New Iacocca Chrysler Commercial Not A Hit


The verdict is in. No one likes the new Lee Iacocca/Jason Alexander Chrysler commercial. Well, at least no one in the ad industry that is a member of the Adrants discussion group. Even so, wondering whether bringing Iacocca back was effective, one member did an informal survey of people under 40 and found none knew who that old, gray-haired guy sitting behind the desk was. When told it was Lee Iacocca, the man who saved Chrysler from extinction, many replied, "Oh, whatever."

Again, we question the wisdom of trying to recreate a previous success. Whether it be an idea-less Hollywood remake or an attempt at mirroring the cult-like success of a previous ad campaign, rarely, if ever, does the follow up come anywhere near the success of the first effort. Having Alexander approach Iacocca from behind as he did many times the back of Steinbrenner in Seinfeld is simply layering another has been success on top of another. Iacocca should have said no to this. Alexander should have said no. Those who came up with the idea for this should have said no. In spite of these failures occurring over and over and over, it never seems to register with those who insist upon borrowing from past successes (think Hilltop/Chilltop) instead of creating something original.

by Steve Hall    Jul-27-05   Click to Comment   
Topic: Commercials, Creative Commentary   

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What I hate about the commercial isn't Iacocca, it's Jason Alexander. He's so clearly "doing" George Costanza that it seems rather desperate. Jason, "Seinfeld" isn't being produced anymore--move on.

Posted by: Jim Donahue on July 27, 2005 10:39 AM

Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Posted by: American Copywriter on July 27, 2005 10:47 AM

Even worse, getting stars who are best remembered for past glory makes Chrysler look like it is playing catch-up: which it is in this case against General Motors. We blogged this spot yesterday at the ThirdWay Advertising Blog -

Posted by: David Vinjamuri on July 27, 2005 11:36 AM

Brent Green' s boomer book hits the nail on the head. most new-big ($$$) cars are sold to boomers. they all remember LI. Seinfeld still holding its own with ad dinero. spot bookings are like in your dreams. if you didn't get it---that's alright. You were never the target.

Posted by: mac on July 27, 2005 11:52 AM

They hate this ad at too:

You can blame BBDO-Detroit for this lousy ad. It's all junk coming out of BBDO-Detroit these past few years. And this ad is just plain stupid on so many many levels.

Posted by: SpaceMonkey on July 27, 2005 1:09 PM

OMG, shoot me if you must, I thought this guy was Steinbrenner. And I agree with Mr. Donahue, some uninspired acting here by Jason Alexander.

Aaaah, car dealership advertising. The excitement never ends...

Posted by: Jean-Marc Demers on July 27, 2005 1:31 PM

I agree that its Jason Alexander that is the most annoying.

Geez, the ad came on as i'm writing this and i didnt realize before that LI busts the 'yadda yadda yadda' line. terrible


Posted by: Dario Meli on July 27, 2005 1:33 PM

I'm only 30 and I knew it was LI. Sure, the commercial sucks but the thing that I can't get over is that JA's hair is exactly the same as Dilbert's boss.

Posted by: sayten on July 27, 2005 1:39 PM

Lee Iacocca is a legend with the intended target market. He can stand on his own; Jason Alexander is certianly not a value-add in my opinion.

You would think with Jason's bank balance he could at least afford clothes that fit - even in his George Costanza days his clothes fit.

Go with the icon - Iacocca and don't be afraid to reference his days when he turned the ailing Chrysler Company from loser to big winner.

Posted by: bpvendramin on July 27, 2005 1:41 PM

This spot is a car wreck of epic proportions. The fact that such idiocy can actually be filmed and produced sugggests that an entire team of alleged marketing and advertising executives simultaneously had their heads firmly up their behinds. It is layer upon layer of obscure iconography that I watch horrified, from between splayed fingers.

Posted by: Potfry on July 27, 2005 1:43 PM

Thank you! I see this commercial 20 times a day and I find it annoying because I feel like I am not in on the joke. I had no clue to who that guy was.

Posted by: L.I. on July 27, 2005 2:12 PM

FINALLY, someone bagged on BBDO for creating and selling this ridiculous campaign.

Who directed it? People shouldn't be just blaming the actors -- this campaign has plenty of bad decisions to ridicule.

My guess is that some BBDO talent buyer or producer, sensing it was going to be bad, negotiated to shoot all the spots at once to "save Chrysler money" while ensuring BBDO got every penny they could for producing way too many spots.

