Viva Commerce! (#19)

Dear Hertz,

Hertz logoI was hoping we could discuss your recent spot on the eye of hell. There are a few things in there that I find a bit surprising.

We start off with Mr. and Ms. All-American-Youthful-White-Couple. Ms. AAYWC is in the passenger seat of a little yellow convertible. Mr. AAYWC, from behind the car, runs up to the rear bumper, and launches himself off of it, flipping over the car and into the driver’s seat, then immediately zooms off.

Questions and Comments

  • Those shiny, colorful bumpers on contemporary American cars are really just bumper covers. They more decorative than anything else. I don’t think they’re intended to support your weight, even if you’re Mr. All-American-Youthful-White-Couple.
  • That leap into the car is somewhat reminiscent of the old Hertz ads in which OJ Simpson is carried through the airport and into his rental by the omnipotent, invisible hand of Hertz. In this case, however, there’s no indication that Hertz is helping with the trick. If that’s correct, he’s jumping on his own, and that’s somehow more worrisome than the magic realism you utilized in the past. I sure hope he managed the jump without hurting himself.
  • I didn’t see you (or your lovely companion, for that matter) buckle your safety belts before peeling out. I don’t know what state you’re in, but I don’t think that’s legal.

Back to our exciting commercial. We see the happy couple zipping around in the car. From a bird’s eye view, we see them weaving through highway traffic at high speed — significantly faster than anyone else on the road. They drive by a crowded gas station because Hertz, unlike other car rental agencies, will fill the tank for them for just a nominal fee. Finally, we see them driving past an airport, apparently faster than a jet that’s taking off behind them. And all the while, the car leaves a glowing yellow trail behind — sort of a cross between a contrail and a thick, radioactive lemonade.

Further Questions and Comments

  • I wonder if they’re even bothering to signal their lane changes on the highway. Clearly they’re speeding, acting without any regard for the safety of their fellow drivers.
  • Is that yellow cloud the car is spewing at all dangerous? It doesn’t look like it dissipates very quickly. Instead, it just lays there, menacingly glowing at those you’ve left behind.
  • Can you imagine how those poor souls at the gas station feel? We only get the briefest of reaction shots of them, and they just seem confused, but I’ll bet that within a few seconds at least some of them are bound to wonder if that mysterious yellow fog might explode.

So, let’s see what we’ve got here. You’re performing acrobatics to get into the car, you’re not wearing safety belts, you’re speeding, you’re switching from lane to lane like you’re running a slalom, and you clearly have no concern for the health, safety, comfort, or even vision of other people, be they other drivers or pedestrians.

And at no time do you offer any sort of caveat to the viewer. I’m sure you don’t want your customers to take part in these activities, particularly in your vehicles. Maybe you should consider adding a little note of warning at the bottom of the screen. Something like “do not attempt” ought to get the message across, don’t you think?

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Do Not Attempt

I have issues with advertising — particularly with commercials on the eye of hell.

I grew up a true vidiot, watching all the time, and I still have it on in the background a lot of the time when I work. Right now, Michael Musto is on Countdown telling me all about Tom Cruise and Sumner Redstone’s wife. Fascinating stuff. I used to sort of work for Redstone. I was sent to his home to show movies in his living room on a couple of occasions. But I digress.

In my youth, my brother Poe and I used to compete with each other to see who was faster at identifying the products in commercials, so we knew our stuff.

I expect I’ll end up writing a series of posts about the problems I have with advertising, but tonight I’d like to talk about car commercials — especially the ones that show off the wonderful things those cars can do.

  • When the cool CEO in his cool Cadillac beats his cool CFO in his cool Cadillac into his reserved parking space by doing a high speed donut in the parking garage…
  • When the dude in his Z (which keeps changing colors on him) tools around at high speed through a deserted city…
  • When a chorus line of Eclipse Spyder convertibles demonstrate their speed-sensitive sound systems by making like a graphic equalizer…

…we’re always given the all-important warning: “Professional driver on closed course. Do not attempt.

I can understand the carmakers’ desire to protect themselves and their customers. Of course they don’t recommend that you do anything foolhardy in the car (even though they’ve shown you that it can do it). The thing is, they overdo it on the safety. I remember a Hummer spot a couple of years ago that ended with an H1 or an H2 (like I know the difference) tooling down a perfectly straight, level, empty road without streetlights at dusk, but with the headlights on, at speeds that must have been close to 40 mph (around 65 km/h). And what was there at the bottom of the screen? Do not attempt!

Well, what can you attempt, then? What’s the point of buying the damned thing (yeah, I know, there’s no point in buying the damned thing) if you can’t drive it straight down a straight road? Is it really just for sitting in your driveway so people can walk by and say, “Nice ride, dude”? It’s not a ride if that’s all it’s doing!

Richard Pryor used to do a bit in which he noted that the people in beer commercials weren’t allowed to actually drink the beer. He would ask his kids what beer was for, and they’d reply, “for holding up and looking at.”

Well, have a look at this.

Apparently, such concerns didn’t exist in Japan in the 1980s. Either that, or there’s a “do not attempt” in there somewhere, but I think maybe they just felt that they were safe in assuming that, if this is what you can afford to buy, you’re not going to risk jumping it over fountains or dancing with it in a Metro station.

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