How Jeep Bruce Springsteen landed for its 2021 Tremendous Bowl advert

Bruce Springsteen starred in and narrated a two-minute Super Bowl ad for Jeep that featured far more Americana and scenery than any other vehicle.

Rob DeMartin for Jeep

Jeep’s Super Bowl commercial starring Bruce Springsteen was a decade in the making, according to Olivier Francois, an automotive marketing manager best known for convincing A-list celebrities to appear in such ads.

Every year since 2011, Francois said he had come up with an idea for a Super Bowl commercial by Springsteen’s manager Jon Landau. It became something of a tradition, although Francois believed there was little chance that this would happen.

Why Springsteen, who had never appeared in a commercial before? It goes back to the automaker’s former CEO Sergio Marchionne, who passed away unexpectedly in 2018. The Italian-Canadian businessman was a fan of the singer and regularly used his music at presentations and events to connect Springsteen’s personality with that of the company.

“What you are really seeing today is 10 years of history,” Francois told CNBC. “We started discussing Bruce – about Bruce, not him, about – with my old boss Sergio. … He loved Bruce Springsteen’s music.”

Francois, head of marketing at Jeep’s parent company Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler), convinced Detroit rapper Eminem and musician Bob Dylan to star in the company’s ads. He even landed Oprah Winfrey for a voice over once. Last year, Francois convinced elusive actor Bill Murray to repeat his role from the 1993 film “Groundhog Day” for a Super Bowl commercial.

He said his “greatest regret” was unable to do the Springsteen commercial while Marchionne was alive. “My biggest regret today is that they never made it to meet. I always promised him that I would make a difference and I delivered a little too late,” said Francois.

Why now?

Francois first featured on Springsteen in a 2012 Super Bowl commercial titled “It’s Halftime in America,” which starred actor Clint Eastwood, another celebrity not known for appearing in ads or to commit to a product or company. The ad featured Eastwood as the national coach and urged the US to learn from the resurgence of the Detroit auto industry.

Francois referred to this year’s ad as the “successor” to this commercial as well as others such as a 2013 Super Bowl commercial called “Farmer”. Both were cinematic, country-specific ads with few actual vehicles.

In this year’s “The Middle” advertisement, Springsteen drives around in an old jeep and talks about a chapel in the center of the country called US Center Chapel in Lebanon, Kansas. He used the extremely small chapel as a base to talk about the country that must “meet here in the middle” before the ad ended with “To the ReUnited States of America”. A website and logos for Jeep followed, which will celebrate its 80th anniversary in 2021.

Bruce Springsteen (left) with Olivier Francois, Stellantis Chief Marketing Officer, while filming the company’s Super Bowl LV ad for Jeep.

Rob DeMartin for Jeep

In a press release, Landau said as soon as they saw the pitch they decided it was something they had to do.

“Olivier Francois and I have been talking about ideas for the past 10 years. When he showed us the design for ‘The Middle’, our immediate reaction was ‘Let’s do it’,” he said. “Our goal was to do something surprising, relevant, immediate and artful. I think that’s exactly what Bruce did with ‘The Middle’.”

Francois believes the message of the ad is in line with Springsteen’s beliefs and has struck the “right balance” between the company’s goal and that of the singer, who narrated a commercial for Joe Biden last year.

According to Francois, Springsteen was closely involved in creating the Jeep ad and worked closely with director Thom Zimny. He wrote and produced the original score for the commercial with another of his frequent collaborators, Ron Aniello.

The ad almost didn’t happen

According to Francois, the commercial with Springsteen almost never happened. After being turned down by the singer’s manager for 10 years, he had decided not to give Landau an idea for Springsteen.

“I think it’s the first year I haven’t asked an agency to crack an idea from Bruce Springsteen,” he said. “I think it took me 10 years to understand that it never happened. Of course I was wrong, but I thought so. And it was also an abuse of John Landau and Bruce’s time.”

Bruce Springsteen starred in and narrated a two-minute Super Bowl ad for Jeep that featured far more Americana and scenery than any other vehicle.

Rob DeMartin for Jeep

Until the Southfield, Michigan-based advertising agency Doner came up with the idea of ​​”The Middle”. After Francois contacted Landau in early January to say a happy new year, he decided to send him the advertising agency’s pitch. Francois said that after receiving the parking space, Landau believed it was “the right message”.

“Yes, he takes a position, but he takes a position for the middle,” said Francois. “It’s not liberal. It’s not republican. It’s just something that tries to stand up for the apolitical. The community.”

The news seems to have resonated with viewers. Since it was posted on YouTube early Sunday morning, the ad has been viewed approximately 24 million times. That’s roughly four times the combined viewership of other Super Bowl ads from General Motors, Toyota Motor, and online car salesman Vroom.

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