Car commercials are getting a lot more aggressive lately. Used to be the worst was that Mistubishi ad with the creepy woman in the beret pop-locking in somebody’s passenger seat like she was having an event. Now it’s hard to watch commercial TV for too long without feeling like you’ve been assaulted.
VW has been all up in everybody’s business, either trying to charm you into buying a Rabbit, scare you into buying a Jetta, or shame you into buying a Passat. The ads for the Rabbit, like the car, would be completely unremarkable and forgettable except for that damn song which grabs on like one of those Wrath of Khan worms. VOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLKSWAAAAAAGEN!
Then those Jetta ads, which don’t seem to be working as hard to sell you cars as they are to freak your shit out. People driving along having some dull conversation so you think it’s an ad for wine coolers or something then BAM! they get T-boned. The ads always end with two people saying “Holy Shit!” — the one in the ad, and me.
Then of course there’s the Passat ads, about “Low Ego Emissions.” I’ve gotta admit I kind of like the concept behind those. And you’ve got to like any series of ads that has a Nemesis. Not long after the Passat ads started, Hummer launched these:
This one also got a “Holy Shit!” out of me. The version posted there on YouTube is the one that’s running now, the one after somebody must have complained. The version I saw ended not with “Restore the Balance” but the real message of the campaign: “Restore Your Manhood.” The other ad in the series is a woman who gets pissed off when a rude woman cuts in front of her son on the playground, and her only recourse is to go out and buy a gas-guzzling Hummer. (She doesn’t even head back to drive the Hummer over the woman’s child, which would’ve at least made some sense).
Before I get lumped in with the “ecofeminist” who posted the YouTube video, and the other tofu defenders complaining about the ad, let me make one thing clear: it’s not the whole “you got to stop being such a damn pussy and start eating steak and drivin’ a big-ass truck and GIT-R-DONE!” that bugs me.
I mean, it’s stupid as hell, but nothing to get all upset on the internets about. Advertisers have been pulling this kind of nonsense for years, trying to grab guys by the short hairs and point and laugh at their flaccidity until they spend money on their whatever. There were a few months at EA where every morning on my way into work I had to walk under a ginormous screen showing an ad mocking guys for being impotent pussies until they bought a copy of Madden or Fight Night or whatever.
But that’s marketing; that’s what they do. There’s some parable that keeps getting trotted out about a scorpion giving a ride to a field mouse or a racoon or something. I forget the details, but it ends with the scorpion killing its passenger and when the passenger asks why he just says “I’m a scorpion” and the moral is that it’s pointless to get angry at a person for being true to his nature. Same goes for ad people: humilating you or flattering you into buying something is their purpose in life. There’s no point in getting all indignant about it.
And that’s why the Hummer ads have me baffled. Being honest is antithetical to what these people do — and if we are going to start seeing truth in advertising from anyone, it’s going to be Hummer?
But with these ads, they’re calling out their core market exactly for what they are — impotent turds with more financial worth than self-worth. They’re coming right out and saying, “You are so hopelessly insecure that even the most mundane of life’s setbacks send you reeling into an impotent rage for which the only solution is to immediately buy a ridiculously oversized, impractical, environment-destroying vehicle that should never have been released to the mass market.” In other words, the exact same message as this parody ad, but for reals.
If other advertisers decide to follow Hummer’s lead and start telling it like it is, I just have one urgent request: please, please, please, stay true to advertising convention and keep urine and menstrual fluid a bright royal blue.