Can Rosa Parks Sell Pickup Trucks?
Chevy's icky, exploitative new ad.
I realize the notion being pushed here is that we'll face these hardships together and—aided, perhaps, by the hauling and towing capacity of a 2007 Chevy Silverado—overcome them. That's why the Katrina and 9/11 shots are countered with scenes of firefighters and people rebuilding houses. But I still don't understand the purpose of including all this bleak stuff in the first place. (Other than to get some attention for pushing the envelope, which—for an established, down-to-earth product like a Chevy pickup—seems a misplaced goal.)
Maybe the red-state viewer, to whom the ad is likely directed (I assume that's the main target market for pickups), interprets the overall statement as an optimistic, can-do, morning-in-America kind of thing: We've come through the bad times and we're ready to kick some ass again. But to me, this spot feels more like the advertising equivalent of Jimmy Carter's "malaise" speech. It arrives at an awkward, unsettled moment in the American psyche (underscored by the 9/11 and Katrina imagery in the montage), and it almost seems the ad hopes to capture the essence and feeling of that moment. Dredging up all these depressing incidents in our recent past, and then saying, "This is our country," sure seems like an effort to address our "crisis of confidence."
I guess I'd ask Chevy: How'd that strategy work out for Carter?
Grade: D. Automotive blog Jalopnik reports that an early version of the ad included footage of a nuclear mushroom cloud. Well, that would have brightened things up. I wonder if they could squeeze in the Rodney King beating and the Abu Ghraib photos, too.
Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.