It's almost back-to-school time, but the Big 3 still seem so hooked on the immediate (short-term) success of selling cars via their summer employee-discount pricing programs that they just can't stop the madness. Thus, Chrysler still has Lee Iacocca to kick around.
The one-time company savior made a much-publicized comeback to promote Chrysler's (me-three) employee- pricing-plus plan; but the post- July 4 debut spot with Jason Alexander proved to be so head-scratchingly bad (at least from a creative point of view) that it became the Gigli of 60-second spots. Hard to believe, but the follow-up spot, featuring Iacocca and an actress playing his granddaughter, turned out to be slightly worse. (Doesn't every young girl dream of that golden moment in the ancestral garden when Grandpa reveals to her the secrets of Chrysler's five-star frontal crash-test ratings?)
A third commercial began with an awkward setup (hearing the exciting news of a discount off a flat-screen TV in a kitchen) as we see the back of Lee's head watching; later we see him in jacket and tie pitching on a screen within a screen, looking like the Oreck guy.
I list all this not to pile on gratuitously but as a dramatic setup for this simple question: Why is this fourth spot different from all other Chrysler employee-pricing-plus spots?
In it, Iacocca is not hidden behind a newspaper or shot from the back for a silly reveal, and unlike in the other spots, the actors do not drone on about an "award-winning lineup" or projections of value retention. Instead, it's fresh, unexpected and entertaining, and much of the credit goes to Snoop Dogg. Though he's already appeared in many TV spots, Mr. Dogg somehow never wears out his welcome. He energizes the scene with his comic physicality, unexpected leisure-wear and unique dialogue (a compilation of his trademark izzle-isms, made famous during his MTV show, Doggy Fizzle Televizzle.)
Most important, unlike Jason Alexander reprising his decade-old Seinfeld role as loser George, Snoop is a contemporary pop-culture figure with a relevant connection to Chrysler. A car buff, he famously left a message last year for Chrysler Group's CEO, asking for the innovative new Chrysler 300.
"What I gotta do to get that brand-new 300 up outta you?" he asked on the message, which the company later released. "Get back in contact with my nephew so you can make it happen, then it's official like a referee's whistle. If you want this car to blow, give it to me. This is Snoop Dogg. Preach!"
So now he is preaching on behalf of the brand. He drives up in a cherry-red Dodge truck. Given his love for the 300, it does seem odd that no cars (not even his favorite sedan) are seen in the spot. (Turns out the 300 is not among those discounted.) Still, the tricked-out golf cart with oversized chrome wheels that both guys ride is hilarious, and the golf-course backdrop (ultimate old, rich, retired white-guy turf) also provides a rich comic setting.
But back to the truck. "Nice ride," the former chairman says, as S.D. hops out in a beguiling, goofy golf getup, complete with cap and his initials on his vest. "Thank you, Moca- cocca," Snoop responds, and he's off, going from zero to 60, shizzlewise, though most of the language is undecipherable until the fourth or fifth viewing. (That's also refreshing—that you actually want to see the spot again to try to figure out what he's saying.) For instance, he says, "Dodge trucks last as long as the D.O. double jizzle," which is a slightly more comic way of saying the "vehicles are projected to retain their value better than GM or Ford"—the wording in previous commercials.
Once they're in the golf cart, Snoop says, "Plus I got the hook-up nephew, for sure" (a reference to what he said on the tape—hook-up nephew here equals employee, or family, discount).
Meanwhile, they're out of the cart, and walking side by side on the course, for more comic juxtaposition. Lee's forward-walking thing was a trademark of the Chrysler revival spots in the '80s—literally forcing the company to move ahead with his own famous Iacocca-motion. Except here he's not in a suit but his own country-clubbish golf outfit, and as George Costanza might say, Ban-Lon is not flattering on anyone. But he does speak for everyone when he turns to Snoop and says, "You know, I'm not too sure of what you just said, but now everyone gets a great deal."
I'm not crazy about Snoop's coda, "If the ride is more fly, then you must buy." It's a clever version of "If you can find a better car, buy it," but I'm tired of any and all glove-doesn't-fit-you-must-acquit references.
There's another button at the end, though, that is comedy magic: a shot of Snoop whacking the ball with an earnest but unfathomably bad swing. (Put it this way—as a thing of sheer physical beauty, it's pretty much the opposite of Tiger's hacky-sack spot.)
Only in America, kids, could you have a former pimp and drug user and a retired CEO who once tried a hostile takeover of the company make beautiful music together in a commercial on a golf course. What does that say about healing, forgiveness and self-reinvention? I have no idea, but it's gonna sell some Chryslers.
Chief creative officers
Gary Topolewski, Bill Morden
Chris Randolph, Universal Images