The Pontiac Commercial

Posted on by MarcusB and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

I’m going to try something within the spirit of PO but slightly different.

This is one of my favorite commercials of all time. There’s the cool music, the bright lights and the ambient atmosphere. With the exception of Matt Dillon’s introduction of the lineup at the end, there’s no other narration and no people in the commercial. Everything is for and about the cars. Of course it’s still aiming at a demographic that’s most likely an early 20s upper-middle-class crowd with a taste for electronic music and luxury items, but that’s already encapsulated in the coupe and Solstice themselves. There is no forceful angle taken; all the cinematography is done for cinematography’s sake. Maybe it just means that I’m more trapped in television’s hypnotic spellbind than I’m willing to admit, but I think this is a commercial done right.

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12 Responses to The Pontiac Commercial

  1. MarcusB says:

    Contrast this with this acura commercial:

    This commercial has everything too; the cool music, the cool lights, the cool atmosphere. But the number one thing that it advertises is lifestyle and being 20. And exclusivity and Wall Street jobs and high end apartments with swimming pools on the top. I’d be lying if I said it isn’t alluring. It almost makes a college freshman want to major in finance and get a job as an I-banker.

    So what are your favorite commercials and why?

    • bogart says:

      Compare, contrast and notice the trajectory advertising has taken:

      Is advertising just converging in on the optimal presentation? If so, where is the optimal point going to be, i.e. what does the optimal commercial look like?

      Or, is this an evolving relationship, a dance between consumers and advertisers, each one moving the relationship a little? If so, where is this relationship going?

      Also, check out the 1960 Nixon-Kennedy debate and compare and contrast it to the latest Presidential debate…

  2. robotslave says:

    You should have realized the target demographic was much older than 20, and long before you went and looked up Matt Dillon’s age.

    In car sales, youth, like everything else, is aspirational.

    • Guy Fox says:

      In … sales, youth, like everything else, is aspirational.

      Give the robotslave a cybercigar! Absolutely right. But the commercial doesn’t only present youth as aspirational. The cars are driving through some neon-shadowed cyber-city, not on the beach at sunset or a frat party. That also seems to be communicating sophistication and maturity for those who fear/know they lack exactly that. If you’re >25, you probably see all the freedom and possibilities (and cool aesthetic) of youth. Still got it. If you’re <25, you probably see all the independence and certitude of maturity. Claim your inheritance.

      • MarcusB says:

        Hmm I see what you’re saying, but I’d have to say that I disagree. I think that whatever older crowd that sees all the freedom and possibilities and cool aesthetics of youth is already drawn to that through the cars; the advertisement doesn’t have to do any of that. I will admit that the G6 Coupe and Solstice already do that, but the Torrent model is an SUV that looks like a family car.

        For the younger crowd that sees maturity in it? This crowd is still susceptible to anything iconic, it doesn’t have to be consumerism. It will see the maturity in a car the same way it will see maturity in a Nietzsche novel.

        As I said before, any aspiration is encapsulated in the car itself. But I still don’t think this commercial is trying to lure anyone. The images/sounds are suggestive, sure, but neutral. If this commercial, DEVOID of any narration and people and cultural references, has any notion of fantasy fulfillment, then maybe we shouldn’t watch movies/read books because of how susceptible we are to just about any piece of art.

      • Elisabeth says:

        “If you’re >25, you probably see all the freedom and possibilities (and cool aesthetic) of youth. Still got it. If you’re <25, you probably see all the independence and certitude of maturity. Claim your inheritance."

        Not quite. How many people under 25 have the money to spend $20,000+ on a car? Very few, I'd say. Certainly not enough to bother marketing to them.

        The target in this ad is older. It's marketing a youth that appeals more to the people that their targets are now – the sophisticated young person they wished they had been. They want the coolness. They want the possibilities and freedoms of being young.

