Advertiser: General Motors Corp.
Agency: Mullen, Wenham, Mass.
Ad Review rating: 1 star
The cover letter that accompanied the reel to 1 Ad Review Centre begins as follows: "Only a few times in the past 100 years has General Motors introduced a new brand. Recently, the GM Certified Used Vehicles brand was launched and now takes its place alongside Saturn, Chevrolet, Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Cadillac."
That's a bold comparison, linking this new enterprise to hallowed GM brands. Alas, in invoking such venerable traditions, Mullen, Wenham, Mass., has left a couple of things out:
1) Buick, which, when last we checked, was still nestled in there between Pontiac and Oldsmobile, and,
2) Any sense whatsoever about what this new brand is supposed to be.
The first two commercials for Certified Used Vehicles are beautifully shot, filled with charming and whimsical images and--as advertising--completely, utterly, certifiably worthless.
One is a 60-second spot, featuring a montage of children playing various sports. It starts with three hockey players emerging from a garage, then a chubby little golfer, then a yawning girl swimmer. The audio track is some coach giving encouragement.
"You guys are the champions, you know that? All right, let me see those game faces. That's it."
Then, in reverse type, the word "love" appears on the screen, and a little girl says, "We need love." Then we see that coach, exhorting his team: "We're out here to play baseball, right?" The kids shout back: "Right!"
Then the word "encouragement" flashes up, and a girl says, "We need encouragement."
At this stage it seems like your basic Nike commercial. But then the next two images show one pair of kids dressed up for a dance, another pair for a Halloween party. Then we see a kid in front of a fighter plane. The next buzzword: inspiration. "We need inspiration."
Next is a wonderful shot of a kid dressed in a dog costume fashioned entirely out of empty 12-ounce cans. Then a little girl angrily walking down the sidewalk, having just been in a fight. (Dad: "She didn't start it." Mom: "It doesn't really matter who started it.") This leads to the next human quality kids require adults to furnish:
"We need understanding."
Then, finally, after shots of a boy violinist and a sullen little girl in a leotard, comes the ultimate thing kids need: Rides.
"We need rides!" And, sure enough, the hockey players and the dancer and the tin-can dog wait around for the grown-ups to pick them up. In a minivan. A GM minivan. (Which GM brand you can't tell, because it's a bird's-eye view.) But then, finally, the voice-over jumps in to tell you the point--or, at least, the sponsor--of all this.
"Introducing used vehicles. Reconditioned, warrantied and ready for life. GM Certified."
Get it? Kids need understanding and chauffeur service. In the second spot, some equally trenchant news: Salesmen need cars. And so, presumably, we must be moved by how this new GM brand understands our lives.
Swell. But what good does that possibly do us? While these slices of life are indeed precious, we don't need Certified Used Vehicles to lecture us on loving and encouraging kids. We have Hillary Clinton for that. What we need from these guys is some basic information:
Where are the stores? How are the prices? What kind of warranty?
Oh, and, by any chance, do they sell used Buicks?
Copyright September 1997, Crain Communications Inc.