What Is a Hemi Engine, Anyway?
Decoding Dodge's cryptic ad campaign.
But the Dodge driver in the ad (his name is Ed) doesn't look raw or bold. Ed looks like he enjoys fixing up his deck. So, my theory is this: Ed and the two scuzzy dudes (Roehm calls them "the rednecks") correspond to two sides of the Dodge buyer's brain. Part of the buyer is Ed—that responsible dad who chuckles at the silly rednecks. But part of him still relates to those rednecks … lusting after a 345-horsepower, 5.7-liter butt-kicking machine! The ad at once appeals to the parental yin and the redneck yang. And it seems to be working. The Hemi has been added to several other DaimlerChrysler car lines and will show up this fall in the new Jeep Grand Cherokee.
As for the rednecks, they've taken on a cultural life of their own. I think their success is all about the way redneck No. 2 says the word "sweet." All drawn out and drawly: "Sweeeaaaaaaaayyyte." The Hemi catchphrase is on T-shirts now, and the rednecks show up at car events.
Grade: B. No great shakes, but the ad does seem effective at building awareness. One example: Near the start of the war in Iraq, there was a political cartoon in which an Iraqi family greets an oncoming American tank. "That thing gotta Hemi?" asks the Iraqi dad. Philosophical aside: Does the soldier in the tank represent the Ed side of America or more the side of America that says, "Sweeeaaaaaaaayyyte"?
Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.
Photograph of truck on Slate's Table of Contents © Ted Soqui/Corbis.