Jeep Super Bowl ad has Springsteen play America's heartstrings

Watch Springsteen appear in the first commercial of his entire career, Jeep's Super Bowl ad, "The Middle."

Chris Paukert Former executive editor / Cars
Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015. Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.
Chris Paukert
2 min read

Jeep's new Super Bowl commercial, "The Middle," starring Bruce Springsteen and a 1980 CJ-5, just premiered during the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LV, and it's typical of automaker's Big Game ads. That is to say, it's ambitious and moving, with a soaring message that's much more about who we are as a nation and as people than it is about the business of selling cars and trucks.

Filmed over five days in late January, the long-form advertisement features heartland rocker Springsteen in his first commercial appearance of his nearly 60-year career. The ad is a two-minute heartstring-tugger that urges a bitterly divided America to reconcile with itself, a call to action for the ReUnited States of America. 

The ad centers on a church in Lebanon, Kansas, which the Jeep ad says sits at the geographic middle of the Lower 48. As it turns out, there's significant debate about the validity of this assertion, but for the purposes of artistic metaphor, we'll let that slip for a moment. "It's no secret... the middle has been a hard place to get to lately. Between red and blue. Between servant and citizen. Between our freedom and our fear," The Boss says. That Springsteen's voiceover reads like the lyrics from one of his songs is no coincidence. Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) says the artist was intimately involved with the writing and scoring of the spot.

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Simultaneously celebrating Jeep's 80th anniversary, the long-form ad only shows wisps of the brand's iconic vehicles -- mostly the '80 CT-5, but also an early 1965 version that appears in the background. The ad never so much as surfaces a single new Wrangler or Gladiator. Not showing a new model is an unusual deviation from the typical new-car-ad formula, but the automaker has driven this rare route before, and The Middle is arguably all the more powerful for it.

Once again masterminded by Olivier Francois, the carmaker's chief marketing officer, this ad isn't dissimilar in its patriotic ambition and borderline-political gravity to Chrysler's Halftime in America ad featuring Clint Eastwood, and Farmer, which featured narration from the late radio personality Paul Harvey. By contrast, last year's hit ad Groundhog Day, which saw Bill Murray reprising his iconic movie performance, was a bit lightweight but no less watchable.

"The Middle" aired in its full, two-minute form during the Super Bowl itself, but will only live on online thereafter. You can watch it right here, right now.

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