Saturday, November 19, 2011

Dissection: Automobile and Auto Dealership Commercials

I don't know what prompted this piece, which ran in Married Punks #13, published in 1998.  I don't think the situation has changed much, though.

Dissection: Automobile and Auto Dealership Commericals

They are as prevalent as bullying cops and Big Johnson shirts.  Car commercials.  You've seen them if you have watched any amount of television.  They're quirky, factual, amusing and just plain annoying.  These monsters, which average three per hour, are there to do one thing: entice you into buying a high-priced machine.  They do it, as does all advertising, through either facts, fear, or by selling an attitude, sometimes combining all three.  Below are a few commercials, the methods they use, and the stupidity behind them, apparent if one takes the time to look.  Advertisers take note.

1.  '98 Camry - A female architect, with the song "Everyday People" playing in the background, makes a little speech about the choices she makes every day.  This ad has almost nothing about the car.  Instead, it plays on professional, career women, and the women who want to be in that position.  It does this by showing the female with a job typically reserved for males, yet creatively innovative, and through the use of a song commonly played on adult-oriented radio heard in offices throughout the country.  Again: there is little factual information about the car in this ad.  This style of advertising that is devoid of facts is usually geared toward males, but the tide is shifting, in turn causing females, who advertisers target the most, to become less educated as far as consumption goes.

2.  Montgomery Ward Auto Liquidation - Roy's Auto Center and Mickey's Quality Cars, both local to Humboldt County, teamed up to bring this sales event to the Montgomery Ward parking lot.  The autos were sold on a "first come first serve basis," and was for a "limited time" only.  While the commercial seems factual, it really doesn't tell much.  To start with, the sale that was for a "limited time" only was extended several times.  Also, since when aren't cars sold on a first come, first serve basis?  What this commercial tries to do is instill a sense of fear into the consumers that are thinking of buying a car.  If they don't hurry, the car they want may be sold to someone else!  And hurry they better, because the sale is only for a limited time.  Apparently this tactic didn't work too well, or all the cars would have been sold and there would have been no need to extend the sale.

3.  Ford Action Heroes Campaign - The Webster's Dictionary defines hero as a "mythical or legendary figure," an "illustrious warrior with great strength," and a person who "shows great courage" or is "admired for achievements and qualities."  Ford defines heroes as people who bring home groceries; ranch hands; and all-terrain vehicle riders.  Ford is not selling cars and trucks here, it is selling an attitude and image.  It wants to make ordinary people doing what they have to do or like to do feel like heroes.  A definite play on the ego.  Ford is hoping that these would-be heroes would rather sit behind the wheel of a Ford instead of donning tights and fighting crime or rescuing children from a burning building.

4.  Mitsubishi Montero Sport - A commerical that spotlights men putting on make-up.  The catch: They're rodeo clowns!  Mitsubishi is being entertaining here, and if you're entertained by this drivel, the company hopes you'll buy a Montero Sport.  End result: Who cares about this vehicle?

5.  Passat - The commercial for this car takes place in a diner.  A man talks about trying new things, focusing mainly on food.  Attitude is what's being sold once again.  This ad reaches out to the person who likes to think that he or she is open to new things.  It's also appealing to the common man/woman by taking place in a diner.  The commercial shows that there really is no difference between deciding on which kind of pie to eat and deciding on a car to buy.  Those of us in the real world know the difference all too well, and this commercial fails in its attempt to lure car buyers to the Passat.

6.  Harper Ford - Humboldt County is known for its pot, but the makers of this commercial must have been using LSD.  It depicts and old man in a backward baseball cap driving a pick-up truck with a dog in the back.  All of this is set to some sort of hip-hop song with the line "cross over the bridge" sung repeatedly.  "Cross over the bridge" is Harper Ford's catchphrase, and it's obviously playing on that.  What the song and the old man have to do with Harper Ford's cars is beyond me.  It's also beyond the woman who answered the phone at Harper Ford.  She didn't want to tell me what the commercial meant, but did offer to connect me to her general manager who was in a meeting(?).  I declined, afraid he might start singing the hypnotic song to me to come in and buy.

These commercials, and many others that are out there polluting the airwaves, are a boil on the already diseased face of television broadcasting.  They are as numerous as bad sitcoms and just as unintelligent.  They miserably fail in their attempts to cajole the consumer into wanting a new car.  Even their feeble ploys to sell image and attitude miss the mark as often as the entertainment value does.  The end result is a glut of ineffectual commericials that most people ignore or mock.  And why are they so mocked?  Because pointing out their faults is easier than showing how they succeed, especially when they don't.

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