Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Oh so vanilla

They say you need to see an ad three times before you notice the brand. But sometimes a commercial is so bland and so missable that it takes dozens of views before it registers. This is how I feel about car commercials in general - they tend to follow a template bound for obscurity:

Pindrop music
Predictable man/woman conversation (optional)
Visual of the car doing something moderately cool (e.g. driving along a curvy road)
Product information the consumer will ignore (e.g. anti-lock breaks, all-wheel drive)
Boilerplate leasing info

This Mercury ad is a true car commercial's car commercial. It takes no risks, communicates no differentiating information, and takes every precaution not to interest the viewer. But when you really pay attention to it, its true badness shines through:

(Perfectly ignore-able music in the background. According to YouTube, this is "nth Degree" by Morningwood. Haha... wood.)

Man: Excuse me, I-I didn't know Milan came with all-wheel drive.

Poor guy. Here he was, sitting outside at a cafe trying to think up an ice breaker for the hottie that went into the coffee shop. He knew he had to get her attention. What could he possibly say that would pique her interest? "Nice weather we're having"? Played. "Hey, is that cool suspender/vest combo top from Filene's Basement"? Nah, every guy probably asks her that. Wait, what about that sweet Mercury Milan she rode in on. What's a really cool selling feature about it? *checks internets* All-wheel drive! Like, no other car has that. Hot conversation starter, dude!

Woman: Yeah, it's brand-new.

Translation: Why are you asking me about this mid-level car I'm driving.

Man: Wow. It had me just on the looks.

Nailed it, dude!! Now write down her license plate number and track her down. Is this seriously supposed to be flirting? I guess it's a kind of double entendre. But, really?

Voiceover: (Boilerplate selling features that are not unique to any one car.)

Man (looking at mercuryvehicles.com on laptop): It's a great find.

"If we don't say so ourselves!"

Voiceover: (Boring lease information that is not unique to any one car.)

Who leases a Mercury? Also, I am asleep by this point.

Woman: You've gotta put Mercury on your list.

Now I know when they record commercials they have about 10,000 different versions where the actors switch emphasis on different words so they end up with pretty much every possible combination. And they picked this one? Why not emphasize the product name, or "your," or a word that's actually important to the call-to-action? Why emphazise a non-grammatical word?

Tagline: Mercury. New doors opened.

Great payoff line. For a different commercial.

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