Monday, September 04, 2006

How Odd

A very strange and disturbing car commercial. Suzanne Fields:

Detroit will try anything, even melancholia, to sell cars, even to women. Our automakers are finally into quality, having learned their lesson from the Japanese, the Germans and the Koreans, and now build tougher and more reliable cars. Changing perceptions is more difficult. Detroit is betting that sadness, sorrow, woe and gloom, along with a female version of macho, can tease customers back into the showrooms. Interesting work, if you can get it.

General Motors huffs and puffs to remain the No. 1 automaker in the world, so far managing to stay just ahead of Toyota. The company that Henry Ford built is trying to stay out of bankruptcy by closing plants, and may sell off its prestigious foreign badges, including the elegant Jaguar, the politically correct Volvo and Land Rover, the scourge of elephants, rhinos and hippopotami.

A new Hummer is on display outside a Hummer dealership in Richmond, Va., Wednesday May 31, 2006. New car sales figures are due out Thursday. Automakers release their sales figures for May. High gasoline prices were expected to have crimped sales of sport utility vehicle and trucks for domestic automakers. Some analysts are predicting that General Motors Corp. will be hit hardest because it is trying to wean itself off incentives and fleet sales, and because it relies heavily on truck-based SUVs. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Hard times will make a monkey eat red pepper, as the wisest man I ever knew (Daddy, of course) was fond of saying, and Labor Day, once a joyous occasion in Detroit, is this year just another day to fret. In a remarkable bit of pushing the advertising envelope, a television commercial for the new Ford Freestyle, an SUV that was left out in the rain to shrink to about half the size of the behemoths that have taken over the narrow streets in nearly every city, a mom and a dad start out for a day at the beach with a back seat full of happy, smiling kids.

The car moves across desert and plain, through Norman Rockwell country, down hill and past dale, and home again after a good time is had by all. Then the Ford stops, Dad gets out, pulling his little duffel bag with him, and looks gratefully at his wife. She's in the driver's seat, of course. "Thanks for inviting me along," he says, and to the kids, adds: "I'll see you next week." The wife gives him a wan but relieved smile, the little family dog barks a sad little bark, and Mom and the kids drive away in what critics are calling "the Divorcemobile."

"This is perhaps the weirdest commercial I've covered," observes Seth Stevenson, an automobile writer, in Slate, the online magazine. "It is a freakish mash-up, blending a classically boring car ad with a bizarre stab at social commentary. I can't for the life of me see what Ford hopes to achieve here."

Maybe it's to make divorced wives and children of divorce feel better, to make them feel included in the warm and cuddly fantasy world of television commercials. Nothing wrong with that. Or maybe it's to make women feel more in control, even when they aren't. The man in the Ford commercial is a bit of a wimp -- "wet," as the British say -- and some critics say he looks gay, or at least metrosexual. The wife doesn't look particularly sad that she's not taking him home with her. Neither do the kids. [This is not strictly correct. The daughter seems happy-go-lucky, her brother seems wistful. At the end, Mom seems like she barely tolerated having Dad around.]

I found the ad on YouTube here. Have a look.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What we do not hear about in the main stream media is the likelihood that Ford Motor Company is taking a pounding in sales for their funding of homosexual [sic] groups in these organizations' efforts to advance the cause of homosexual "marriage." Today, I heard, for the first time on my local Christian radio station, a spot announcing that programming was underwritten by a certain Ford dealership. It struck me as odd to hear such an "ad" (by any other name) on this station, then I immediately remembered the boycott of Ford products that the American Family Instiute is conducting. The underwriting acknowledgement represents, it seems to me, a typically cynical, minimalist attempt of a corporation to repair damage in a cost effective manner. It is a case of the left hand advertizing its "good deed" to the right. The good deed, though, is a mere bandaid to a victim it contiues to thrash with savagery. That victim is the traditional family as lynchpin of Western Civilization. But the Ford Foundation, I know, not to be identified with Ford Motor Company (wink, wink), has long lead the Leftist charge against that institution of the West. The divorcemobile commercial is another data point. Ford: a bitter ID.