Whatever Chrysler's new 60-second tv commercials are selling, it sure isn't autos

Is this what they're really selling?

Precisely at nine Friday morning, Richmond time, Chrysler posted (on YouTube) four of the longer, 60-second commercials we warned you were coming.

The spots themselves will start airing on the NCAA men’s basketball finals Saturday, the American Country Music Awards Sunday and “Mad Men” on AMC cable.

When and if you watch them, one question will spring to mind, namely, “Just what is it they’re selling?” Because whatever they’re selling certainly isn’t cars and trucks.

Commercials or product placements?

My online dictionary says an advertisement is “a notice…in a public medium promoting a product, service or event or publicizing a job vacancy.” Which means these new spots from Chrysler aren’t advertisements.

Well, television is “a public medium.” But no way are those :60s “promoting a product, service or event.”

The Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram vehicles in the video are just product placements, much like the Chrysler cars Mark Harmon drives in “NCSI.” Car makes — in fact even references to cars at all — never turn up even once in the voice-over.

So what’s going on here? The answer may lie in the fact that Chrysler is a partly-owned subsidiary of the United States government.

America’s second half or Obama’s fourth quarter?

According to Ad Age, Chrysler’s positioning the campaign as “the next installment” of their controversial two-minute “America at Halftime” Super Bowl spot — but with a difference. “[A]s Chrysler terms it, this is ‘the second half,'” they report, adding that “[t]he new spots…are themed to the same ‘hope and encouragement’ message…”

“Each spot…show[s] the things [people] are doing every day to move forward and win their own second half,” blogged Chrysler/FIAT CMO Olivier Francois. “They are intended to be stories of hope…”

Hmm, “hope.” Where have we heard that before?

Selling points or talking points?

Analyze the content of the voice-overs and end titles, and you’ll find some familiar memes there, too:

  • The troops are coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan: In the commercial called “Shaun in the Challenger,” a Marine returned from deployment talks (in the voice-over) about the war’s toll on his son: “It was hard on him…he had to wait for his father.”
  • Don’t believe your lying eyes; the economy’s really, really recovering: “Mom’s up early, too. She’s got a job now,” (“Jenny in the Jeep Wrangler”) and “I know it’s been hard…You just said, ‘Where there’s a truck, there’s a job…and you were right,'” (“Tommy Ram”).
  • Your disagreement doesn’t matter: “I don’t always agree with him, but he makes the game follow him.” (“My Son Steven“)
  • Vague future promises trump demonstrated failures: “If we can’t find a way, we’ll make one,” (“Jenny” end title). “All that matters is what’s ahead,” (“Shaun” end title).

So maybe these commercials are commercials after all. There’s one criterion in the dictionary definition they do meet; in shorthand and dog whistles, they work to publicize a job vacancy. You know — the one we’ll all be voting to fill the first Tuesday of November.