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Springsteen calls for Americans to meet in 'the middle' in Jeep Super Bowl ad

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen calls upon Americans to meet in “the middle” in a two-minute Jeep advertisement set to air during the second half of Sunday’s Super Bowl LV game.

Like other spots this year from competitors and other companies, Jeep emphasizes a message over its metal following a tense election year and as the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into Year 2 in some parts of the United States.

Singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen stars in Jeep's Super Bowl LV ad called "The Middle" about finding common ground.

“It’s no secret the middle has been a hard place to get to lately between red and blue, between servant and citizen, between freedom and our fear,” Springsteen says in the voiceover of a video depicting snow-covered landscapes and city scenes. “As for freedom, it’s not just the property of the fortunate few. It belongs to us all.”

But despite the commercial being made to “the ReUnited States of America,” it’s a message more spiritual than political, says Olivier Francois, Stellantis NV’s global chief marketing officer. The ad directed by Thom Zimny centers on a small chapel in Lebanon, Kansas, that marks the middle of the continental United States with a few glimpses of a 1980 Jeep CJ-5 and 1965 Willys Jeep CJ-5 in the peaceful settings filmed also in Colorado and Nebraska.

Although Springsteen narrated a campaign ad for President Joe Biden and has criticized Biden's predecessor, Francois says the spot is not taking a political stance. Instead, it’s meant to convey the authentic and Americana image of Jeep.

“It’s very clear that these times have been really filled with high emotions on all sides, and they have some divide in the country,” Francois said. “He’s obviously not taking any stance. He stands for the middle and in the middle. The objective was to create this healing message.

“It’s a prayer. We wanted it to be the most spiritual commercial in the history of Super Bowls.”

Singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen stars in Jeep's Super Bowl LV ad called "The Middle" centered around the U.S. Center Chapel in Lebanon, Kansas, that marks the middle of the continental United States.

Francois felt some pressure in developing this year’s spot. Last year’s recreation of the 1993 comedy “Groundhog Day” starring actor Bill Murray and the Jeep Gladiator pickup won USA Today’s ad meter that tracks public opinion and received an Emmy nomination. Meanwhile, 2021 marks a decade after the “Imported from Detroit” Chrysler spot featuring Eminem and is Jeep’s 80th anniversary. Plus, the ad will be Stellantis’ first since Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV and Groupe PSA merged last month.

Some more humorous ideas were developed and will be used to promote the company in the future, but they didn't quite hit the benchmark for this one, Francois said.

“The Super Bowl is expensive,” he said, though the company declined to disclose how much it paid for the ad. A 30-second spot goes for about $5.6 million, according to media reports.

“And if we want to make this expensive media worth something, there’s only one way to go, which is making an impact and leave a lasting impression.”

Francois knew he needed a “legend.” He had wanted to work with Springsteen before; the answer always was no. But he formed a friendship with Jon Landau, Springsteen’s manager. Francois sent him the script for “The Middle” around the new year. Springsteen agreed to be a part of the creative process.

Singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen stars in Jeep's Super Bowl LV ad called "The Middle" about finding common ground.

“Olivier Francois and I have been discussing ideas for the last ten years and when he showed us the outline for ‘The Middle,’ our immediate reaction was, ‘Let’s do it,’” Landau said in a statement. “Our goal was to do something surprising, relevant, immediate and artful.”

The creators had contemplated using a Springsteen song like “There Goes My Miracle” for the ad, but the artist ultimately insisted on creating an original score for the piece with frequent collaborator Ron Aniello.

It was filmed over five days as late as last Sunday. The campaign was created in partnership with Detroit’s Doner agency.

“We need the middle,” Springsteen says in the ad. “We just have to remember the very soil we stand on is common ground.”

bnoble@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble