Vulgarity So Sweet, Harmless, Funny and True

By Published on .

Client: Chevrolet
Agency: Campbell-Ewald, Warren, Mich.
Star Rating: 3

We'll discuss the business strategy in a moment -- because it's dubious -- but for now let's just focus on the new Chevy TV campaign and its tagline, "An American Revolution."

All the children who use profanity to express their surprise at the new Chevrolet SSR are made to eat soap.
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Revolution? Well, maybe so. Because the Chevrolet Motor Division -- which in the past 25 years has foisted on you such sexy beasts as the Chevette, Citation, Lumina and all-new 100%-hormone-free Malibu -- has suddenly got some pretty cool vehicles in the showroom, and is retooling its image around them.

All things to few people
No, make that simply "tooling," because for decades Chevy has had no image. Alfred P. Sloan's stylish entry-level brand has become the family values/rugged/Americana/ economy/muscle-car/lunchpail/rock music/country music/plastic-piece-of-crap division. All things, that is, to fewer and fewer people.

But if the inimitable style that informed the '57 BelAir, the '63 Impala and generations of Corvettes is back, that's revolutionary enough for us. So how can we resist this campaign from Campbell-Ewald?

The showcase spot here is the one called "Car Carrier," in which 10 brand-new Chevy models drive onto a transport, in motion, as it rolls from sea to shining sea.

Another spot, for the spacious Colorado king-cab, is kinda cute and kinda homophobic: five guys pointedly un-crammed into the cab, so that when one of them starts singing along to Shania Twain's "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" the others have plenty of room to nervously edge away.

Another cute one is for the new Aveo, a subcompact so roomy that four basketball players look like little kids in the big seats -- a trick accomplished by digitally midget-izing them.

The real gem: SSR spot
The real gem, though, is for the new SSR, a hybrid pickup/roadster/convertible that, after maybe Stephen Hawking, is the coolest things on four wheels. Hence the spot called "Soap," a commercial with one and a half words of dialogue at the very end paying off a perfectly constructed, perfectly casted and even perfectly photo-composed setup. What we see is an image of a little kid with a bar of soap in his mouth. Then another, and another and so on. Ten little kids, variously sullen and impassive, stuffed with soap bars.

Finally we see a kid on his porch gaping at a bright yellow SSR as its jointed hardtop auto-retracts, transforming it into a convertible.

Sweet, harmless vulgarity
"Holy sh--" the boy says, right in front of his mom, but is cut off mid-word. Next scene: He's got a bar of soap in his mouth, too, because one look at the SSR triggers profane incredulity. Seldom has vulgarity seemed so sweet, harmless, funny and true.

For what that's worth. It's nice enough to create awareness with some glitzy concept cars, but there remains the issue of understanding what your brand is, and allowing others to understand. Is Chevy really the $42,000 SSR division? The $43,000 Tahoe Z71 division? The $52,000 Corvette Z06 division?

No. And no limited-product hybrid will sell $15,000 Cavaliers, $19,000 Malibus or $24,000 Blazers if the mass-production models don't in their way also convey true-blue American sex appeal and style -- which, trust us, they don't.

These new models are a Potemkin Village dressing up a bankrupt system. Let us know when the goods reach the proletariat. Then long live the revolution.

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