Posted by: Edward on July 27, 2005 2:15 PM

I'll tell you why I think this ad doesn't get it in so many ways besides the annoying peformances:

First of all, if Iacocca is being brought back as the image of Chrysler, why in hell does he need research on Chrysler...shouldn't he already know this shit?

Most embarrassing is the disconnect with today's consumer...George (er. Jason) runs through a littany of product attributes at which time Iacocca scoffs "you forgot the most important part THE DEAL". Really? You think the import brands have been eating your lunch because of deals, instead of building superior products??? Hardly, the new consumer buys on functions & attributes AND then price. You can't blame that on acting, only on bad creative strategy.

Someone get BBDO-DET a time machine and set it to 2005 for them.

Posted by: Greg Johns on July 27, 2005 2:41 PM

Ads that use nostalgia for past success signals a company that has vision block. If there is no optimism and/or a distinct plan for evolving the brand for the future, it might say that the company feels that they are becoming irrelevant. And they might be right.

Posted by: mb on July 27, 2005 3:27 PM

Lee I-Want-A-Coca is a schmuck who got taxpayer money to bail out a loser company.

Screw him and his "If you can find a better car, buy it" idiot line.

We have found way better cars, Lee, and we are buying them, in case you haven't noticed.

"Buy my product. Why? Because I make it." is not smart advertising, but this is what most commercials are really saying behind the dancing girls, meat and sex, old rock music, and bad acting.

"If you can find a better [____] buy it" is probably the stupidest line ever.

No creativity to it. No marketing logic. No consumer psychology. Nothing.

Written by a coke head alcoholic who just barely made the copy deadline. The creative director should be tortured on C SPAN for the whole world to see.

Posted by: steven streight aka vaspers the grate on July 27, 2005 9:39 PM

I agree with the previous commentors, in that Jason Alexander is less than stellar in this ad. However, I was surprised when Iacocca was in the ad. I was a fan of the story of Iacocca, so I thought it paid nice homage to him.

Wouldn't make me want to buy a Chrysler car though...

Posted by: JODSTER on July 28, 2005 6:58 AM

"Lee I-Want-A-Coca is a schmuck who got taxpayer money to bail out a loser company."

Uh, Mr. Streight, you want to do a little more research there, pal. That "loser" company not only paid back the loan, but did so ahead of schedule. Why do you think Mr. I-Want-A-Coca's autobiography was such a huge best seller? Because Chrysler tanked? Get your facts "Streight" next time.

Say what you want about the "If you can find a better car, buy it" line, it was a fairly gusty move at the time. How many car companies have the wontons to put their mouth where their money is?

That being said, what worked in 1980 doesn't work in 2005. The line has the unfortunate effect of reminding those viewers who remember of Chrysler's earlier difficulties.

Oh, and the commercial itself sucks big time.

Posted by: Zulu as Kono on July 28, 2005 9:42 AM

In order to capitalize on L.I., I think they needed to tell a story about him and his relationship with Chrysler. THEN - have him make the repeat pitch. "nothing's changed, you still can't find a better car".

There are so many ways to leverage his legendary status that I'm appalled that the creatives couldn't come up with anything else.

Jason desperately needs to reestablish his brand. He's become the commercial spokes person for hire and an annoying one at that.

Posted by: Bruce DeBoer on July 28, 2005 11:19 AM

I agree! Jason Alexander is a huge sell-out RAT!

Posted by: luzer on August 2, 2005 10:55 PM

When I fist saw the new Chrysler spots I was rather excited about Iacocca coming back. But, after seeing the commercial with Jason Alexander, I am very disappointed that they chose a "has-been" like Alexander to do their pitching. They guy couldn't sell chips. How did they figure he could sell cars?
NOW...IACOCCA and SNOOP DOG?...That's a MATCH Made in advertising heaven.

Posted by: GIGOOS on August 5, 2005 3:18 PM

I know all the posts here are about the ad itself, but no one seems to realize the "why" behind Lee Iacocca's agreement to appear.

Instead of paying Iacocca any compensation for the ads, Chrysler will donate $1 for every car the Chrysler Group sells from July 1st through the end of the year to the Join Lee Now Campaign ( This campaign seeks to raise funding for Dr. Denise Faustman's human clinical trials to be held at Massachusetts General Hospital for a possible CURE for Type 1 Diabetes. She cured mice with a cheap and permanent treatment, and she's been FDA-approved to begin human trials. 100% of the money raised here will go to fund these groundbreaking trials.

