Dodge Just Insulted Your Car -- But You May Not Know It

Automaker's Morse Code Campaign Gets Ad Sleuths Deciphering Message

By Published on .

Reprints Reprints

The witty Morse code message that the Dodge brothers transmitted in a recent TV ad sparked a conversation online just as the brand hoped it would.

The spot shows the brothers sitting in the Scat Pack variant of the Dodge Charger as they flash the lights in Morse code to a viewing public that's largely unfamiliar with the method, originally developed for the telegraph.

People found out soon after the spot's release in June that the brothers were throwing a playful insult at non-Dodge drivers. The Morse code message is "I'd rather walk than drive your car."

Dodge brought in a Morse code translator -- who wasn't as hard to find as you would think -- during the production process to get the message just right, said Randy Ortiz, head of Dodge and SRT brand advertising.

The lighthearted ad teased viewers who tried to figure out the message, while starting a discussion -- which is exactly what Dodge wanted to do.

The "Morse Code" commercial has drawn more than 650,000 views on YouTube since it was posted on June 8.

The spot, a continuation of the brand's irreverent marketing approach, is part of the latest round of "Dodge Brothers" ads launched last month. It was handled by agency Wieden & Kennedy.

Dodge shared a second version on June 29 with modified dialogue that took a swipe at the Volkswagen Passat -- another attack in the ongoing ad war between the two automakers -- although the code message was unaltered. The second version is slated to air on TV as well.

"We thought it fit [the Dodge brothers'] personality but also fit with the personality of the brand," Mr. Ortiz said. "It was something that the Dodge brothers might have done."

To sidetrack people when the ad released, Dodge planted a decoy code of dashes and dots of the headlight message in the YouTube video's description. The decoy said: "You just spent five minutes decoding a Morse code message from a Dodge YouTube description."

The brand left the fake message on the YouTube video by itself for four days before adding the real code to the video's description section. The phony code is still there, too.

To pull the message off correctly, the production process had to be precise.

"We hired a professional Morse code translator," Mr. Ortiz said. "On set, we did some takes of the lights flickering to kind of get the rhythm down, to get a pattern down. We developed it in the post-production process because when you're on set, time is of the essence.

"So we got what we needed filming, then we worked very hard in the post-production process to perfect the message and make sure it was 100 percent accurate."

Vince Bond Jr. is a writer for Automotive News

Most Popular