Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Shh, don't tell 'em

Do you think Nissan actually knows what "Cat's in the Cradle" is about?

A quick refresher: "Cat's in the Cradle" is a song about a father who never has any time for his kid. The kid nevertheless talks about wanting to grow up to be like his father - and then, lo and behold, he does, growing into a man who is constantly busy and never has time to spend with his father, who has aged into a regretful old man upset with himself for ignoring his son all those years. That song is BRUTAL AS FUCK. That it's somehow turned into a fatherhood anthem just because the word "Dad" is in the lyrics is right up there with "Born in the USA" in the all-time "no one listened to these lyrics besides the chorus" rankings.

The question is what Nissan is even trying to do here. The plot of this ad: race car driver has a kid. He's never at home because he's off nearly getting killed in his race car. Then at the end he actually shows up for a change! And he gets a hug. The end.

This could have been a contender for the SkyMall Championship Trophy in our Super Bored Awards. Because what the fuck. The dad is a race car driver in a Nissan car. So, in other words, all the anguish and emotional distance being experienced by this family is at least partly Nissan's fault! "Yeah, sorry I missed your birthday, son, but I was off driving around in my sweet-ass Nissan race car!"

I suppose Nissan has to know what "Cat's in the Cradle" is about since the plot of the ad basically dovetails exactly with the plot of the song (though really just the first two and a half verses). But how did they think this was going to sell cars? This is one of those "the only important thing is getting our name out there" ads, which I've never thought made a lot of sense coming from companies whose names are already well known. If you're Nissan, I don't think there's a ton you can do to boost your Q rating compared to, say, Mophie. But you can probably screw it up! And one way to do that is by making a weird, depressing ad that has nothing to do with your actual products. I guess we see a new-looking Nissan at the end. You need eagle eyes to spot the model name, though. Worth it.

In case you think that Nissan really gave any significant thought to this "#withdad" campaign they're running, check out this thing that supposedly was intended as a "teaser" for their Super Bowl ad:

Setting aside the fact that this barely constitutes a "prank," this video of an apparently stay-at-home dad having fun with his kids is literally as far as possible from the plot of Nissan's Super Bowl ad as I can even imagine.

And the cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon
Little boy blue and a ball-filled room
When ya comin' home dad, I'm home right now
I don't have an actual job, son, so I'm here all the time

Also: the idea of filling a non-ball-pit room with balls? Not new. I'm sure your wife appreciates how annoying you've made her life after her 40-minute commute, though.

And here's another video (this one part of a series on YouTube) about the Matthews family, who have been playing in the NFL for three generations. This isn't bad for like, a SportsCenter piece. But what value does it have as Nissan content? Oh, but there are dads in it! So hashtag that shit up, man!

This is just incoherent, right? It has nothing to do with anything. Nissan wants to make a bunch of branded content with dad stuff because... what? Are dads their key demo now? "Nissan! The perfect boring mid-size car for your boring middle-age dad life!" I guess it's a change of pace from the usual push to market everything to the 18-to-34 demographic, but linking a bunch of totally unrelated stuff together with a dad-related hashtag is super uninspiring. You can practically see the marketing meeting in which this was conceived.

Exec 1: "Okay, here's the pitch: dads."
Exec 2: "What do you mean, dads?"
Exec 1: "Dads! Hashtag, 'dads.' 'Nissan: the boring car for boring dads.'"
Exec 3: "Yeah, we're not gonna-"
Exec 1: "Okay, forget the boring part. But trust me: dads. What do you think of when you think of dads?"
Exec 2: "Um... football?"
Exec 1: "Great! What about you?"
Exec 3: "Miserable absentee bastards."
Exec 1: "Oh! That's, uh, that's very specific..."
Exec 3: "Lousy, no-good, never home, never said he loved me, missed all my soccer games, rat-fu-"
Exec 1 [jotting down notes]: "Yeah, no, this is good stuff, Phil. I think we can make this work."
Exec 2: "And this is going to sell Nissans?"
Exec 1 [shrugging]: "I mean... it might?"

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