Chrysler's enormous aerial Dodge banner crashes back to Earth

By David Kiefaber on Thu Oct 7 2010

The only thing more wickedly entertaining than watching big ad stunts fail is watching them fail while dropping from a helicopter. The latter situation befell (pun intended) Chrysler last Friday at the Texas State Fair, when the pilot in charge of hauling a 53,000-square-foot Dodge Ram banner pulled the emergency release and sent it crashing to the ground. Chrysler's intent was twofold: It wanted to break a world record held by the UAE's 50,000-square-foot flag banner, and also break GM's marketing stranglehold on the fair. If this were The Price Is Right, they'd be playing the Sad Horn right now. The best part, though, is that the FAA canceled Chrysler's second attempt to fly the banner, so they couldn't even redeem themselves. Not that anyone will really care—buying a car is full of so many weird intangibles, and one banner mishap isn't going to hurt anything. But it does play into the larger narrative of the company's haplessness. It also means GM shouldn't lose any sleep over its pole position at the Texas State Fair. Via Jalopnik.

Subaru Legacy is a much better choice than the 2011 Mediocrity

By David Kiley on Wed Oct 6 2010

Subaru is on a bit of a roll. The Outback won Motor Trend's Sport Utility of the Year last year, among other kudos. And the automaker's chief marketing executive, Tim Mahoney, was honored in Brandweek's recent Marketer of the Year issue. It's from this zone of good fortune and hyperconfidence that the automaker seems to have launched this cheeky video promoting he 2011 Mediocrity, a four-door sedan that has "figured out a way to blend in more." The effort is meant to call attention to the redesign of the Legacy mid-size sedan, which Subaru feels is far from anonymous looking and the antidote to the sedan. Note: Subaru drafted a Kia Optima to play the role of the Mediocrity. Where are the Kia hamsters when you need them to gnaw a hole in Mahoney's pants leg?
  The video, by Carmichael Lynch in Minneapolis, includes spy shots, promotional videos and interviews with designers to try to capture the essence of the world's most boring car. I had thought that was the four-door Nissan Versa sedan, or one of the cardboard sedans turned out by Chinese automakers. But the Optima proves to be a worthy choice as well. The earnestness and deadpan delivery of the actors is hilarious. "Instead of breaking the mold, we went down and found the pieces of the mold and put them back together," says one. The car has an "M" logo on the front grille, and there is a Citizen Kane "Rosebud" whisper at the end that punctuates the fun ... "Mediocrity."

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Toyota Scion, Adult Swim team up to blast you with speed metal

By T.L. Stanley on Tue Sep 21 2010


Toyota's Scion wants to make your ears bleed. If you don't believe me, go here and download 16 free tracks of "rare or unreleased" speed metal courtesy of the car brand and young-male-targeted cable comedy block Adult Swim. You can also watch a music video from Skeletonwitch in which fluffy creatures get ripped limb from limb (that part's fake, but the zombies are pretty convincing) and get video footage of Scion Rock Fest 2009 and 2010, along with more metal-related goodies. The collection, dubbed "Metal Swim," is a promotion from Scion's Audio/Visual record label, which might get you too keyed up to sleep if you listen to it for very long. That dovetails nicely into the up-all-night Adult Swim animation. It's a partnership made in metal heaven.

For Hollywood actors, voicing car commercials is getting cooler

By David Kiefaber on Tue Sep 7 2010


The new trend for Hollywood actors these days seems to be car commercials. USA Today points out that Tim Allen and Robert Downey Jr. are doing voiceovers for Chevy and Nissan, respectively, joining guys like Jeff Bridges (Hyundai) and Patrick Stewart (BMW), both of whom padded their résumés and wallets with this easy, high-paying gig. We could also add Michael C. Hall's Dodge work to the list. Allen, who just voiced Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story 3, is a Chevy nut in real life who owns a personally designed 1996 Chevrolet LT5 Impala SS, among other cars, and his unsophisticated everyman identity is unbreakable thanks to his time on Home Improvement, so he's ideal for a brand like Chevy. More interesting, though, is the fact, mentioned in the article but not really explored, that few actresses get voiceover work for car commercials. Standing beside a car in a bikini, sure, but talking about cars in any depth? It's still a male province, to judge by current marketing. In an AdweekMedia/Harris poll earlier this year, 28 percent of viewers said a male voice was more likely to sell them a car, versus 7 percent preferring a female voice. Since that leaves a whopping 65 percent unaccounted for, maybe most people don't care either way. In which case, would it kill automakers to bring in some famous female voices once in a while?

Hamsters in Kia Soul commercials inspire 'Hamstar' clothing line

By Elena Malykhina on Thu Sep 2 2010


You've seen them on TV, and now you can roll in style like the hamsters in the Kia Soul ads. The carmaker and D&G (that's David&Goliath, Kia's ad agency, not Dolce & Gabbana) have rolled out a line of streetwear clothing inspired by the furry rappers. Called Hamstar (yes, ham + star), the line includes T-shirts, hats and hoodies. The clothing doesn't feature the actual Kia characters; instead, it sports a simple design and the word "Hamstar," just like a hoodie worn by one of the hamsters in the car ad. At the moment, the selection, offered online at, is a bit limited. I'm sure it won't be long, though, before all the cool kids are wearing it. Well, I don't know that. But it is a clever way for Kia to cash in on its highly successful ads.

