The Pontiac Firebird was the mysteriously unloved little brother to the Chevrolet Camaro. It’s not that the people who did manage to buy one didn’t like it, it’s that so few people managed to buy one compared to its corporate stablemate. But that didn’t stop Pontiac from advertising it at the Super Bowl.
I was inspired to look up older Super Bowl ads after seeing last week’s Maserati Ghibli spot, which just about knocked the socks off of everything else. This commercial aired during Super Bowl XXXII in 1998, according to the video title, and because I can’t remember if it actually did because I was ten years old, and also because who actually remembers what ad came from which year, I will choose to believe it.
(Also, it’s not on the list of Super Bowl ads from that year on Wikipedia, but they don’t specifically say that it wasn’t, so why not? Pontiac ran one of their Wile E. Coyote/Road Runner ads, so it’s entirely plausible. Except, ya know, that the ad was for the Firebird. Which not many bought. Relatively.)
The last generation of Firebird looked good – first with that pointy shark-nose, and then, when it was revised, the performance-oriented Trans Am had that ridiculously obnoxious hog snout. It was great, if you don’t really consider much else. Sure, the interior was a bit shoddy and the chassis was possibly made out of cast iron, but it one could get it with a 305-horse V8. Which was nothing to sneeze at back then, especially since no one had any idea that just a decade later you’d be able to buy a Hyundai coupe with comparable power.
So was it the Firebird “scary?” Not particularly, if you think about your average Pontiac Trans Am owner. But by comparing the ads of 16 years ago to today, you can see how far this whole shebang has come. Super Bowl ads will always be a bit tacky and kitschy and awful, no matter how we dress them up, but judging from the past, I like the way we’re headed.