“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“Partly because his music is no longer current pop, there is no risk of fans perceiving him of being co-opted by big business,” John Covach, director of the Institute for Popular Music at the University of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, tellsVariety’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.”