Mercedes plans to treat carbon emissions like horse droppings

By David Kiefaber on Wed Sep 1 2010

Mercedes-Benz, which recently featured long-dead guy Gottlieb Daimler in a commercial, is still wallowing in its past, judging by this new spot from German agency Jung von Matt. But they're getting better at it. The new spot compares the horse droppings of 1894 to the carbon emissions of 2010. I'm surprised no one thought of this before, actually. The two issues aren't exactly parallel, but they do illustrate the Faustian bargain of any technological breakthrough. Ours is slightly more complicated, and the debate surrounding it has gone almost completely off the deep end, but there are benefits and costs at every level of progress. By taking a broader view of history to provide context for its fuel-cell-powered, no-emissions cars, Mercedes comes out looking like both an innovator and a reliable cog in the gear system of time. Compared to other ads in this vein, which come off as insecure and nostalgic in a Sunset Boulevard kind of way, this is a big step up.

Infiniti is the latest advertiser to waste the talents of Ken Jeong

By T.L. Stanley on Mon Aug 30 2010

Note to Ken Jeong, perhaps one of the funniest dudes around: Next time you're offered a gig in a piece of branded entertainment, turn it down. I repeat: Turn it down. So far, you're 0-for-2. The vignettes for Infiniti that aired during last night's Emmy Awards started out well enough, with Jeong's castmates from the underrated NBC sitcom Community heading to the award show in a luxury minivan. (References to homemade treats they brought with them, like How I Met Your Muffins and The New Adventures of Old Krispies, were cute.) Then, much as the Emmy telecast itself, the ad series waned as it unfolded, with little for Jeong to do but act surly and sleepy. He and another co-star, Jim Rash, who plays the hapless dean of Greendale Community College, filmed some branded vignettes with TurboTax in the spring, with a similar outcome. Just not that funny. Maybe there's still time for Jeong to graduate to comedy in this milieu, but so far I'd have to give him an incomplete.

Australia attempts to pack its entire country inside a Honda Jazz

By T.L. Stanley on Mon Aug 9 2010

Honda, you had me at ninjas. On the heels of Toyota's Swagger Wagon and Kia's rapping hamsters, Honda has created its own time-wasting video snippets meant to show off the roominess and cheekiness of its Jazz model. Made in Australia, the videos present a new twist on how many clowns can fit in a car, or how many non-claustrophobic folks can squeeze into a phone booth. The campaign stuffs ninjas (right), hipsters, rappers and bodybuilders into a Jazz. The ninjas fold themselves into the compact car so quickly, you might miss it if you blink. It's no mean feat for marketers to create spots that go viral—even though they may describe their campaigns as such before a single person passes a link along—but this one seems to be catching on. So far, they've been played more than 400,000 times, with the hipster spot by far the most popular. Bet they couldn't get a pirate in their trunk. Go ninjas!

Cheetahs are cool, tree frogs questionable, in BFGoodrich ads

By David Kiefaber on Thu Jul 15 2010

BFGoodrich's "Bolt On" campaign is all about grip, acceleration and durability, and the tire maker has turned to the animal kingdom for appropriate symbolism. The cheetah is the obvious ambassador for acceleration and durability, and apparently the tree frog best represents grip. Huh. Didn't think they'd start with the frog. It wasn't a bad or uninformed choice, mind you—tree frogs have exceptionally strong (and sometimes opposable) fingers and toes, resulting in a grip tighter than Shakira's pants. But it still seemed like an odd and random choice. Starting the campaign, from The Martin Agency, with more familiar analogies like the cheetah might have provided better context for it. Still, I suppose the tree frog isn't the least masculine example of grip. They could have used a koala, right?

GM suggesting you fly the rocket-like 2011 Corvette to the moon

By David Kiefaber on Wed Jul 14 2010

General Motors broke this new spot for the 2011 Corvette on TV last night—the nameplate's first TV advertising in some five years. Created by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, the ad modestly compares the vehicle to a rocket ship. One probably costs as much as the other nowadays, so at least they have that much in common. Also, GM has announced that anyone who buys a Corvette Z06 or ZR1 has the option of building their own engine for it, something GM calls the "Engine Build Experience." Autoguide pegs this offer, and the spot, as an upscaling of the Corvette brand, but I think it's just the opposite—both promotional ideas are, with varying degrees of subtlety, nostalgic nods to America's once-great manufacturing sector. If anything, they're trying to make their expensive yuppie sports car more approachable for working-class people. The Engine Build Experience also outsources some of the labor to the consumer, something that many brands love to do, but since there are plenty of gearheads around who like working on cars, it's not as manipulative as it seems. In any case, GM is definitely trying to get across that all four of Corvette's tires are firmly on the ground.



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