There's all kinds of ways to advertise cars. There's ponderously serious commercials, funny ones, cars-drifting-sideways-in-slow-motion ones, and they all have their place, in one way or another.
Except for one category of automobile advertising. The ones that feature "regular people." Ads with ordinary fucking people in them turn me into an instant asshole misanthrope, and then I hate myself.
So, car companies. Stop it. Stop it now.
Look, I have nothing against regular people— why, some of my best friends are regular people! It's even very possible I am one, myself! But for some horrible, horrible reason, whenever ordinary, honest, hardworking humans are placed in front of a camera and asked about cars, they seem to turn into annoying, drooling simpletons.
Take this Toyota ad. Now, I may be being hasty to blame the people themselves— the ad is part of a series Toyota calls "The Camry Effect" so maybe the "Camry Effect" is a well-documented scientific anomaly where the Camry's drive-by-wire electronics put out an RF field that disables the part of the human brain that keeps you from saying stupid shit. What else could explain a grown adult man saying "It had stuff that guys like, like the rims, and the sleekness to the body" or a grown woman praising the car being "grounded to the ground?"
Seriously, watch that guy saying those words and tell me you're not also picturing a large stain redarkening on the front of his pants.
Are these ads effective? Do people listen to this drivel and think "hey! I'm an idiot, too! I bet I'd love a car with body sleekness!" Maybe I'm being a jerk. I feel like a jerk, because when I see these ads, all I can think is "who gives a shit what these numbnutses think?" Which, really, isn't fair. I'm sure they're fine people, and they're happy with their car, but for some reason hearing them talk about their boring Camry makes me want to eat a beehive.
Ford's taken this inane trope to a new level of dipshittery, by staging fake "news conferences" where they surprise Ford owners with microphones and reporters and fire off softball questions at them.
These commercials bring up huge questions. Like, why did that woman already look like she was exiting a courthouse with a lawyer? And, even though they put up text that says "really surprised," why are these people so fucking calm? Wouldn't you just be asking "What the fuck is going on?" until someone explained the deal, that you're in an ambush Ford commercial. Then you should probably demand money, because, what are you, Ford's little bitch?
The truth is, of course, those aren't real press conferences. That's pretty shocking, because what some accountant in Fresno thinks of his Focus' seat-adjustment options would make for some compelling reporting. The owners are real, and are told they're going into a focus group of some sort.
Okay, fine. They're real people. They're saying what they really think. But that still brings us back to the fundamental problem, and the fundamental reason I feel like an asshole watching these things. I don't care.
In none of these ads does anyone give any real insight. Maybe the validation that someone else in the world enjoys good fuel economy and the ability of a car to, you know, move and steer makes all the difference for you. "It's not just me!" you'll cry, tears streaming down your face. "Diane the Escape owner also finds comfort and styling important! This is fantastic!" At this point, you're sobbing, in public, openly and unashamedly, flinging off your clothes and desperately embracing everyone who walks by. Because, dammit, life is about living.
So, if there's any "regular people" reading this, I'm sorry. I just don't care what you think of your Camry. If it helps, I don't always care what "experts" think, either. It's not you, it's me. And I don't blame you— I blame the ad agencies that are taking this lazy-ass approach to selling cars. Cars aren't fucking washing machines— they're genuine pieces of our cultural landscape and putting some poor bastard on the spot to stammer out why the commuter car he disinterestedly bought is any better than the dozens of almost indistinguishable ones he almost bought isn't fair to him, me, cars, America, love, horses, or me, again.
But don't take it from me— I found a real television owner and asked him what he thought of these ads:
"I thought they were for Quizno's or something. Am I really going to be on the Web?"