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Feb 08

Halftime in America: A personal journey through despair and back again


In: Strategy Insights

by Union

So let’s talk about what was arguably the most discussed commercial of the Super Bowl: Halftime in America starring Clint Eastwood. It's been both lauded for being inspirational and criticized for being overtly political. Was it a rehash of Regan's Morning in America campaign commercial or a stirring reminder of everything that makes America great? Lets go to the video:
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0:04 “It’s halftime.”
Oh wow. Clint Eastwood’s voice sounds really creepy. Showing him emerging from the shadows isn’t helping things either.

0:12 “It’s halftime in America, too.”
W00T! It’s time for music spectaculars! Fireworks and dancing! FCC violations and wardrobe malfunctions! Oh wait, nope strike that. Apparently halftime in America is about sunrises and waking up. Which is odd because that sounds a lot like morning in America. Has anyone involved in this commercial ever seen a halftime show?

0:16 “People are out of work and they’re hurting.”
I now realize I was wrong when I assumed the Chevy apocalypse commercial would be the most depressing commercial of the game.

0:22 “And we’re all scared because this isn’t a game.”
I feel sadness. Despair. I regret my decision to get rid of cable. I could be watching the Puppy Bowl right now, my heart on the verge of exploding from all the cuteness.

0:26 “The people of Detroit know a little something about this, they almost lost everything.”
Tell me about it! I’ve seen the pictures. This is the moment in the commercial when we are introduced to a second metaphor. America is now both halftime and Detroit. I, on the other hand, am just confused.

0:33 “But we all pulled together and now motor city is fighting again.”
Again? What do you mean again? You mean it gave up before?

0:40 “I’ve seen a lot of downturns in my life, and times when we didn’t understand each other.”
Ok, so we’ve left BOTH metaphors behind completely. We’re just talking about how America is sad and angry right now. I think.

0:59 “...we all rallied around what was right and acted as one.”
For some reason the commercial is showing black and white portraits. Who are these people? Are they the ones who rallied? Are they “we”? Is “we” Detroit? Are these people from Detroit? Clint is talking about the troubles he has seen personally, so maybe these are some of his friends. I am not being given enough information!

1:08 “…because that’s what we do.”
Pretty sure that’s the Allstate guy they're showing dropping his kid off at school. I feel like I’m in good hands! The tone of the commercial is shifting!

1:09 “We find a way through tough times and if we can’t find a way we’ll make one.”
Yes! America! Boot straps! We’re on the road now and are driving far away from that football metaphor that took us to the dark place of sadness.

1:16 “All that matters now is what’s ahead…”
Oh, I get it now. Detroit! The quintessential American road trip! Looking forward, the future! The metaphor makes sense!

1:19 “…and how do we come from behind.”
…And I’m lost again. I’m seeing a picture of a car, but Clint is talking about winning and losing. Is “coming from behind” a reference to the passing lane or halftime?

1:22 “How do we come together and how do we win?”
Ok, so we’re definitely talking about football again. I’m also unclear as to who is trying to win. America? Detroit? This isn’t an ad for America, so I have to assume that Detroit is trying to win.

1:25 “Detroit’s showing us it can be done.”
Ok, so it’s America that needs to come from behind and win. I would love some actual facts or figures to back up these claims about Detroit. Morning in America was chock full of facts.

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1:34 “This country can’t be knocked down with one punch...”
Another sports metaphor? Really?

1:38 “…we get right back up again and when we do the world’s gonna hear the roar of our engines.”
Yes! America! Where are my bootstraps? I’m inspired!

1:42 “Yeah…it’s halftime, America. And our second half’s about to begin”
What? We’re back to this again? Too. Many. Metaphors.

1:57 Car logos appear
Well that was a weird pep talk. I don’t really want to buy an American-made car so much as I want to put on an old episode of Friday Night Lights and hear a classic Coach Taylor inspirational speech. In fact, take the audio from this video, put it over pictures of Detroit welders and I’m sold. You don’t even need to mention America, because I’d totally get the connection without the commercial having to spell it out. Clear eyes, full hearts!

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Image credit: AFP


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