Chrysler Group LLC was once again one of the big winners in the Super Bowl ad battle, scoring with a military-themed spot narrated by Oprah Winfrey and another highlighting farmers that underscored the automaker's attempts to rehabilitate its image by playing to viewers' patriotism.
The commercials Chrysler aired during Sunday's Super Bowl continued a winning trend that started two years ago with a spot featuring Eminem and last year's popular two-minute ad starring Clint Eastwood.
"Chrysler has now identified itself with an auteur style," said Robert Thompson, professor of television and popular culture at Syracuse University. "You can spot a Chrysler ad from a quarter of the game away."
Chrysler has used the last three Super Bowls as a canvas to reinvent its image after emerging from bankruptcy in 2009 under the control of Italy's Fiat SpA. This year's ads saluted U.S. troops and farmers as a way to tout the Jeep and Ram truck brands. Both ads scored highly in media polls after the game.
"Chrysler is really focused on building their brands on an emotional level," said Tim Calkins, a professor at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management who oversees an annual Super Bowl ad review panel.
The Jeep ad entitled "Whole Again" - which encouraged support of U.S. troops returning home from duty overseas and was narrated by Winfrey - scored one of only six grades of "A" in the Northwestern panel.
The ad ran during halftime immediately after the performance by singer Beyonce, in the same spot where the company received raves last year for Eastwood's "Halftime in America" commercial. The Ram truck's "Farmer" spot ran during the fourth quarter.
Chrysler Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne flew about 10 hours from meetings in Europe so he could attend a company party at a bar, where senior management and their families watched the ads being aired during the Super Bowl.
The company said in its 2011 annual report that the improved brand equity generated by such campaigns as the Eminem commercial, which touted the comeback of Detroit while showing its American-made Chrysler 200 sedan, have helped boost demand for higher-profit vehicles.
While Chrysler may be controlled by an Italian company, Marchionne assured Detroit radio station WJR in a Monday interview that the automaker "is as American as it was when it was founded and it will stay that way forever.
"Those commercials, by the way, as much as I think they're important for the brands and for the