Mr. Iacocca's wife died from Type 1 diabetes complications 20 years ago, and he promised her before she died that he would do what he could to help find the cure in his lifetime. He's 80 now, and he's running out of time. His foundation ( has funded over $20 million in research over the past 20 years, and this is the first real chance for a cure. No transplants or toxic immunosuppressant drugs will be needed!

Watch the ads again with this in mind. You might find yourself chuckling a bit at the humor behind this, and smiling because you know it's for a good cause. My 3-year-old daughter has Type 1 diabetes, and this what you all are calling a "sucky" ad campaign has people talking - and hopefully they're also talking about the "why".

THIS is why he did it - not to try to save Chrysler. It's a means to an end.

THIS is why people will buy the Chrysler cars. I was in the market for a minivan, and I chose the Dodge Grand Caravan. Not because of these ads, but because I know that Chrysler is donating money to a cause that may cure my baby girl. Now that's PR!!

I can't wait to see the Snoop Dog/Iacocca "golf buddies" ad that's supposed to start airing tomorrow. Everyone will be talking at the water cooler over this one. Just remember to also talk about the "why".

Posted by: Stacy on August 5, 2005 11:28 PM


All good. I agree. We did lose sight of that. But the ads don't promote it much and just $1 per car? I have no idea how many cars Chrysler sells in a year but even it it were 500,000 or 1,000,000, that's a drop in the bucket for Chrysler. Before the sneers, I grant it's not a drop in the bucket for a charity that needs money. Yes, we lost sight but I think they should promote it more.

Posted by: Steve Hall on August 6, 2005 9:13 AM

I can't imagine why Chrysler would want someone who is probably a homicidal psychopath to represent their company in the first place. It doesn't seem to be good marketing.

I had to read the court transcripts and do research on the development of the Ford Pinto (spearheaded by Lee Iacocca) when I was still in college, it was very chilling.

At one point Lee calls in an actuary to calculate how many people will be killed if they don't fix the gas tank defect and how much the settlements are likely to cost. He then makes the business decision to kill several hundred people rather than having the production date of the car slip.

According to Ford's estimates, the unsafe tanks would cause 180 burn deaths, 180 serious burn injuries, and 2,100 burned vehicles each year. It calculated that it would have to pay $200,000 per death, $67,000 per injury, and $700 per vehicle, for a total of $49.5 million.

Lee Iacocca was fond of saying, "Safety doesn't sell", later he learned that murdering his customers, by burning them alive, didn't sell either.

Safety wasn't a popular subject around Ford when Lee was in charge. Whenever a problem was raised that meant a delay on the Pinto, Lee would chomp on his cigar, look out the window and say "Read the product objectives and get back to work."

As Chairman of Chrysler he produced the K-car, probably one of the worst cars ever produced.

So, overall, it's probably good that most people don't remember who Lee Iacocca was or even recognize him in the commercials.

My guess is that Chrysler probably doesn't play up his humanitarian efforts because a little digging reveals what a bastard he is.

Posted by: Doug on August 6, 2005 10:46 AM


Chrysler will donate an initial $1 million, and then they will donate the $1 per car sold in the second half of this year by the Chrysler Group. To give you perspective, they sold 1.3 million cars the first half of the year. Chrysler will later promote the cause, but not as part of the current ad campaign. Whenever there's any written press about Iacocca's appearance, however, the Join Lee Now cause is supposed to be mentioned. Here's one of the many articles about the ad campaign and the donation deal:

Advertising Age did a market survey, and they are finding that the ads are actually working. Check out this link:

Here's a transcript where Iacocca was on ABC News "This Week":

This one is from the Detroit News; they were there at the filming of the Snoop/Iacocca ad, and it's actually a great article, in my opinion. Here, you can also view all 4 of the ads:

No matter what any of you say about him, and perhaps I feel this way because this cause is so close to my heart, he's a visionary.

The only reason Dr. Faustman's research is where it is today is because of Lee Iacocca. I heard her speak at a recent fundraising event about this. Mr. Iacocca provided her and her team with a safety net to do research on end-stage diabetic mice (a population of mice that no one in the past had been willing to test on, because if the tests didn't produce positive data, their research careers could end - no funding, no job!). He told her that he would not only fund her work on these mice, the ones that are most like human diabetics, that regardless of her results, he would fund her another 3 years.

