I’m not crazy about covering carmaker’s Super Bowl ads because, you know, screw ‘em, I’m not here to shill for them. But, sometimes, it’s fun to disparage the big, expensive ad campaigns the car companies trot out, because, again, screw ‘em.
With that in mind, it’s nice when the big companies make it easy to mock them, like GM is doing with their bold decision to lean on a pop culture figure that was introduced in 1997. You know, the year the first Harry Potter book came out, and comet Hale-Bopp passed Earth, and everyone in that cult with the tracksuits and Nikes committed suicide. That 1997.
Here’s the teaser for the ad that GM tweeted out:
Yes, it’s Mike Meyers as Dr. Evil, from the movie Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery which opened in May of 1997. And, sure, we all enjoyed this campy send-up of Bond movies, which were sorely in need of being mocked a bit, and Myers’ Dr. Evil was a genuinely funny character, especially when describing his upbringing:
Yeah, that’s a good time! Shoved in a burlap sack when insolent. Everyone loves it. But, that was 25 years ago. And it’s not even like Austin Powers or Dr.Evil is having any sort of significant comeback right now, either. I mean, sure, they’ll appear in an occasional meme posted to some Facebook thread your uncle tagged you in or some annoying friend from high school will refer to their unwitting toddler as their “mini-me” or some bullshit like that, but I don’t think anyone would suggest that Dr. Evil was having any sort of “moment” here in the year of our whatever 2022.
And it’s also not like other things that got their start in 1997 aren’t having comebacks; Tamagotchis, those little digital keychain-housed “virtual pets” that could shit and starve to death are making a comeback in smartwatch and other enhanced forms, or at least that’s what multiple articles are telling me.
But Dr. Evil? Again, I don’t have anything against the good, evil Doctor, but it’s all just so damn lazy. The ad agency behind this, McCann, is one of the biggest, with campaigns for Coke, and Ikea, and Microsoft, and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health — the Big Four, as it were, and somehow they decided that the best way for GM to promote its new line of EVs was to drag out some old ‘90s movie icon, so that people of a certain age who will see the ad can collectively think “oh, yeah, I remember laughing at that guy in the theater back before iPhones, and when I was young and beautiful, and my hair was a thick, lush pelt, dense like a sorghum in a fecund field.”
That same agency is even doing the same damn thing for another company, Verizon, who’s giving Jim Carrey a check to exhume his Cable Guy schtick, also about a quarter century after anyone really gave a shit.
This whole drag-out-some old recognizable character to shill for something is, of course, not new at all. It’s been used to sell beer, big box stores, snacks, and even once dragged a dead star back to CG life to shill vacuums.
There’s nothing new here, nothing interesting, and I shouldn’t even be surprised, because there’s nothing surprising here at all. It’s not like the past 25 years of human existence haven’t been crammed full of collective events and ideas and common experiences and so much more, but GM is going to promote their biggest fundamental shift in how they build cars with a movie character from the era of the Spice Girls and the year before there even were candy-colored CRT-based iMacs.
Oh well, I’m sure it’ll be just fine and people will laugh and Mike Myers will get a check and we’ll hear about it for a few days, and then forget it ever happened.
I can dream.