In 2009, Chevrolet hired Howie Long to star in this commercial belittling a
man beta who is driving a Dodge Ram with a heated steering wheel:
Because what kind of girly man wants a heated steering wheel?
Imagine my surprise when five years later I found that the brochure for the 2014 Chevy Silverado touts not only a heated steering wheel, but contoured, “12-way, power-adjustable heated and cooled front bucket seats”.
Granted, I lack the infrared vision of Howie Long, but what kind of man needs an electric motor to recline his seat for him?
I can’t help but be reminded of this 2007 commercial for the Audi A4:
Audi released this commercial in response to Lexus’s release of an automated self-parking system, what was surely a remarkable feat of engineering at the time. Grant McCracken provided some analysis of what likely went down at Audi central:
…Audi turned to its engineers to ask if this could be replicated, they scratched their heads and replied, “We need 18 to 36 months. Don’t call us. We’ll call you.”
So now Audi has a problem. A competitor has taken a lead. And even when Audi replicated the lead, the achievement is going to belong to Lexus.
What to do? Well, in a time honored tradition, it makes sense to jam the signal. Find some way to turn the Lexus advantage into a disadvantage.
[The commercial] repositions the Lexus achievement as a as a self indulgence. This Audi, with its parking panache, turns the Lexis into a carriage, a 17th century conveyance of the French aristocrat, that bloodless fop who relied on others to do his bidding. Audi, on the other hand, is the luxury car for people who can park themselves.
Grant mis-estimated the lead Lexus had. It took Audi five years to release their own system. Apparently Audi is now perfectly happy selling cars to people who can’t park themselves. Who would have guessed they would overcome those qualms?
These examples, point to a sort of abusive relationship we have with ourselves that car companies are happy to enable. We want fancy things, but if we don’t have them, we are perfectly happy mocking those who do. And later, when we get those things, all is forgotten.
Advertisers in turn are happy to prey upon these insecurities sell us the luxuries they mock us for wanting.
It’s not like Neil Sedaka
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