Martin Sheen and Bill Pullman Are Presidents Once Again in Chrysler’s Fun New Ads

Cheeky work wryly plays off the election year

Hail to the chiefs!

Martin Sheen and Bill Pullman give delightfully cheeky presidential performances in Wieden + Kennedy's new campaign for Chrysler.

Of course, neither man has actually been elected to our nation's highest office. Still, they've both excelled at playing presidents—Sheen on The West Wing and Pullman in Independence Day. And now, they face off in a debate of sorts that works on its own comic terms while playfully (some might say pointedly) tapping into the current election-year zeitgeist.

In the "American-est" spot below, Pullman, driving a Chrysler 200, pulls up beside Sheen, who's kicking back in a 300 model, and the jousting begins. Sheen insists Americans "deserve the most advanced all-wheel-drive system in its class." Pullman concurs, but wonders, "Why are you wrapping yourself up in the flag?" Sheen counters: "I'm wrapping myself up in Napa leather, adorned with this Old Glory pin, so you know I'm patriotic." When Pullman muses that Sheen's rhetoric might be "all a little star-spangled nonsense," the latter replies, "I spangle everything. Everything I own is star-spangled … everything."

The actors wring every nuance from W+K's scripts, elevating the dialogue to an oratory pitch that manages to comment on the charged real-world climate. In doing so, they cast their own stints in the White House as tenures that somehow transcend fiction—preferable, perhaps, to the actual administration that will emerge from the ongoing electoral process.

That effect is especially pronounced in the next ad, "Swerve." The actors note with considerable relish that it's primary season, "time to pander to all the nuts on the political fringe … and when the general election rolls around, you swerve right back to the middle. And when you do, blind-spot monitoring and collision warning systems keep you from crashing your campaign."

Throughout, Chrysler's brand promises and the political rhetoric fuse surprisingly well. This simpatico impressed Olivier Francois, chief marketing officer at Fiat Chrysler, in the early stages of the ads' evolution. "We were with the Chrysler brand team—and they kept reciting to us all the great features of both the Chrysler 300 and 200," he tells AdFreak. "It almost sounded like a [political] campaign promise, and it really just took off from there."

Much of the fun comes from seeing Pullman reprise his earnest, down-to-earth Thomas Whitmore character from Independence Day, contrasted with Sheen's more prickly Josiah Bartlet from The West Wing. They're a winning ticket all the way.

"Once we landed on the idea of having presidents from television or movies, we had to find the right actors," says Francois. "Mr. Sheen and Mr. Pullman are perfect in their iconic roles. They both embodied that men-of-the-people, for-the-people spirit, something that spoke very much to the identity of the brand."

Thus, the actors were the prefect presidential pitchmen to communicate the "Premium to the People" theme line. "The main objective," says Francois, "is to elevate expectations of power and refinement for Americans. We give 'premium' car offerings to the 'people'—all the people. Not only the rich or privileged, but everyone. This includes key safety features, high grade interiors and other features throughout to support the competitively contented cars."

Of course, the automaker has waved the flag before, most famously in sweeping ads like "Born of Fire," "It's Halftime in America" and RAM's "Farmer."

Pullman and Sheen help the brand recapture the spirit of those old glories, while striking a decidedly different tone from Chrysler's anthemic Super Bowl commercials. These "Premium" spots, directed by Jake Szymanski of Gifted Youth, are impishly disruptive and mischievously meta in their approach. Their brand-centric satire invites everyone along for the ride.

"Clearly there is a lot of noise with the political campaign—I can hear it all the way from Italy when I am there—and I couldn't let this message get lost," says Francois. "I wanted to be the one doing it before anyone else jumped on it, because I think it's really an opportunity to be relevant."

CREDITS
Client: Chrysler
CMO, FCA Global: Olivier François
Head of Passenger Car Brands:  Dodge, SRT, Chrysler and FIAT, FCA:  North America: Tim Kuniskis
Director, NAFTA Brand Advertising:  Marissa Hunter
Head of Advertising, Dodge Brand:  Randy Ortiz
Head of Advertising, Chrysler Brand:  Michael Kraft
Chrysler Brand Advertising Manager:  Danielle DePerro

Agency: Wieden + Kennedy, Portland, Ore.
Creative Directors: Micah Walker, Justine Armour
Copywriter: Mike Egan / Nick Morrissey
Art Director: Meaghan Oikawa
Producer: Chris Capretto

Production Company: Gifted Youth
Director: Jake Szymanski
Executive Producer: Dal Wolf
Line Producer: Alana Mitnick
Director of Photography: Kramer Morgenthau

Editorial Company: Joint
Editor: Matthew Hilber / Tommy Harden
Post Producer: Jen Milano
Post Executive Producer: Leslie Carthy

VFX Company: Joint
VFX Supervisor: Alex Thiesen
Flame Artist: Katrina Salicrup
VFX Producer: Gail von Dedenroth
Titles/Graphics: W+K Studio

Mix Company: Joint
Mixer: Guy Baker / Noah Woodburn