Baseline Advertising In Review

Ads patronize low-end targetIf ad agencies know anything, it's that Lexus and Mercedes buyers want ads that illuminate fascinating concepts like collapsible steering columns, seatbelt tensioners and zero-to-100 acceleration times.The rich care about their purchases!Those brassy, balding folks in the Ford...

Ads patronize low-end target

If ad agencies know anything, it’s that Lexus and Mercedes buyers want ads that illuminate fascinating concepts like collapsible steering columns, seatbelt tensioners and zero-to-100 acceleration times.

The rich care about their purchases!

Those brassy, balding folks in the Ford Wagon spots start out mouthing off about six-passenger capacity and lotsa power, but soon lose track and digress into self-deprecating joshing about their tennis strokes.

The middle class cares about lifestyle!

But how the hell do you get empathetic with the impoverished scum who might be persuaded to scrape together $200 a month to lease some dreary econobox in lieu of Renting-A-Wreck four times a year?

These people don’t even like cars. They may not even have lifestyles. They only need a car because the bus doesn’t go there, right?

The poor are space cadets, man!

Or, that’s how the brief must have read that launched the new Neon and Saturn campaigns.

Over 20 seconds of high speed ornamental hedge-trimming dominates the Neon 30-second.

A voiceover says Neon’s plastic parts are labelled for recycling (and not a moment too soon), and the air-conditioning is ozone-layer-friendly, but we’re watching gardening!

Then, so help me, we see the trimmer’s sculpted a leafy Neon, which means all Neons are green! Get it?

This is a car for people who voted for Doug Henning!

I’m sorry to report the Saturn people are pretty ditzy, too.

They live in oddball places like Old Montreal and Sudbury, Ont. and Squamish, b.c., photographed at strange speeds and in strange colors.

Banjo and fiddle duets

Their goofy, home-movie antics are played out against banjo and fiddle duets, 50s Les Paul guitar riffs and polka tunes.

They make awkward U-turns and zoom around in reverse and slide like beached whales down their vehicle’s paintwork in zippered ski jackets.

They kick at their shiny, new doors, and their no-neck children strap on hockey helmets and run headlong into these ‘rust and dent resistant panels’ for the camera.

These people hate cars!

(But, the big supers remind us Saturns only cost $189 a month, so like disposable razor handles, they’re practically worthless.)

There’s a quirky charm to these spots, and the people are clearly supposed to be lovable and carefree, and innocent and happy-crazy.

But, the $10,000-a-day director has shot them as happy-crazy peasants, frolicking in their dopey, downmarket impoverishment.

Let them eat cake! Let them drive Saturns! Will they mind?

If these are car commercials for people who really don’t care for cars (a different kind of car company indeed!), Nissan has a whopper of a spot for people who care about car companies.

The 90-second version spends 20 seconds just setting up a spoof on interactive television.

Then, the presenter whips us through half a dozen Nissan sales points, like windshield washer fluid warning lights, free travel planning and rear-seat headphone jacks that show Nissan is still Built for the Human Race.

It’s one hectic 90 seconds, mind you, but it’s fresh and kind of funny in a self-effacing way that leaves you with a nice feeling about Nissan, which those terribly self-important Heroic Soviet Realism-style commercials they used to do did not, at least for me, a Nissan owner, for heaven’s sake.

I like the last gag, where the presenter says someday we’ll elect our prime minister this way, and zaps our screen to black with his remote.

Neon’s with mbl/bbdo, Saturn’s at Cossette Communication-Marketing, and Nissan is Chiat/Day.