It's because of this safety net that we now know that if the autoimmunity (the disease itself) is halted, then the body WILL REGENERATE AND HEAL ITSELF. Until this discovery was made, not even the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) believed this could happen. That's why JDRF funds embryonic stem cell research and transplants, when it may turn out that diabetics won't need them!

Wait and see, Lee Iacocca's legacy will not be the bad decisions he made in his past - it will be that he funded the researcher that cured Type 1 Diabetes. Maybe it took doing some silly ads for Chrysler with Jason Alexander and Snoop Dogg. The cure will be what he is remembered for, and why EVERYONE will recognize him forevermore.

Thanks for reading my own rant! Obviously, I feel passionate about this. Please go to the below website and read about this, and of course, donate!

Posted by: Stacy on August 8, 2005 8:51 AM

Instead of ".... better car, buy it", should be".... better deal, take it"

Posted by: miles on August 15, 2005 9:19 AM

Shame on all of you who are critizing Mr. Iacocca's efforts. How quickly you forgot all of the good he did back in the 80s. He took $1 salary to save 17,000 jobs at Chrysler. Appointed by President Reagan, he lead the restoration of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, raising half a billion dollars from the American people. And for the last 20 years, 20 million dollars later, has been on a mission to find a cure for diabetes.

I have a 6 year old little girl with type 1 diabetes. Anyone who has had the unfortunate encounter with this disease would understand our passion for a cure. I happen to know this man personally. Let me assure all of you, he is one of the most incrediable and humble men I have ever met. He is doing everything in his power to cure diabetes. There has been a breakthrough in diabetes history and he is doing everything in his power to get it to human clinical trials. ( for more info)

It takes money to fund innovative research. Let me assure you, our government, the health care industry, nor pharmaceutical companies are not knocking down his door to fund this inexpensive possible cure. It takes someone bold and passionate willing to do whatever it takes to make this happen.

Do your part, avoid doing what I did and become involved with a disease because I had to. I am asking all of you to reconsider ranting on this further. Please help spread the word about the why behind it all. If you have a better idea of how he can raise the funds, go to and post your thoughts.

His best quote of all, "Of all the things I have been blessed with and they are good. But if I can leave a legacy of being involved in the cure of diabetes, that is fullfillment in life." A man who once had everything most of us dream of, wants to leave behind the a legacy that will help millions of us.

Posted by: Christina Smith on August 15, 2005 6:26 PM

What LI is doing for type I diabetes is certainly noble. I'm sure what he has done in the past is commendable. But trotting this relic out to hock cars is absolutely the most desperate thing I've ever seen. I am soooo tired of being bludgeoned by these commercials that I googled a message board to see if anyone else felt the same way. Could these commercials be any hokier? There is NOTHING clever, witty, or remotely comical anywhere in these ridiculous spots. And this includes the inept Snoop ads too. Snoop Dogg paired with LI? Who the HELL is this supposed to appeal to? I'm 40 years old, and I sure don't get it. And spare me the one with his granddaughter, who wasn't even born when he ran Chrysler, spewing his cornball line. LI comes off as a brittle old man as relevant to today's world as leisure suits and mood rings. The people responsible for this train wreck should be imprisoned.

Posted by: Mike on August 25, 2005 8:41 PM

After seeing all these Chrysler commercials, I have to wonder if there's something wrong with LI. He seems to have only one or two lines on camera for each commercial. They do use more of his audio off camera. Can he not do more than one line at a time? The commercials really seem like they're written and edited around a medical problem.

Posted by: Brendan on August 29, 2005 4:21 PM

I attended a fundraiser for Join Lee Now at the beginning of April, and I assure you, nothing is wrong with Mr. Iacocca other than he is 80 years old. He does walk slowly for the most part, but that's all. When he spoke, he was energetically charismatic, as well as passionate about finding the cure for Type 1 Diabetes.

I did notice how edited the spots seem, and I think it's just that the man's not an actor! I still think they are funny, and when you remember why he's doing it, you become less judgemental, at least I did. I was just so excited to know these ads represented an additional $2M toward Dr. Faustman's research that I watch every time with a huge grin, no matter how often they run them!

Posted by: stacy on September 1, 2005 2:41 PM