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Bruce Springsteen breaks longstanding refusal to appear in adverts by promoting Jeep (and unity)

By | Published on Monday 8 February 2021

Bruce Springsteen

Among the various artists who appeared in adverts during the TV broadcast of America’s big old Super Bowl last night – Cardi B, Dolly Parton, Post Malone, to name three – one was a particularly unexpected sight. Bruce Springsteen has spent his entire career steadfastly refusing to allow his music or face to be used to sell shit. But there he was, hawking Jeeps.

It took some doing to get him to crack though, admits Olivier François, who is Chief Marketing Officer for Jeep’s parent company Stellantis. “I wasn’t aware of the one thing that all of America was totally aware of, which is that Bruce Springsteen doesn’t do commercials”, Francois tells the New York Times, recalling when he first broached the idea of a Jeep ad with the musician’s manager John Landau a decade ago.

Still, apparently not one to give up on an idea, Francois says that he continued to “respectfully pitch” to Landau over “many drinks and dinners” for the next ten years, despite knowing that changing his mind was “a very long shot”. And guess what, kids? Persistence pays off.

Now, perhaps earlier I painted a picture of Springsteen standing in a showroom, detailing all the latest Jeep-type features in this Super Bowl commercial he’s in. But that’s not what happens at all.

I’m sure that’s not what Francois was pitching for all those years anyway. But if the marketing chief did suggest any specific ideas for the ad, they did not feature. Because Springsteen’s big condition to take part in the commercial was creative control to the point that Jeep did not even know what he was doing.

That’s quite a big ask of the brand when making a two minute advert, given that securing just 30 seconds of air time during the American football game costs more than $5 million. But, says Landau, “Bruce made the film exactly as he wanted to, with no interference at all from Jeep”.

Having reached the agreement over creative control, Springsteen resisted the urge to then deliver something entirely unusable. Instead he took the opportunity of having an audience of 100 million people to extend the same message of unity he delivered during the recent US presidential election.

In the advert, he drives a Jeep around the town of Lebanon, which sits in the exact centre of the United States, to tell everyone to start getting along.

“Fear has never been the best of who we are”, he says in a voiceover. “And as for freedom, it’s not the property of just the fortunate few. It belongs to us all. Whoever you are, wherever you’re from, it’s what connects us and we need that connection. We need the middle. We just have to remember the very soil we stand on is common ground”.

Springsteen is alone for the entire advert – the only other people in it briefly appearing through the window of a diner. I’m not sure what that means. Is he waiting for everyone to agree with him? Or maybe he wants everyone to unite against him? Who knows? It all looks a bit like an episode of ‘The Walking Dead’ to me.

It also has a level of sentimentality that I think might usually be considered just a little too much. These aren’t normal times, though, and with the ad airing during a football game where most of the audience in the stadium was made up of cardboard cutouts, maybe people might be up for a bit of sentimentality and unity.

Anyway, you can watch the ad for yourself here: