In a generally weak year for Super Bowl commercials, Jeep’s stood out for being particularly obnoxious and tone-deaf. Called “The Middle,” left-wing political activist and world-famous singer Bruce Springsteen narrated and starred in the ad about how the country has been divided, but now it has a bright future as the “ReUnited States of America.”
While advertisements that appeal to virtues in order to increase sales and profits can work — see Toyota’s beautiful ad about the joy in adopting a child with special needs — this one fell flat and faced mockery and opposition from many viewers. Here are the three main reasons the ad didn’t work.
The Messenger Is Known For Hating Republicans
Many Americans love Springsteen’s music. His successful career has spanned four decades. Many liberals love that he shares their political views and works so hard as a political activist. Springsteen, like so many other wealthy celebrities, regularly speaks ill of Republican voters and politicians.
Just before the 2020 election, Springsteen called for “an exorcism in our nation’s capital” as dark music played on his radio show. Of Trump’s presidency, he said, “I thought it was a f—ing nightmare, but it was true.” The episode, titled “Farewell To The Thief,” also insulted President Trump’s family.
The 71-year-old Springsteen told Australians that he would leave the United States and move there if Trump was re-elected.
Springsteen’s posture against Republicans is well known and goes back decades. He was angry at President Ronald Reagan’s positive mention of Springsteen’s “Born In The U.S.A.” He endorsed and campaigned for John Kerry, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden.
Of President George W. Bush in 2008, Springsteen said the United States was now “suffering the consequences” of eight years of rule by a “very radical group of people who pushed things in a very radical direction, had great success in moving things in that direction, and we are suffering the consequences.” By 2016, he was calling President Trump a “moron.” In 2017 he bashed Trump in a protest song.
As one Twitter user put it, “That’s all I could think of, the whole spot. Being preached to by someone who doesn’t respect my views who relishes in suppressing them, having the nerve to pretend to be ‘my community’ and declare unity. They have no idea how transparently cynical the whole thing came across.”
That’s all I could think of, the whole spot. Being preached to by someone who doesn’t respect my views who relishes in suppressing them, having the nerve to pretend to be “my community” and declare unity. They have no idea how transparently cynical the whole thing came across.
— Louis Dunn (@LouADunn) February 8, 2021
The Images Were All Off
The ad began with images of a tiny Christian chapel in the middle of the continental United States. The chapel, which seats maybe a half dozen, features a cross on top of a map of the United States that is painted like the American flag.
Later Springsteen’s narration uses biblical imagery evocative of the Old Testament journey of the Jews to the promised land: “So, we can get there. We can make it to the mountaintop, through the desert, and we will cross this divide.” Springsteen says that the chapel is for all, which is undoubtedly true, but it’s very particular religious imagery to be used in service of car sales.
The ad featured the Springsteen, who is extremely well known for being from New Jersey, wearing a cowboy hat and boots, small earrings in each ear. He appeared to have continued his regular upkeep of plastic surgery. The overall effect was one of cosplay rather than authenticity.
A Jeep with no top on in the middle of what seemed to be a particularly frigid time in Kansas drove down a dismal road. No Jeep owner would do such a thing. In general, the images were frosty, cold, and dark.
The final image was a map of the continental United States minus, for inexplicable reasons, the upper peninsula of Michigan. In the center was a red star, an image historically associated with communism and more recently with socialism.
The Argument For Unity Was Not Made Well
“The middle has been a hard place to get to lately,” Springsteen said at the beginning of the ad. The end features the text, “To The ReUnited States Of America.”
What made the United States divided until recently, the viewer might ask. Why, according to Jeep, is the country reunited now?
For 74 million Trump-voting Americans who lived through four years of epithets and refusal by elites such as Springsteen to treat the president of the United States as legitimate, it’s not hard to see why the ad is going over like a lead balloon. One reason the middle has been a hard place to get to is because of wealthy and powerful people like Springsteen spewing hatred toward Republican presidents and their voters dating back to the 1980s.
Joe Biden, after winning a narrow election that came down to about 40,000 votes in three states, began asking the media to run with the narrative that he was a unifier. They dutifully did so, even as he signed radical executive orders and moved not one bit to the center but further and further to the left.
Corporate media, who have ignored or mocked concerns about election integrity despite the widespread sloppiness and rampant mail-in balloting associated with the 2020 election, have cheered on the crackdown of protesters in or near a riot at the nation’s capitol. They did so after spending months defending and contextualizing violent riots from the left that seized cities across the country, attacked federal buildings, killed dozens of Americans, set churches on fire, and terrorized small business owners.
How could a major corporation not see how propagandistic it comes off to suggest that when Republicans win a national election, that’s divisive, but when Democrats win one, that’s unifying? The corporate-approved approach is to paper over disagreement while Democrats hold power while amplifying a full-on #Resistance when Republicans are in power.
Jeep sales will not heal the fabric of the country. Jeep ads can’t even help toward that goal so long as they are using dishonest and manipulative partisan framing in service of car sales.