Remember when a spontaneous discussion of favorite commercials -- at say, a family gathering not devoted to the Super Bowl -- was an actual thing?
These days, I rarely hear anyone (whether civilians or those in the biz) chatting face to face (not tweeting) about TV spots; obviously, that’s for all the reasons that are covered so richly, and in depth, 24/7, in this here digital media publication.
But what the hell. It’s the dog days of summer. Why not go back, back, back to those pre-Internet days, a time when a) people watched TV in real time, and b) every now and then a TV commercial popped up that was so clever, surprising, strikingly beautiful, or funny that it became the subject of next-day water-cooler chatter? (Now, I guess that would be cappuccino/Red Bull/Nature-Valley-bar chat.)
I’ve actually seen two recent car commercials that have stayed with me. Not necessarily because they were crazily out-of-the-park brilliant. Certainly, each carries a cringe-worthy note or two. But at the same time, each offers a moment of human connection that got me to blink -- and think about what I was seeing. And that goes into the category of memorable.
Number one: The Land Rover Discovery Sport commercial showing a young couple driving off to get married in a downpour. (From Spark44, Jaguar’s in-house agency.) Sure, the set-up is sketchy: They’re already dressed as bride and groom, standing on the porch of a ramshackle cabin that’s decorated in streamers, with their small wedding party (sized magically to fit inside the Land Rover) waiting to go to the ceremony? It would make more sense for the ceremony to have just taken place and show them heading to the reception. But the action is quick and frenetic, and that’s why I bought into it.
One of the commenters on You Tube complained that the groom seemed to be pulling the bride along. Of course, it would be nice if the couple was equally matched in the adventurous department, but then there’d be no tension. More importantly, there would be no baked-in message about the groom’s absolute fidelity to the reliability of his ride: that it could deliver his bride and the rest of the party to the odd location in the middle of nowhere in the midst of a monsoon. (Now, if the car belonged to the bride, and she was the driver pulling him into the car, that would be far more novel.)
Still, I liked the direction, the pacing, her dress, and the insouciance of the plan. What brought it all home was her little swoon. Once she gets drenched and relaxes into the unexpected messiness of it all, she laughs hysterically and they have a genuinely passionate kiss. That’s the sweet moment that connected for me. Who needs sunshine (or a preacher?) or guests? The couple will remember this makeshift ceremony forever. The voiceover says “Land Rover Sport: It’s in our DNA,” and that ties up the love-marriage-baby-carriage aspect of the merger.
The second spot, for the Honda Pilot Elite (from RPA), delivers equal parts surprise and cringe. Warning: Do not watch if you have a cappella-phobia.
So we indeed get to see how roomy this rig is: a family with two rows of kids (and Gramps) all fit inside. And it’s appropriate that while the kids are shown focused on their individual tech devices, they are getting out of sorts -- technology is stealing our souls, after all!
That’s when one of the little ones in the back delivers the staggering surprise of singing the line “What’s with these homies dissing my girl?” (Which is mildly creepy coming from a little kid, and probably the reason that most American families don’t turn into the von Trapps for Weezer.)
I have to admit that I had no idea this was coming, and was sort of glued to the bizarre choice of song (“Buddy Holly”). It is downright weird that any eight-year-old would know Weezer lyrics, because the song is from 1994, and not terribly famous. Although it probably does appeal to the male, 30-something target.
So perhaps the dad trained his family to sing Weezer with militaristic zeal. At least that’s what I’d like to imagine, given that the family is otherwise so saccharine and nauseatingly perfect. Indeed, the creepy factor emerges when the mom earnestly sings, “And you know I’m yours” to the bearded dad, and he sings back as sweetly. As if they’re the only two people in the world. If I were a kid in the car, I’d vomit.
But then other family members chime in, and there’s one girl who has an astoundingly great voice. (Even though the vocals are obviously sweetened and over-vibratoed.) The spot also picks up on the "American Idol"- and "X-Factor"-family-viewing zeitgeist.
So they are family, and they got all their Weezer and me. Well, not really me, in that I’m not in the market for a Honda Pilot Elite, and now I have the damn song stuck in my head, like an ear worm.
But they did get my attention, and that counts for something.
Now to the fun part: What does everybody else think?