The Absurdity of the American Car Commercial

bold-dadThe Super Bowl has come and past. Bringing with it a gamut of commercials for everything under the sun from taxes to beer. Unsurprisingly we had our fill of car commercials as well.

This is something that I’ve wanted to write an article on for a while, but I just never had a good catalyst for talking about it. Lucky for me, the Super Bowl provided just such an avenue.

Advertising is a business I know pretty well. I work in marketing right now and you have to constantly be thinking of new ways to get people’s attention. However, over the past few years the industry has sort of strayed from selling you the car to selling you the… I don’t know actually.

This year people were talking about the Chevy “you know you want a truck” commercial where they trolled you into believing your TV went out (my friend totally fell for it.)

I’m sure we could write another article about the ludicrous idea of having WIFI in your truck.

And we won’t even touch the nationwide dead kid ad. No mention of car-crashes there.

Anyway, I digress. The point of this article isn’t to slam the idea of marketing or capitalism, it’s just to point out how nonsensically disconnected these commercials are from actually owning a vehicle.

We’ll start with this one:

Dads seemed to be an overwhelming trend this year, which was nice to see. This Toyota commercial, engineered to tug at the heart, was the sweet story of a dad and his daughter. There relationship forged by years together, playing and laughing, wiping away tears (in the pouring rain?) and other irrevocable events making the relationship what it is today.

All this love brought to you by Toyota. What does that have to do with cars? Nothing. Can we get a clip of them cursing at the guy who cut them off in traffic or the time they spun out into a ditch?

Toyota: When you need to drop your daughter off at the airport in perfect weather conditions.

Moving on…

Again, Dads. This one focuses on the absent father who redeems himself from a life of race car driving / familial negligence by picking his kid up in a Nissan.

Yep. That’s pretty much it. Thanks Nissan. Right in the feels.

If Dad were to have come back in a Hyundai the kid would have probably given him the finger and gone to Jimmy’s house to smoke weed.

Moving on to our final contender…

I’m not sure how I’m supposed to have commentary on this besides the fact that’s it’s just straight propaganda.

This is from the aforementioned “you know you want a truck” series. I can only imagine that this is out of desperation. Chevy is reaching out to try and attract anyone into the expensive and usually unecesarry lifestyle of truck ownership.

In fact, in this series, Chevy simply threw the idea of utility out the window. Live on a farm? Work construction? Lumberjack? You need a truck.

Have beard? Live in the city? Work as a cpa? You know you want a truck…

Stuck in traffic? Gas goes up? Trying to park somewhere downtown? You regret having a truck.

Probably should just call it “sedan people can truck-off” (ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. TOTALLY CALLED THAT ONE BEFORE ANYONE.)

The marketing of cars is interesting. They rarely show car commercials where the car is in a natural environment: Driving on a road with other cars, going to work or doing something mundane. Usually you’re winding through the mountains on a pristine alpine road or you’re just looking at a car in a show room with strobe lights; situations no one finds themselves in.

Cars have crossed the unique threshold where they are selling you a tangible product, but don’t need to advertise it as such. Geico’s commercials are weird and funny, but that’s because you can’t really touch and feel insurance. Car commercials are now getting to the same point because they are so ubiquitous in our existence that we have detached ourselves from them as a product and view them more as an extension of oneself. Yikes.

Hopefully the trend will reverse in the coming Super Bowls (that’s how Americans count years, right?)

P.S. check out the 40 second mark in the post game interview with Tom Brady. They give him the keys to a new truck and he’s like “meh, thanks.”

 

Cover photo from Toyota’s “My Bold Dad” all rights are there or whatever you have to say to not get sued.

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7 Responses to The Absurdity of the American Car Commercial

  1. Andrew B February 6, 2015 at 11:31 am #

    The reality is 99% this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KNiOBz9eTGg

  2. Sam Newberg
    Sam Newberg February 6, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

    I’m so embarrassed to admit getting misty-eyed at the two “dad” commercials. The same ad could have been for beef jerky and I’d still get misty-eyed. Well done, ad agencies!

    The irony in all this is how statistically dangerous it is for kids to be transported by car.

    I personally find that the car is about the last place I want to be with my kids, because I have to watch the road, so I can’t make eye contact with them, cuddle, even have a really engaging conversation. I vastly prefer biking, taking transit, and especially walking with my kids. We need an ad about that – how dads are awesome when they don’t endanger their kids by driving them around, and instead walk side-by-side with them. Ad for good shoes?

    • Adam Miller
      Adam Miller February 6, 2015 at 5:07 pm #

      I have to admit, seeing small kids strapped to bikes always makes me nervous for the kids safety.

      Even though it’s probably more dangerous for them to be in a car.

  3. Nathaniel M Hood
    Nathaniel February 6, 2015 at 3:20 pm #

    There is another issue of the Nissan “Father” commerical … The song is by Harry Chapin, who was killed in a car accident.

  4. Nathan Roisen
    nate February 6, 2015 at 4:43 pm #

    “If Dad were to have come back in a Hyundai the kid would have probably given him the finger and gone to Jimmy’s house to smoke weed.”

    Solid line. I lol’d

  5. aexx February 9, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

    No doubt car advertising is absurd. But is it any more absurd than any other product? You’re rarely sold a product – you’re sold an ideal or a feeling or, very often, a lifestyle.

    And sometimes that feeling has a tangible connection to the real world. I’m thinking of Subaru’s “We lived” commercial. It showed an ugly side to cars that happens all too often – a major automobile collision – and the father’s relief he had a Subaru…because it’s safe.

    The real confusing ads are for perfumes and colognes. Though I suppose it’s hard to sell a smell any other way.

  6. aexx February 10, 2015 at 2:11 pm #

    In absolutely no way do I want a truck…

    …but a few of the commercials have made me laugh. Mostly the one about the guy who would “probably [have] some birds” as pets.

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