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SALT LAKE CITY — Another Super Bowl has come and gone, taking with it yet another collection of advertising agencies' best pitches to sell their clients' products.
The ads, for many the most anticipated piece of the Super Bowl Sunday pie, sometimes seemed to be reruns from the past, much like the game itself. Talking babies, misbehaving children, aging celebrities: it's all been done before. A Chrysler ad, though, daringly diverged from the rest. It was serious, rather than silly. It was hauntingly real for some, bringing to mind the experiences of themselves or their family and friends. For others, it was a political statement, drawing on the emotions of Americans to make its point.
For all, though, it was a vastly different experience than one would expect when sitting down to perhaps the most anticipated sporting event and advertising bonanza of the year.
It was Halftime in America.
It was a scene that seemed more suited to one of Clint Eastwood's westerns than to a display of athletic pageantry. Eastwood's voice, deep and gravelly, told the story of America's game, voicing over chilling images of a deserted porch, a worried husband, and gradually transitioning to a message of hope: it is halftime, America, but no one knows better how to "come from behind for a win."
It was a reprisal of a theme that has worked its way into Super Bowl commercials in the past, usually to a divided opinion over the theme's merits and the company's storytelling. It began, perhaps, with Apple in 1984. The ad began as a scene from George Orwell's famous dystopian novel, showing countless people in various shades of gray watching Big Brother on a projection screen.
A female in brightly colored clothing, the one source of color for most of the ad, destroys the screen, setting the people free.
"On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like ‘1984,'" print scrolled up the screen.
The commercial, a statement on the conformity of companies such as IBM, is now widely considered a masterpiece in advertising. Steve Jobs, in his 1983 Apple keynote address, explained the intended meaning of the commercial, referring to Apple as "the only force that can ensure (dealers') future freedom."
"Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry?" Jobs asked. "The entire information age? Was George Orwell right?"
The commercial continues to strike a cord with those who see it; perhaps that is why it has come to be considered a classic. It strikes at the heart of America in the same way Chrysler hoped to with its "Halftime" ad.
"The people of Detroit … almost lost everything," Eastwood says in the ad. "But we all pulled together. Now, Motor City is fighting again."
Already, the Chrysler ad has seen a divided response. Its scenes of a new Detroit were viewed favorably by some who have lived through the fall of Motor City.
The ad was "positive reinforcement of what the U.S. can and will do," according to viewer John Weima.
For others, though, the ad was nothing more than a campaign ad for President Obama and the auto industry bailouts.
GOP strategist Karl Rove told Fox News on Monday that the ad was "using our tax dollars to buy corporate advertising."
Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, though, thought the ad, its last half full of scenes of shiny car parts and hard-working family men, was a nice change of pace for a city that has seen more than its share of heartache in the recent past.
"I think the history in Detroit is one that is gritty," he told the Associated Press on Monday. "People have been down, but they get back up and they don't quit."
Some viewers were more concerned with the imagery brought to mind at the thought of America being at "halftime," pointing out that, taken literally, the ad implies that America will cease to exist in the year 2246.
Often, though, it was simply called "inspiring."