To watch the new Lincoln MKX spot with Harry Connick Jr., tooling around his native New Orleans assessing the devastation, is to wonder what could possibly have possessed him, the Ford Motor Co. and Y&R.
They seem to have persuaded themselves somehow that they are doing something positive -- celebrating the spirit of a city, shedding light on its challenges, recognizing its heroes.
What they are doing is exploiting its victims to advertise luxury SUVs. It is vulgar. It is grotesque. It is disgusting.
And not even remotely surprising. With every catastrophe comes the inevitable sleazy marketing thinly disguised as sympathy, philanthropy, encouragement or public service. We've witnessed it in the wake of Oklahoma City, when Makita power tools took out newspaper ads ostensibly to honor the search-and-rescue volunteers but transparently to brag about donated merchandise. After the Kosovo crisis, Philip Morris spent tens of millions of dollars to produce and air an elaborate spot recreating the refugee exodus, by way of patting itself on the back for airlifting about $150,000 worth of macaroni and cheese.
And then there was Sept. 11. Who can forget GM's 3,000-Dead Sale-a-bration, a yearend price promotion staged on the still-smoldering ashes of Ground Zero? Ford got in on the Sept. 11 sweepstakes too, with its own version dubbed "Ford Drives America." Yeah, to the brink of depravity.
And now the same company is at it again. The spot opens with Harry in the driver's seat, narrating a tour of Big Easy landmarks -- intercut, funnily enough, with exterior shots of his handsome 2008 Lincoln MKX crossover with the striking silver exterior, luxurious car-like ride and powerful 263-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 engine, available with all-wheel-drive. Finally he pulls up at a familiar corner.
"Now this, this gets very emotional for me," he says. "This is my street."
It is 20th Street, where the corner property is now mainly a vacant lot.
"Wow. The first time I've seen it with no house on it."
Oh, really? The first time? With the Steadicam in the backseat and production trailers all around him? God bless him, though. He takes the shock like a champ.
"That's ... that's that part of my life." He might have dwelled more on the unimaginable toll of Hurricane Katrina, but his phone rings, and with a tap of his finger on the luxurious leather-and-wood steering wheel, he answers the call from his friend, musician J.D. Hill, via Sync Integrated Voice Technology. (Never mind losing your home. As Lincoln likes to say, "Once you live with Sync, your life will never be the same.")
J.D. is waiting for Harry down at the Habitat for Humanity Musicians' Village, where they're staging a benefit, and Harry's got all the crawdads in galvanized tubs in his spacious 32.3-cubic-foot cargo area that expands to 68.6 cubic feet with a flick of the easy-fold rear-seat toggle release.
"My dream is to get the good times rolling again in my hometown."
His dream being just one inspiring segment of Lincoln's "Dreams" campaign, which -- as we have previously noted -- allows you to achieve greatness by driving a car. More heartwarming still is that Ford Motor Co. finally gets to recover some value from its hitherto unamortized contribution of money and employee time to the Katrina relief. Well, congratulations, bean counters. You've finally gotten some value for your money.
Why, it's a dream come true.