Monday, February 9, 2015

If your dick joke lasts longer than 60 seconds, consult a physician

Remember: this cost Fiat nine million dollars.

It's sort of an interesting counterpoint to Chevy's "drive a truck or never get laid ever" pitch that small car makers often seem to go in a similar direction, especially when marketing their slightly larger models. During the 2011 Super Bowl, for instance, Mini ran an ad that winkingly compared the trunk space in its four-door Countryman model to anal sex. A year later, Fiat explicitly cast its Fiat 500 Abarth model as a sexy Italian woman. And here we have Fiat again, inviting you to think of its four-door 500X as the product of an erection pill falling into a smaller model. (Less obliquely, of course, it also shows you several women purring over it.) The pitch, it seems, is this: really tiny cars aren't sexy. But we also make SLIGHTLY larger cars! And those are TOTALLY sexy.

Per the Chicago Tribune, subcompact crossovers - the vehicle subsegment in which the 500X is classed - are the hot thing in the automobile world. With that in mind, an ad that pushes them as sexy - when "practical" seems more their speed - feels like an odd play. I understand that "practical" is usually reserved for cars that are being sold to parents, and this type of car is apparently chasing younger urban dwellers... but still. Sexy? The whole point is a car that's small but not TOO small. Easy to drive and park but you don't hear this in your head every time you see one go by. Useful. Not sexy.

Here's a five-year-old ad for the Nissan Juke, one of the first subcompact crossovers to hit the market (here sold as a "sport-cross"):

It's true that that ad also felt the need to have multiple women act impressed by our hero. But it does at least show a few things that the car, you know, can do - the turbo boost, the fact that it can fit into small parking spaces while still having some power (a concern that a lot of people have with small cars, clearly), Bluetooth and pop-up navigation. Even as the ad has plenty of... well, if not jokes per se, at least bits that are intended to be amusing, it still gets across the key points about the Juke.

Meanwhile, what do we know about the 500X after watching that Fiat ad? For one thing, the car doesn't show up for 40 seconds of a 60-second spot; by comparison, the Juke is literally the first thing we see in the Nissan ad. And in fact, the car that shows up at the 40-second mark ISN'T the 500X - we don't see that in full until the 49-second mark, after the smaller Fiat has had a chance to, uh, become engorged with... look, forget this. The point is, I count fewer than three seconds of seeing the car driving in the Fiat ad, and none of them are in an American city, which is a little odd considering that this car is presumably being marketed to urban Americans. (On the bright side, I'm very confident I'll be able to maneuver the 500X should I ever find myself driving one in Tuscany.)

I've never been a big fan of car ads that don't show the car driving (like the middle ad from that Dodge post, which is far too busy calling you gay to show you what you'd actually be getting if you succumbed to their sales pitch). Unless what you're really desperate to sell me on does not involve the driving experience itself - like that Mini ad, which really is just focused on the trunk space - you should probably try to show the car in motion for more than a couple seconds. I mean, this ad features an ersatz Viagra pinging around some Italian town for fully twenty seconds. It spends twenty more seconds just on horny old people. The car itself? Eh, who cares.

This isn't a really terrible ad by any means, but Fiat could easily have saved themselves $4.5 million and cut it down to 30 seconds by trimming the fat from the opening 45. Maybe they would have had room for a few more shots of the car actually driving? Or, I don't know, a second joke?

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