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Why Did The Grey Poupon Oscars Ad Makers Disguise The Rolls-Royces?

Illustration for article titled Why Did The Grey Poupon Oscars Ad Makers Disguise The Rolls-Royces?

As usual, the biggest take-away from the Oscars this year was America's continued love affair with mustard. We've got the Yellow Fever bad, and the Grey Poupon commercial that aired during the Oscars just confirmed that with its huge popularity.  That Grey Poupon commercial was, of course, based on a 1988 original, and like that original ad, featured a pair of wealthy, mustard-fetishist gentlemen in matching Rolls-Royces. Only this time they went out of their way to make them look sort of less like Rolls-Royces.


I suspect many people watching the ad didn't notice or care, but the somewhat half-assed alterations leapt out at me like a vivid yellow stream out of a squeeze bottle of mustard. Look at the front of those two Rollers: they're both clearly Silver Shadows (technically, a Silver Shadow and a post '77 Silver Shadow II, but who cares) but they've had the grille clumsily altered with a strip of aluminum flashing down the middle to bisect it, they have horizontal instead of vertical bars, the quad lights have been replaced with single units, the indicators are round instead of ovoid/Milano-cookie shaped, and the Flying Ladies have been replaced with what might be a chromed Hummel figurine or something. Each car is clearly still a Rolls, but the makers of the ad really wanted to make it clear that it's also not a Rolls.

The question is why? The original ad used a pair of undisguised Silver Clouds. It makes sense to use Silver Shadows in an ad like this, because you can find rough but usable ones for the cost of a Camry, and the ones used in this ad got worked pretty hard. So that change makes total sense. But altering the details?

It may be related to how brand names and other products are often blurred or distorted or changed in television shows and other ads. It makes sense, a company may not want association with whatever is being shot, and those shooting may not want to give free advertising to the company in question. 


But for Rolls-Royce Silver Shadows? The logos would never be seen, the cars have been out of production for over 30 years, and the company isn't even owned by the same people anymore.  What exactly is being protected? I'm pretty sure most people who saw the ad, when asked later what the cars were, would say "Rolls-Royces" anyway.

If an ad agency is going to do something that requires time and money to be spent, then there must be a reason. If they felt the Silver Shadow's look was so iconic that Rolls-Royce, being notoriously anti-mustard, would choose to take legal action against them for use of their cars in the ad, then I guess that could make sense. But what about all the other iconic-looking cars seen in the background of television shows and in films? Beetles, Mustangs, Jeeps, MGs, Minis, Citroëns, Camaros, Corvettes, these are all cars with arguably iconic, distinctive shapes and looks, and they've been unwitting actors in countless media productions. Should they all have been altered?

Illustration for article titled Why Did The Grey Poupon Oscars Ad Makers Disguise The Rolls-Royces?

I don't have an answer to this question yet, but I'll try and find out. In the meantime, I'd like to make everyone aware that unlike these possessive rich douchebags, I'm quite generous with my car-mustard. Anyone who wants to come up to my car in traffic and ask for mustard will get a smile and as much bright yellow French's mustard as you can hold in your cupped hands.



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What it reminded me of was, OK, has anyone ever seen the movie "The Betsy", based on the really trashy Harold Robbins book? The whole thing is a very loosly fictionalized soap opera about a wealthy family that controls a big automaker, all roughly based on the Fords. They had to have cars to use as products of the fictional Bethlehem Motors Corp., so they just took other companies' models and grafted these weird looking grilles and headlights onto them.

By the way, although I'm embarassed to say I saw it, I did, and it was almost worth it just for the scenes filmed in an American Motors plant showing Concords, Gremlins, and the like on the assembly line.