        But they don't want the douchey frat parties and cliched sunsets. Even if they haven't grown out of that, they don't want to be the creepy older person who can't let go at the parties and is pitied/scorned by the younger people. It's such a freaking cliche.

  3. BHE says:

    I’ve always wanted to see the return to an older era of advertising, and I think a savvy ad-man or woman could score a few points here. Just show me your fucking product and tell me what’s good about it without any spin. We’re so sick of being manipulated that no manipulation would be the ultimate manipulation.

    Plain shots of a car. No music. “If you’re thinking about buying a car, may we suggest our Brand X Mobile? We tried our best to make it look nice and run well. It costs about $20,000, which we think is a fair price point and a good value–but a little more if you want it to go faster or want added luxury. Please come in and take it for a test drive. Once again, that’s the Brand X Mobile.”

    OK, it would fail miserably.

    • MarcusB says:

      I’ve always thought about what that would be like. I wondered what it would be like to sell a brand of generic food without any indicators on the packaging, like a can of beans that just says “BEANS” on it.

      “OK, it would fail miserably.”

      I wouldn’t be so certain, my friend, you never know! Although it would throw people off track for sure. The crazy thing about reading PO/TLP is that after awhile, you’re not sure whether you’ve taken the blue or the red pill.

    • Elisabeth says:

      “OK, it would fail miserably.”

      It could be the greatest ad campaign in history. All the people who just *knew* that they were more discerning, more analytical and just plain *better* than everyone else would flock to it.

      Of course, it would have to be small scale, to avoid “contamination” by the very people from whom they’re trying to differentiate. Self righteous hipsters merely disdain ads directed at Teh Mahsses. If they realise that what they love is being co-opted (ie, if what’s been going on has become too obvious) they will not only abandon the product/service, they will react with fury and poison it.

    • Guy Fox says:

      I submitted this answer with a bit of an introduction referring to you Guys a couple of days ago under the title “Poor is the new black, or it soon will be. Again”, but it seems not to have passed editorial review, or whatever. Here it is:

      Here’s the thing: you can’t just signal “This product has no brand” because it’s not just about what that plain “GENERIC” sign would denote, it’s also about the ecosystem of other brands out there. As long as there are competing brands selling generic + aspiration, your generic version is going to be communicating something in relation to the acutal product and something in relation to all the others.

      Here’s an example from the European car market:

      There are plenty of luxury brands on the market: Benz, BMW, Audi, Rolls Royce, Bentley, Maybach, etc. Volkswagen was started by the Nazis as ‘the People’s Car’, which is pretty much what the name means literally. As Germany got rich compared to the rest of Europe, though, VW became too expensive and prestigious. This became really apparent when the new capitalists in Eastern Europe couldn’t afford them in the 90s, and when the old, functional Beatle was replaced with a new (now old), stylish Beatle (1). So now VW is more closely associated with those luxury brands, some of which it actually owns, than with something functional, unadorned and affordable. When that became irreversible, you got ads for non-German VW subsidiaries, like Seat (nominally Spanish) and Skoda (nominally Czech), presenting them as the new ‘people’s car’. The same thing has happened to them in the last 10 years as happened to VW 20-25 years ago. Now you have Dacia, a nominally Romanian subsidiary of Renault, using this commercial (it’s in German, but the symbolism is in the universal language of obvious). At the end, the spot actually drops the slogan “The status symbol for everybody who doesn’t need a status symbol.” Brand = Take that Prince Snarl von Richypants!

      Bonus angle: The guy herding the kids into the van is Memet Scholl, a former Bayern Munich football/soccer star of Turkish descent. So there’s the added message of ‘This is the people’s car for the non-Aryans among you. Double take that Snarl!”

      So if MarcusB wants unbranded BEANS, I’m afraid he’ll have to grow them, which is a valuable activity in itself.

      (1) Remember the episode of Mad Men with Don & co. talking about the ‘Lemon’ ad for the VW Beatle back in the 60s? You never had a chance.