Dodge spot courts controversy

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Chrysler Group is introducing a TV spot for its Dodge trucks that uses an image some have labeled obscene, and is expected to stir public ire-again.

The commercial, from Omnicom Group's BBDO Detroit, Troy, Mich., spoofs a cartoon decal popular among pickup-truck owners. The decal features the image of a young boy-who looks like the main character in the cartoon "Calvin and Hobbes"-urinating on a rival brand logo. The sticker has been at the center of past controversies. In several cities, police have issued tickets to vehicle owners, charging them with displaying obscene material. The charges are usually dismissed.

Chrysler's 30-second spot shows the animated decal sliding down the roof of a Ram 1500 heavy-duty pickup. The "boy" sneaks up to a decal of Dodge's ram's head logo on the truck, turns his back to the camera, unzips his pants and snickers. The Ram decal is then animated and, bucking and snorting, knocks the boy off the truck. The voice-over: "Don't mess with the most powerful, longest-lasting line of trucks."

The spot is already drawing heat. "This is just another example of the crassness of the commercial culture," said Gary Ruskin, executive director of Commercial Alert, a non-profit group that supports family values in TV spots. "I think plenty of people won't like it because they're tired of commercials' influences on their kids and on them."

Julie Roehm, marketing-communications manager at Dodge, said she doesn't anticipate any controversy. "I would be very surprised if there's an uproar" from viewers, she said.

Ms. Roehm said the spot was tested by Millward Brown to check, among other things, if it was offensive. Few said they disliked the spot or had concerns about it, she said.

She said the commercial earned the highest awareness score of any auto spot ever tracked by Millward Brown. The decal is "so much a part of truck culture," said Ms. Roehm.

Chrysler's TV ads have stirred up trouble before. Earlier this year. Dodge altered a spot after state transportation officials in the Midwest complained it encouraged drivers to illegally pass snow plows. Jeep pulled a commercial that sportsmen's groups claimed vilified hunters. Last fall, Chrysler pulled and altered a Concorde spot after consumers objected to its sexual nature.

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