HUMMER, THE TRUCK FOR JERKS

H2 Ad Is Ode to Borderline Personality Disorder

By Published on .

Client: General Motor's Hummer
Agency: Modernista, Boston
Star Rating: 3.5

Disclosure time:

We, as a staff, are so deeply prejudiced on certain topics to the point that we may be predisposed to despise a perfectly good ad for, say, Perrier, just because

The Hummer as vehicle of a snot-nosed little cheater.
it's for Perrier. That's because we believe that anybody who pays a premium to have water shipped from France is a laughable chump.

Likewise, we are not too keen on the New York Yankees. And if we were writing about their advertising, we'd have a hard time resisting the opportunity to badmouth the whole repulsive, arrogant, ostentatiously rich, Steinbrenner-stained franchise.

The truck for jerks
This brings us to our current subject: Hummer, the truck for jerks.

Ride down the street. See a Hummer. The occupant is a jerk. Bet on it ... or else why would he be in a Hummer? It's too big to navigate and park. It's a real and present threat to other vehicles on the road. It may have some off-road credentials, but no Hummer has ever been taken off road. Not once. Ever. You can look it up.

The only reason anybody drives a Hummer is to be seen driving a Hummer -- which is the moral equivalent of fake farting in class to impress the girl in the first row. But you can't advertise a vehicle that way, can you? "The truck for jerks" is not really slogan material.

Male insecurity
What GM has to do is tap into a rich vein of male insecurity without labeling it as such. It must take the reality of vulgar, conspicuous consumption and spin it into some more admirable trait -- which is precisely what Modernista, Boston, has done in the latest commercial for the H2.

The spot opens, to the bouncy lyrics of The Who's "Happy Jack," on a little boy making a soapbox derby racer. But he isn't fashioning the streamlined bullet that all the other kids have; his is a wooden version of the H2, assembled with some help -- but mostly the admiring attention -- of the cute little girl next door. (That is not a coincidence. That, in fact, is the positioning.)

When the downhill race begins, the other kids laugh little Jack off. But while they follow the asphalt, he cuts across the terrain -- breaking the rules, of course -- and beat them to the finish. Jack is a junior jerk, but never mind that. He's won the race and the girl.

Ethically bankrupt
Sure, that's ethically bankrupt, but as cinema it's irresistable, a well-shot narrative propelled by an odd and wonderful choice of music. Anyway, let's just assume that regulatory nonconformity isn't a huge obstacle for the average H2 prospect, who will see in young Jack not a snot-nosed little cheater but -- like the boy in the song -- a heroic iconoclast. Therein resides the commercial's evil genius. It's a paean to borderline personality disorder -- a strategy, as the tagline goes, "Like Nothing Else."

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Correction: Last week's column about the Brawny paper towels campaign was inaccurate on several counts. The ad we most focused on was not created recently by Fallon, New York, but by DDB. And it is not new but two years old. We feel like idiots and we apologize.

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