Commentary

Holiday Car Ads Deconstructed

I can't think of anything that would make my wife happier than if I went out and, without first consulting her and at least two of the major credit bureaus, dropped 35 grand on a car. But to hear my beloved TV tell it, that's the only proper way to convey appreciation to a loved one during the holiday season. What's a sensible sentimentalist to do?

See if the ad-rabid automakers that pump millions of dollars into local buys are equally feisty on the web, that's what - and in doing so, determine just how nimble and expansive the campaigns are. Thus I took a look at the three automakers who, as best as I can tell, have the biggest if-you-help-us-meet-our-year-end-sales-quotas-we'll-be-your-bestest-buddy-4-eva ad budgets. I've ranked them in ascending order of video vapidity, likeliness to inspire derision and permanence of brand blemish.

I dig Hyundais, because Consumer Reports is favorably disposed towards Hyundais and I'm favorably disposed towards anything that Consumer Reports digs (seriously, if its product mavens told me to stock up on canned donkey and prayer boots in advance of the rapture, I'd do it without question. My fealty to CR is absolute). Hyundai's marketing around holiday time? Not so much. Last year, the company went the hipster-bait route, but at least had the good sense to hire one of the most talented practitioners of the craft. This year, it has handed over the keys - driving metaphor! - to anyone capable of articulating the words "Hyundai" and "assurance" and uploading a video to YouTube.

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The results, not surprisingly, are mixed. Most of the testimonials are just that: straight-spoken testimonials, which make the uploaders come across less as brand ambassadors than as brand brainwash victims. Still, the user videos do more to sell me on the cars than do this year's ads. One of the three in heavy rotation, actually, is quite lovely: it features a father and daughter singing "Feliz Navidad" while sitting on the bumper of a car. Unfortunately, another showcases a googly-eyed costume fetishist and a third goes the white-people-faux-rapping route. At least Hyundai had the good sense not to showcase an extended remix on its YouTube page, as the MC would likely run out of features to tout ("the tires, man, they're dope and round/they are usually in contact with the ground").

Acura takes a far different approach, hiring a pair of big-name celebs to tout its "season of reason" promotion. The thought process appears to go something like this: Overthinking one's holiday prep, whether by hiring a Broadway ringer to lead your caroling posse or a master chef to lightly braise your Christmas goose, is akin to overthinking your choice of automobile.

The analogies are a bit mild for my taste, but the ads are clever in a way that pitches of this ilk usually are not. Too bad that Acura's marketers don't do much with them on the web, whether by showcasing Midler singing different holiday tunes from the ones in the TV spot or by capturing Ramsay ripping some random production assistant a new one for failing to equip his dressing room with a university-grade terrarium. These are opportunities missed.

And then there's Lexus, keepers of the oversized-novelty-ribbon flame. For the last few years, its holiday pitch has been the same: a Nutcracker-y piano theme cues one partner that the other has purchased him/her a Lexus. Duly stimulated, they run outside together, to find the shiny, ribbon-adorned vehicle sitting in the driveway as snow dusts the fairy-tale capitalist tableau. I'd try that approach with The Missus, but can't figure out a way to bind Van Halen's "D.O.A." to the gifting of an electric toothbrush. Make this happen, Madison Ave.

Anyway, the idiocy of the premise notwithstanding, Lexus does little with it online. The ribbon bit, in particular, seems ripe for something more than a Facebook charity tie-in - a game, a giveaway, whatever. Given Lexus' attempts to position itself as an agile provider of online content, through both a wealth of product videos and its L Studio productions, the lack of imagination is disappointing.

In conclusion, the three automakers surveyed don't bother to post much in the way of exclusive video content on the web - nor, for that matter, do similarly relentless advertisers Honda or Infiniti, which at least gets points for dubbing one of its ads "Mischievous Snowball 2011." That renders this video critique more or less pointless. Oh well. Happy holidays, everyone.

2 comments about "Holiday Car Ads Deconstructed ".
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  1. Michael Schwartz from Michael Schwartz Creative Group Inc., December 22, 2011 at 4:51 p.m.

    Last year's Hyundai spots were the most irritating, ridiculous things I've ever had to sit through. They were on so much it was impossible to keep turning the channel. Pomplamoose stinks. And now this year, somehow Hyundai has outdone themselves with more awful spots. I'd love to see the stats on how successful these spots are. They have made it easy for me to say that I will never buy one of their cars. Their ad agency should be fired. And the head of marketing who thinks this is good creative should go too...probably to the fired ad agency.

  2. James p Campbell from LTE Network LLC, December 22, 2011 at 5:15 p.m.

    Chevy's Santa Clause Salesman is the season's best...

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