Jeep, the car brand owned by Fiat Chrysler, has revealed how it tapped into patriotism in a positive way, steering clear of political controversy, with its “More Than Just Words” ad.

Appearing at the Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) 2019 Brand Masters Conference, Olivier François, chief marketing officer at Fiat Chrysler Automotive, shed light on the “More Than Just Words” spot Jeep released alongside the 2019 Super Bowl – which drew considerable attention despite not airing during the big game itself.

The spot involved a musical rendition of the national anthem by band OneRepublic, with only a few words from the “Star-Spangled Banner” featuring at the start and end of the performance.

“I loved the fact that you could hear the words in your head,” François said. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: Why Fiat Chrysler waited a year to air its most powerful Jeep ad.)

Jeep’s patriotism was the brand truth underlying the spot, and the commercial aimed to show that it “stands for the United States of America”. Each image in the spot had to satisfactorily represent the right word of the anthem it replaced.

“We had pages and pages of options that were all trying to connect these three [points],” François told the ANA gathering in San Diego, California.

But Jeep knew that, if handled without the requisite nuance, an appeal to patriotism could be controversial at a time of political discord.

“It actually was less of a ball-game than a game of Russian roulette: one mistake and my career would be shot," François said. "We were playing with high stakes.

“We didn't want to go shallow or funny; we had to be respectful. So we decided to trade ‘playful’ for ‘powerful’ – a basic dimension of respect. We then decided to trade Jeep for ‘less product’ and ‘more meaning’ – the second dimension of respect.”

Even though the Jeep brand’s long, proud history as a primary military-transport vehicle carried an implicit association of American pride, François explained, “we still wanted to [say] ‘intent’ in front of ‘product’.”

Sourced from WARC