skot AT izzlepfaff DOT com
Thursday, 16 June
Horrible Ad Campaigns, Another In An Ongoing Series
The Vehix ads recently revamped their whole ad campaign. The old campaign featured a nebbishy middle-aged guy in glasses who wore a giant computer suit. This, we learned, was Vehix! Good old Vehix would visit people at their homes and carry out their every automotive-related wish, and he would do it with the best of humor, despite the fact that Vehix was always rewarded with some sort of naked hostility: one guy gave him a tip for his troubles, but then snatched it back. After another dutiful fact-finding mission for a housewife, Vehix got savagely kicked in the shins by her kid. The ads seemed to be saying: We are here to serve the automotive whims of you, the sociopathic customer.
It was puzzling to say the least to see an entire corporate campaign based on portraying its consumer base as a bunch of dire assholes--almost as puzzling as the idea of buying a car over the internet, but maybe that's just me.
Anyway, it was with great interest that I watched the new Vehix ads. Their overall slogan is now, basically: "Everything you wanted to do in real life? You can do with Vehix." In one spot, for example, I get to fuck Kate Winslet.
No! Of course not. That would not only be laughable, particularly for Ms. Winslet, but it would also veer dangerously towards the idea that a Vehix customer is a normal, healthy member of society. Vehix has yet again opted for the opposite tactic: that the Vehix customer is an unreasonable freak who will explore every opportunity for human cruelty in pursuit of his/her car.
In one spot, an imperious man stands, hands on hips, and barks out orders to two poor bastards who are turning a pickup truck mounted on a rotating platform. "Left. Left. More left. Right. More right." The idea is, he can get a 360-degree view of the vehicle with only the aid to two strong luckless buffoons and a rumbling tenor! That's a lot easier than simply walking around the fucking thing! I've always wanted to do that in real life!
Another thing I've longed to do is to have another put-upon goon spraypaint a car over and over again--while I watch--until I find the right color. Again, this beats the hell out of turning around to view all the other cars right behind me in a lot; it also beats, I don't know, hopelessly asking my atrophied brain to imagine another color. The woman customer in this ad is particularly awful; when the poor bastard has finally completed the paint job, she screws up her face into a ghastly rictus of fake apology and ventures "Can I see it in red again?" The viewer is then rewarded with what I assume is a wholly intentional cut to the painter, whose protective mask is unable to conceal the look of utter loathing that his face wears.
Hell, maybe it was intentional. These ads really do seem to assume that its target audience members are the creepiest bastards on the planet. Another shot shows a woman climbing into the back seat of an SUV, then hunkering down and slowly walking in a circle to get a full panoramic view of the interior. We've all done this, right? It's not enough to poke your fucking head in the car and use the good old occipital condyle to swivel your head around: you have to do a chicken dance instead. Right?
Other spots are just weird and run totally counter to the Vehix premise of offering things that "you always wanted to do." One spot, fixating again on the color of the car (which, as we all know, is the most important feature), has a fellow shot from the back looking at a car; he is also doing something that we can't initally see with his hands. (Oh, be quiet, perverts.) Gradually, we see that what he's been doing is making elaborate little construction paper templates of the car's shape so he can hold them up at a distance to see what different colors would be like. Again, leaving aside the part of you that wants to scream "USE YOUR POOR BRAIN! IT'S THERE TO HELP!", this is of course something that nobody in their right mind would ever do, except for people who at some later point see their names in sentences such as " . . . was used as the inspiration for the movie Se7en."
Which would all be fine and everything--ads like anything else use these sorts of tactics, and I don't expect them to hew to reality or anything. But shouldn't they be grounded in some form of humor, or drama, or tension, or . . . Christ, I don't know . . . rationality? In another spot, a guy climbs into a pickup truck, gets settled, and then presses a red button on a keypad. The truck is then struck in the grill by a gigantic fake sledgehammer that emerges from the ceiling, deploying the airbag. (It should be noted that the fake sledgehammer employs some of the worst CGI ever seen since the movie The Perfect Storm. It would have at least been funny if they just used a great big rubber hammer. [Which is probably what's going to happen when Troma gets the rights to adapt The Might Thor to film.]) Then the guy cheerfully gets out of the pickup, apparently satisfied that he's safe from any life-threatening collisions with fake hammers, a hail of rubber chickens, or common sense.
I think it's telling that no single Vehix ad has ever once shown anyone actually buying a car.
BONUS HORRIBLE AD: Giorgio Armani
Armani has a new perfume called . . . well, it says something that I'm not even sure what its name is, but anyway, it's pretty unremarkable in form and content, and I mean that literally, in that it really has neither. Just some black and white shots of a ember-eyed fellow schnuzzling up to some icy brunette who seems not to be aware of his existence. But what's really thrillingly great and marrow-freezingly awful about the spot is the overheated voiceover, done in the kind of nonspecific Continental accent that is usually found in bad sketch comedy. It sounds like I imagine spoiled pears taste like.
It's not a long ad, but what it lacks in running time, it makes up for in yuks. "Do yoo know ze code?" says ze voice. Noir shot of something glinting in the dark. Some murky shots of the couple who do not evidently enjoy looking at anything, particularly each other. "Ze code of sed-uck-shun?" Suddenly the smoldery guy seems to notice us, the viewer, past she-who-does-not-care's profile. He looks kind of pissed off, and not very seductive. Or -ory. Or whatever. The voice is back to give us the payoff line anyway.
"A new fwagrahnce!" it says with fresh intensity. And then the most fabulously clipped accenting on the final three words: "From CHAWCHAW AHMANI!"
If there was ever an ad I wanted to smell exactly like, it's this one. "Jesus, Skot, what's the reek?" my friends would ask. "CHAWCHAW AHMANI!" I would scream at them.
After that? I don't know. Maybe go kneecap some car salesmen.
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Let's not forget the other Vehix commercial with the lumpy guy sitting in his ratty, disgusting man-chair as he starts and stops a conveyor belt of cars streaming through what couldn't possibly be his livingroom. The best part, though, is the people trapped in their cars on the conveyor who flash a price out the window when he stops them as they go past. Isn't that also something that everyone has always wanted to do?!
And as far as AHMANI, I was thinking exactly the same thing the other night when I was repeatedly subjected to that stupid commercial. Where is that accent supposed to be from? And why would anyone want to smell like anyone in that ad? But the way the name of the designer is pronounced so oddly in the end makes me laugh everytime.
Se7en: The most obnoxiously-titled movie ever. I insist on pronouncing it "Sesevenen".
I hadn't thought of the Vehix commercials in that context - but now that you mention it, it does appear that they hate their customers. My problem with the earlier commercials with the dumpy guy dressed up as a computer is that he was very, very slow. It takes him forever to come back with information on vehicles. Isn't he supposed to BE the website? It made me never want to go to vehix.com because their service must be awful.
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