By Don Klein
Award-winning ad man-cum-auto journalist Don Klein knows a good (or bad) car commercial when he sees one; the Ad Section is his space to tell you what he thinks of the latest spots. The ad’s rating is depicted via the shift pattern at the bottom, but everyone has an opinion when it comes to advertising, so hit Backfires below and tell us what you think, too.
Two years ago, Infiniti launched an inane campaign involving two neighbors, their sons, and snowballs. In one spot, the first father is a Pee Wee Herman–looking twit who wears a nerdy coat and drives a BMW. His sons look like Tweedledee and Tweedledum. All three appear to be nasty little buggers and we’re supposed to hate them. The other dad is cool. His name is Dave. Looks like he would hang out with Owen Wilson or Christian Bale. We never really see his son, but he’s probably cool by extension. His wife is probably hot, too. Dave drives a G37 sedan, but he looks like he should drive an Audi RS5. He’s that awesome. We don’t just like Dave—we want to be Dave.
Until we discover that he’s a bigger jerk than the BMW twit. Here’s why: When the spot opens, the Bimmer kids unleash a barrage of snowballs on poor Dave, who did nothing to deserve this other than be cool. Pee Wee not only approves of this boorish behavior, he probably orchestrated it. He then throws down an implied gauntlet, “See you at work,” knowing full well that a fast and furious road race to the office will ensue. I guess we’re supposed to wonder who will win as they tear downhill from their plush ski resort neighborhood, but—wait, what’s this? Dave pulls to the side of the road and makes a snowball, which he strategically aligns before launching it down the mountain. He then resumes the race, barely dodging the ever-growing snowball (which by now looks like it escaped from Raiders of the Lost Ark) as it hurls itself over switchbacks and bridges without regard for life, limb, or property.
By the time Dave arrives in town, the BMW is safely parked in a prime spot between two buildings. He pulls up ahead of the space and waits a beat as the Ball-O-Destruction smashes broadside into the 3-series and obliterates it, leaving more than enough curbside for Dave to park his G.
So what, exactly, are they trying to tell us? The voiceover says absolutely nothing about the car or its attributes, and the product shots only serve to confirm that the car hasn’t changed in years. But the campaign must appeal to someone, or they wouldn’t keep running it year after year, right?
- Infiniti Unexpectedly Changing all Model Names to Q for Cars, QX for SUVs for 2014
- Instrumented Test: 2013 Infiniti JX35
- Long-Term Test: 2011 Infiniti M56S
Here’s who it appeals to: haters. In advertising, this is called the transfer effect. The idea is to transfer viewers’ feelings about something—for example, patriotism—to the product being sold. That’s what Chevy did with their old (and now new again) baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie campaign. Done right, it’s a beautiful thing. In Infiniti’s case, not so much. Clearly, Dave’s mantra is, why settle for mere revenge when you can choose annihilation? Especially when the guy you’ve got it in for drives a BMW. (A BMW! What a freakin’ snob! Thinks he’s better than everyone else! I’ll show him!) Never mind that he’s my next-door neighbor and co-worker, his kids threw snowballs at me and so he deserves to have his car trashed. And so what if the occasional skier or innocent bystander gets put in harm’s way? That’s simply collateral damage. The point is that I won, right?
Sadly, there must be enough car buyers out there who agree with this sentiment: Infiniti and their ad agency are way too sophisticated to spend millions of dollars on a campaign without at least focus-group testing it for red flags. Sadder yet is that both fathers have turned this into a teachable moment for their children. Based on these commercials, it’s not hard to visualize this dinner table conversation:
Dave: So how was your day?
Son: The Bimmer family’s poodle crapped on our lawn.
Dave: So what’d you do about it?
Son: I poisoned the effer and set their house on fire.
Dave: Good boy! When you’re old enough, I‘ll get you an Infiniti.
Have a nice day.
Source: Car & Driver