the Institute for Popular Music at the University of Rochester, tells Variety’s Brian Steinberg. “His position in music history assured, Dylan stands as an image of integrity, independence, and authenticity in a way that only a person with a long and established presence in pop culture can.

The spot starts with Dylan intoning, “Is there anything more American than America,” leaving some to observe that there’s nothing more American than selling out — or twisting reality a smidgeon or two.

“Chrysler is owned by Fiat, an Italian auto manufacturer,” Terry Kimble commented on a story about the “Ad Bowl” in the Wall Street Journal. “Am I the only one that was aware of that when Bob Dylan said America would build your car and was referring to Fiat-owned Chrysler? Is this how dumb America has become? Are they really that easily bamboozled by an ad?”

“Bob Dylan: Is there anything creepier than seeing you trying to go all Eastwood Patriot?...,” MediaPost’s Barbara Lippert posted on Facebook. “To sell a car from a company co-owned by Fiat? Discordant.”

“Let Germany brew your beer, let Switzerland make your watch, let Asia assemble your phone. We will build your car,” is an oft-referenced set of lines from the spot, as are “You can’t import original, you can’t fake true cool.”

The Detroit Free-Press’ Brent Snavely rode with, “And when it is made here, it is made with the one thing you can’t import from anywhere else: American pride. We will build your car.” 

But Snavely then points out not only that Fiat became 100% owner of what is now officially known as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles on Jan. 21 but also that the company’s technical headquarters will be based in the Netherlands. 

“Bottom line: This ad will stir a lot of debate,” he concludes. No one is arguing with that. 

Dylan made a few bucks from another spot last night.

“Although Dylan didn't himself appear in the commercial for Chobani, he loaned the makers of pressed, low-fat yoghurt his 1966 single ‘I Want You,’” as Sean Michaels reports in the Guardian.com. “These slingers of bacterial culture took full advantage, taking one of the centrepieces of ‘Blonde On Blonde’ and using it to soundtrack a bear's comedic attack on a small-town convenience store.” 

Wasn’t that Mandy Patinkin doing the voiceover for Chobani? Well, it only goes to show that Dylan is not the only one who is choosing to “Move On.”

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7 comments about "Is Anything More American Than A Dylan Spot?".
  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , February 3, 2014 at 9:03 a.m.
    I love Dylan's music, but this was such a disingenuous message. So many other foreign car companies manufacturers build their cars in America by Americans. I have also had a Chrysler that I disliked from the day I drove it off the lot.
  2. Thomas Rozof from Social Media Science LLC , February 3, 2014 at 9:05 a.m.
    As a longtime fan of Dylan who grew up with his music I discarded long ago the idea that he would continue to fit my image of a cultural spokesperson for certain ideals I valued. I gradually learned to just appreciate his music for the impact it had on me at the time...and for the memories that come flashing back whenever I hear certain songs.... If it's true that all great art is timeless...and destined to be appreciated increasingly as the years go by...then I expect to see a Dylan Renaissance sometime in the distant future (my kids apparently won't lead that parade). It's undoubtedly this visceral response that Dylan's music elicits, especially in Boomers, which Chrysler was hoping to tap into. I hate to even admit this...but for me it worked...even though I know logically why it should not...and even agree with many of the above statements about the MANY ironies it represents. Yet...aside from all this...in my gut I found myself wanting to support American auto workers more... All my cars used to be foreign (just because they worked better...not because of anything inherently negative about the US), but now there is at least one Ford in the lineup. Could there be a Chrysler added soon? If there is Dylan will certainly not have hurt the chance of this happening... I know this because since I had the ad recorded I played it again...then later....once more. I'm such a weak consumer. Sorry.
  3. Martin Pratt from Unidad Solutions for Marketing and Media , February 3, 2014 at 11:22 a.m.
    Johnny Cash feels more american than Dylan.
  4. pj bednarski from pj , February 3, 2014 at 12:19 p.m.
    There was that cat, A.J. Weberman, who used to go through Dylan's garbage looking for clues to what happened to him. Weberman theorized CIA replaced Dylan with a look/sound-alike (hard to imagine THAT!) and new Dylan was co-opted. Clue was Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" (Sample lyric: "Close your eyes, close your door/You don't have to worry any more I'll be your baby tonight." But the fact seems to be, all Dylan was was marketing. Brilliant though.
  5. Kevin Barry from Barry Marketing & Media , February 3, 2014 at 3:53 p.m.
    Martin Pratt-I agree about Johnny Cash but, uh...I don't think he was available.
  6. Thom Forbes from T.H. Forbes Co. , February 3, 2014 at 4:58 p.m.
    Cash's involvement with Chrysler-Plymouth goes back to the mid-'50s and his music was still being used in recent spots . When he was amongst us, he also had an affection for sweet chariots http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9Y_GLT4_9I
  7. Tom O'Brien from NWPS , February 3, 2014 at 6:14 p.m.
    Everybody under 50 (and at least half of those 50+) "who was that" Time to cut the aging rock icons loose. What a waste of time and money. @tomob