Saturday, January 3, 2015

This commercial is about more than trucks

I should not let the little things bug me so. But this pickup truck commercial, which I would not have even seen if it were not for all the bowl games I've watched in the past week, has gotten under my skin.

The video opens with a conservatively attired young man parking an older model Honda Civic and going into an office building. As he enters, another young man, less formally dressed — this one has on jeans with a sport coat and sports a three-day growth of whiskers — instead of the suit and clean-shaven look of the Civic driver. As the second man walks out, a good-looking young woman turns her head to stare at him. As the first man entered the building, a string band played a soft melody, a continuation of the tune played as he parked his car. 

As the second man, obviously the hero of this parable, leaves, he gets into a new, black Chevrolet Colorado pickup. When he turns the key, the truck's stereo blares an AC/DC tune (I had to look this up, of course) "Back in Black." The whiskered man roars away with a smirking smile on his face. The first, earnest young man is never seen again.

The message of this commercial seems to go beyond just "buy a Chevrolet pickup" to pass judgment on young men who abide by traditional clothing styles and drive economical, older (paid-for?) sedans. The pickup guy is obviously more sexually appealing, obviously more modern, obviously more "with it." So he drives a pickup and listens to very loud rock music. Women turn their heads to watch him walk. He's rebellious, dungareed, unshaven, cocky, successful. He's already been on the inside and has come away with a smile on his face. Sedan drivers who wear suits don't stand a chance because he's already got the job or the contract or whatever it was the sedan driver walked into the building after.

I dislike that messaging, and not just because I don't drive a pickup or because the commercial is aimed at a target audience that is 40 years younger than I. The message implies that conformity is bad and rebellion is good, that swagger counts for more than respect, that this insouciance leads to success. I'm sure a lot of market research went into this commercial, but I doubt that a lot of thought went into the implications or the residual impact of this messaging.

Sell your trucks, but don't imply that seriousness, traditional tastes and earnestness mark a person a loser. 


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