A couple of disclaimers/bias notices up front:

  • Bob Dylan is one of my all-time favorite musicians – if I was trapped on a desert island for eternity his discography would be the soundtrack for that eternity.
  • I do also really like the commercial I’ll be discussing, as well as the Chrysler 200. It’s a classy, well-built vehicle.

Now, watch this:

Ever since I first saw it, this ad has been driving me crazy for one reason – it is an excellent example of an effective Predispositions/Research/Insights argument based on the Principles format.

Right out of the gates, we get a predisposition to end all predispositions. “Is there anything more American than America?” Predispositions are meant to be something you agree with and understand easily. Dylan’s question is so logically circular that you can’t hope to think of an alternative answer. There isn’t anything more American than America, because America is American. BOOM.

And it’s clear Dylan knows this is the king of all predispositions, because he doesn’t bother with anymore assumptions and jumps right into his research and insights. In fact, the rest of the commercial is his research and insights – as a purely persuasive argument, he doesn’t need the back half of PRInCiPleS (or does he? Comment and tell me what you think!).

Dylan begins listing his claims: “You can’t import original. You can’t fake true cool. You can’t duplicate legacy. Because what Detroit created…became an inspiration to the rest of the world.” As pure text, these sound unfounded at best, hubristic at worse. However, the commercial’s visuals act as the “research” in this example.

“You can’t import original.” Bob Dylan himself, Marilyn Monroe, and Dr. J flash across the screen.

“You can’t fake true cool.” James Dean, Harleys, and a tattoo of Rosie the Riveter.

“You can’t duplicate legacy.” The tattoo switches to a real poster of Rosie the Riveter, and then fades to Dylan decending in an old-timey elevator.

“Because what Detroit created was a first, and became an inspiration to the rest of the world.” Early 20th century racing footage plays, and transitions to an “AUTOBAHN” sign.

Frankly, I could do this for every line in the rest of the commercial. Every claim Dylan makes is directly supported with visual evidence. And even the subjects themselves reinforce the initial answer to Dylan’s initial question about America – many of the references and individuals would only be recognizable to an American audience.

This is a fascinating comparison to me. Clearly, the commercial’s intent is to sell Chryslers. And yet, it fits so nicely into a framework of design thinking and argument. Perhaps designers should think twice before poo-pooing the marketer’s job.

On another note – grad school has ruined my ability to watch TV.