2 December, 2021

Gimbling in the Wabe – The View from My Soapbox

gimbling header

Every time I see one particular television commercial for the Hyundai Tucson CUV (which I learned is an acronym for “crossover utility vehicle” as opposed to an SUV, or “sports utility vehicle”… one site called a CUV as “a car on steroids”), I get really, really pis…. er, upset.

I shouldn’t.  I mean, we should take all advertising with a grain of salt, right?  After all, its purpose is to convince us that we need its client’s product, whether we do or not, is it not?

But advertising for certain products bothers me more than others, perhaps because the ads are so pervasive in our hyundai-tucson-busy-large-3media environment, and so relentless in their insistence that if we buy their product, we will be happier, more beautiful, more successful and admired, and surrounded by other beautiful, happy people who admire us.  These ads play on the principle that if something is repeated often enough, even if it is blatantly false, it will eventually gain credibility simply due to familiarity.  Advertising for beer and other alcoholic beverages is especially pernicious with this.

But no industry rules the airwaves like car manufacturers.  Pay attention while you watch television – virtually any television, regardless of medium, channel or time of day – and you will be inundated with car commercials.  If you watch sports, they are incessant.

Which brings me back to the commercial in question.  I’m sure you’ve seen it, but in case you haven’t, it goes like this:

VOICE OVER:  Busy.  Torn like a badge.

(In the office.  A guy hangs up the phone at 6:01, closes the laptop on his desk, and ignoring the snarky look from the gal at desk across from his, grabs his jacket from the back of his chair.)

VO:  Coming in early, staying really late.

(The guy jauntily heads for the elevator, and heads turn as he walks by.)

VO:  When did leaving on time take an act of courage?

(The guy gets in the elevator, turns, and with a sassy smile, hits the down button.  The door closes as his eyes focus on something other than the office.)

VO:  Sometimes it takes a fearless choice to wake people up.

(His trophy vehicle emerges from the underground parking area and he drives away; folks left in the office look out the windows and smile in admiration.)

VO:  Can a CUV provoke change?

(The trophy vehicle travels speedily down a city street bordered by sky scrapers – it is the only vehicle on the road, nor are also no pedestrians. The city seems totally deserted save for this guy in his shiny vehicle.)

VO:  You have no idea.

(Close up on the grill of the car.)

VO:  Introducing the all new Hyundai Tucson.

(Those left in the office, on multiple floors – in other words, everyone else, including what are clearly executives – move to the windows to marvel down at the car speeding by.)

VO:  The official pace car of living.

(Car on street.  Cut to interior of the car with the guy driving – there is a golden glow around him.  Cut to the car driving down the deserted street, rear view, into a growing sunset.  At least it’s reminiscent of a sunset.  I guess it could be the cloud from an explosion.)

So why does this commercial bother me so much?  Because it is a complete and utter lie.  A bald-faced, misleading, deceiving lie, meant to seduce the consumer into buying a product (a very expensive product) by using a rebellious façade, an attractive main performer, and high production values to overcome reality.

Who doesn’t want to be the rebel who bucks the established norm of all the other office drones to hop in his sexy/powerful/sleek/attractive car and go live his own life unconstrained by boredom and responsibility, to drive into the sunset as a unique and exciting (yet dashingly cavalier) individual, eh?  Who wouldn’t want to drive the “official pace car of living?”

The problem is, every bit of that commercial is propagating something that simply is not true.  “When did leaving on time take an act of courage?”  I’ll tell you – never.  Leaving on time is the norm.  If you leave work on time, you will not emerge from underground parking to an eerily empty world – that’s when everyone leaves work, that’s why it’s called “rush hour” and its noisy and congested and completely normal.  Oh, sure, maybe in some highly competitive industries leaving early could be considered an act of courage, but in those cases, “admiration” would most likely not be attributed to the person behind the empty chair.  “Slacker” would fit the bill better.  And to be honest, for many of us, if we do leave on time, we have no chance of being able to afford a vehicle like the one in the commercial (over $22,000 base model).

The entire commercial is simply an advertising construct, meant to lead the consumer by the nose through an illogical but very sharply manipulated train of thought with the only outcome being favorable product recognition.  It kind of bothers me – no, it really bothers me – when the meaning of words is completely disregarded or eagerly reassigned for profit.

Here’s another slightly less annoying but just as blatant example:

VOICE OVER:  We’ve been thinking – a pitcher who can paint the corners is known as a Rembrandt.  Everyone loves watching him work, but, why?  A strike is a strike anywhere in the zone.  Maybe people just appreciate that kind of accuracy, that kind of precision.  At GMC we get that.  While everyone has their fastball, not everyone can deliver a 95 mph Rembrandt.  This is precision. This is GMC.  Welcome to the show.

Now, I’ve only been a hardcore baseball fan for about 30 years, but I have never, ever heard of a pitcher being referred to as a “Rembrandt”.  Nor has anyone that I know of.  In the (albeit cursory) research I did for this rant, not once did I find any support for a pitcher being likened to the Dutch painter of the Baroque period, save for one posting that insisted without any corroboration that it had been an “old-timer’s term”.  What I have heard – and what others mentioned – was of a pitcher being termed a “Picasso”, which means he possesses great skill.  But a “Rembrandt”?  Nope.  Completely and utterly made up (or else so obscure as to be the same) and yet presented as fact. Grrrrrrr…..

And don’t get me started on this one, actively promoting our narcissistic society so that we will actually do their promotions for them (if one can even believe that the “selfies” used are from actual, unsolicited new owners and not crafted in a studio):

VOICE OVER: People just can’t stop talking about their Ford!  (Scene is a dealership show floor, while multiple tweets and posts pop up on the screen, along with many shots of happy people – young, attractive happy people – standing next to shiny new cars.)

I guess I just have more respect for the English language – any language – to not get my dander up when I see advertising created not simply to mislead, but laced with fallacies presented as truths in order to make a sale.

But then again, there’s another famous phrase – caveat emptor or “let the buyer beware” – that maybe should be dusted off and reinvigorated.  Not that it would do much good.  Nowadays, it seems like people are intent on seeing what they want to see and hearing what they want to hear.  And maybe that’s where my greatest frustration lies; not in the practice, but that the practice finds fertile enough ground to be “business as usual”.

Oh, well.  At least I got this off my chest.  Oh, and while I’m at it – you dang kids get off my lawn!!!

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