Jeep relaunch campaign was the turning point for Chrysler – and maybe Wieden+Kennedy too

Wieden+Kennedy seems to be top of every client’s wish list at the moment: why, you might ask?

Obviously they’re pretty good and have been for 30 years now. But for most of those 30 years they were a minority taste with a small number of big clients, chiefly Nike, and rather more smaller ones.

Now however they’re hoovering up big clients like there’s no tomorrow, winning Brown-Forman, Levi’s and a big slice of Procter & Gamble. The agency’s Portland office is also pitching against DraftFCB for Oreo’s Super Bowl effort and BBDO for P&G’s Gillette.

P&G’s Old Spice was, until recently, its most famous campaign but the one which really seems to have struck a chord with corporate America is Chrysler. Like Old Spice this is a case of reviving a brand on its uppers but one which means rather more to the world at large than a shaving product.

With Chrysler it’s not just that it’s been brilliant advertising but advertising that tries to do rather more than it usually does; lifting the spirits of a whole major region, the one around Detroit, and, by extension the country as a whole. Big clients wrestling with an economic downturn that just won’t go away clearly think they need these guys on their team.

And which Chrysler campaign marked the turnaround, not just for the client but, to a degree, the agency? Not, according to W+K ECD John Jay and Chrysler boss Sergio Marchionne, the ground-breaking Eminem ‘Made in Detroit’ or the later Super Bowl epic with Clint Eastwood. It was this one from 2010 for the revamped Jeep Grand Cherokee.

And it’s all there isn’t it? The epic tone, the soft sell, the made in America, the hymn to craftsmanship. Many of the elements you find (not so happily maybe) in the new Facebook campaign.

“The Jeep was a turning point for Chrysler and was when our working relationship and creative work moved to a next level,” Jay said earlier this week. “There was so much at stake for that car to prove there was a new Chrysler in its devotion to product quality.”

Maybe this is the ‘Artisanal Advertising’ we’re hearing about these days. Certainly makes more sense in this context than the tech brand it’s currently being applied to.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.