I’m Clint Eastwood and I Approve This Message

Keach Hagey brings the backstory on the already-legendary SuperBowl ad for Chrysler, and it’s fascinating.

Mark Fitzloff, an executive creative director at Wieden + Kennedy, the advertising agency that made the commercial, has previously and publicly thought through the challenges of producing the kind of ad that Republicans are accusing his company of producing. The day after the 2010 elections, he joined three other advertising executives for a Harper’s Magazine panel charged with thinking up a hypothetical Super Bowl ad for the federal government.

Read it all, and you figure out what John Dickerson figured out quickly: Yes, this was an earnest, pro-government advertisement. In an NPR interview after the Harper’s special, Fitzloff outed himself as a lover of togetherness and compromise. “I think actually the best case of advertising I’ve seen for the government recently,” he said, “is their decision to cross the aisles and sit together at the State of the Union Address.”

Still, at that time, the pro-government ad sounded impossible – a lark.

FITZLOFF: [W]e created the “Halftime Special,” sponsored by the federal government. And so we have Stephen Colbert hosting the halftime show. And what he is setting out to do is during the course of the “Halftime Special,” watch the approval ratings go from the crapper to the top of our little meter.

SIEGEL: Your meter has some interesting levels, levels of public attitude toward the government.

Mr. FITZLOFF: There’s obvious ones like man on the Moon. And then some slightly tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic ones like mission accomplished. The kind of ultimate is the queen mother herself, Oprah coming out and rewarding everyone with free cars, which is all you really need to shoot the approval ratings up.

The eventual product wasn’t funny at all! It was pure cornpone patriotism, with an undercurrent of support for the auto bailout.