GM shouldn't be shocked if the UAW boycotts this spot

It's cute, it's emotional and it's horribly insulting to laid-off employees

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mcreamer@crain.com

Here's the plot: A General Motors assembly-line robot is given the boot from the factory, triggering a downward spiral that sees him working at a fast-food drive-thru before taking a plunge off a bridge into an icy-looking river, all to the melodramatic strains of the Eric Carmen weeper "All By Myself."

Sounds like a union-made attack job, a bit of video vitriol to be passed around among the automaker's many critics, right? Nope, it's one of GM's two Super Bowl ads this year, and one of the most bizarre, tone-deaf spots ever to be aired during the big game. You thought Budweiser's flatulent horse was off-key? You thought the Just For Feet ad that featured a pack of white men chasing a black runner over an African savannah, sedating him and forcing a pair of sneakers on his feet was repellent, a little too Kipling-esque for a post-colonial world?

By now you've met GM's robot, a lovable ad mascot created by Deutsch, Los Angeles, whose plight is meant to demonstrate the troubled automaker's renewed focus on quality.

Instead, when the unnamed robot makes the innocent mistake-a few dropped screws-it sets into motion his downfall, and what we're reminded of is one of the most bitter parts of GM's recent history-the many waves of layoffs that have put tens of thousands of laborers in positions not too different from the robot's. We eventually learn that the tragic sequence is just a dream, but not before the damage is done. Rather than get us thinking about a 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, we're tangled up in GM's blues, lamenting the sad plight of so many workers, not to mention the overall ills facing Detroit. We can hardly wait to see what the United Autoworkers union will say.

There is a bright side. In the unnamed robot, Deutsch has engineered a cute, sympathetic character, and it wouldn't be a bad thing to see more of him. Hopefully, any forthcoming spots won't have him living out of the trunk of his car in some ill-advised bid to tout the roominess of a Buick.
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