Wednesday, September 12

Advertising Vehicle

About a year ago, General Motors debuted a television advertisement that drove me nuts.

Here's the storyline: First, we saw drivers and passengers stuck in traffic in different areas around the country. Everyone is frustrated. Next, the General Motors vehicles magically levitate, surprising and delighting the occupants. Finally, those cars and trucks zip above the non-General Motors vehicles. We see the GM products flying through urban cityscapes, over palm-lined causeways, and so on.

The none-to-subtle message, of course, is that General Motors cars and trucks are a step above the competition, and they're exhilarating to drive. In fact, they're so much fun to drive that you might even feel like you're flying!

The problem with the ad, I thought, is that is clearly shows GM products doing something they can't do. It shows the cars flying. GM doesn't make consumer cars and trucks that fly!

Yes, I know that the ad is supposed to be a metaphor. I'm an English major and a professional writer, so I know all about symbolism. However, I also know that it's misleading when a company shows its products doing something in advertisements that it doesn't do in real life. Shouldn't the Federal Trade Commission have forced General Motors to have put a disclaimer on the bottom of the ad: "Cars do not actually levitate or fly?"

When these ads were still on TV, I felt like walking into one of the GM dealerships here and demanding to buy a flying car, just like the ones in the ads.

I remember seeing the flying vehicles in a second GM ad, sometime around Christmas. The cars and trucks had replaced Rudolph et. al. and were pulling Santa's sled around. I didn't mind this quite so much because, after all, if we're supposed to believe that reindeer can fly, why not suspend disbelief further and believe Pontiacs can too?

GM's flying vehicles are gone from TV. I don't know if the advertising campaign ran its course, or if the ads didn't work, or if some wiseass like me actually pointed out to the company that the spots were deceiving. However, I've noticed a new TV spot for GMC (a division of General Motors) that again shows vehicles doing something they can't do in real life.

In these spots, older models of GMC trucks are smashing through cinderblock walls and emerging, undented and unscratched, as newer models. Once again, I understand the symbolism involved: GMC trucks are breaking through barriers and so on. However, the ads imply that if you drive your GMC truck headfirst into a solid brick wall, you and your truck will come out unscathed.

I'm thinking of heading to the local GMC dealership and asking to test drive the GMC truck that can drive through brick walls. I can't wait to see the look on the salesperson's face.


Jeff said...

Cars can't fly?

Clearly you didn't see what Burt Reynolds and Jan Michael Vincent did in the movie "Hooper"

Dave said...

Fortunately, I've never seen this film. Should I move it to the top of my Netflix queue -- or the bottom?