Ad Nauseam Double Feature: Safe Subaru vs. Deadly Dodge

If you’ve been watching the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which resumes tonight, you’ve probably seen this Subaru spot, called “Baby Driver.” In it, a distressed father leans into the passenger side window, imploring his preschool-age daughter to be careful on the road — stay off the freeways, put the phone away — to the point that she interrupts with a sweetly impatient “Daddy, o-kay.” When he gives up the keys, we see the child as a present-day teenager. As she backs out of the driveway, to the obligatory strains of an acoustic guitar, the word “love” pops up on the screen. It dissolves into the Subaru logo as dad’s voice intones: “We knew this day was coming. That’s why we bought a Subaru.”

From his body language and tone of voice, the way he watches helplessly as she drives away, you’d think his daughter was shipping out for Afghanistan. What the voice-over might as well have said was, “No one wants their kids to drive. We know it’s incredibly dangerous. So we bought a Subaru in hopes that our child won’t die.”

If you can get past the myth of driving as an unavoidable rite of passage, you have to hand it to Subaru on this one. Based on the YouTube comments, it’s pulling a lot of heartstrings. And the emphasis, at least, is on safety (albeit for those inside the Subaru). Contrast that with the current campaign from fellow March Madness sponsor Dodge, featuring commercials like the one after the jump. Given its celebration of sociopathic behavior — watch as the Charger plows heedlessly through urban crosswalks at “movie car chase” speeds — we wonder if the narration by Michael C. Hall, TV’s favorite serial killer, is more than coincidence.

It’s enough to keep a Subaru dad awake at night.

  • Damned bike lanes!

  • J:Lai

    “watch as the Charger plows heedlessly through urban crosswalks at “movie car chase” speeds ”

    That’s a bit overblown, don’t you think? The shot of the speedometer shows it at around 35 and accelerating – hardly what one would call movie car chase speeds. The crosswalks are all empty and the lights are all green. While this type of representation of urban driving has plenty of problems, it doesn’t show anyone heedlessly plowing through crosswalks.

    There are many worse car commercials out there.

  • J:Lai,

    The point is that those details aren’t noticed by the average viewer and they most certainly aren’t the point of the commercial. You can clearly see the car isn’t going all-that-fast, but with the sound of the engine roaring it gives the feel that they are “tearing up the pavement”.

    Showing empty urban streets with all greens is never a real world scenario so while it is obviously fake, the feeling the consumer is suppose to receive is that this car will bring you the ability to scream through city streets.

    Let’s say you buy this Dodge freedom mobile, do you then drive it all “boring” like? No, you want to see the engine roar like on the teevee. You want to blow through green lights and open city roads where cars feel your awesome presence and move to the side and pedestrians aren’t even in sight. You drive aggressively because this isn’t reality and reality is slow moving grid-lock with pedestrians jay-walking and bike commuters and buses and AHHH!

    Feed the brain these false images enough and people will go crazy when it isn’t delivered.

  • Bolwerk

    The Dodge may be better measured in RPM/inch. How that works out, I leave to your imagination….

  • Suzanne

    I have to say, I find myself feeling horrified and disgusted nowadays when I see reckless driving on tv or in movies, especially when it’s “Ha ha, I almost ran that guy over, isn’t that HIGH-larious!” Kind of like how racist depictions of black people REALLY started bothered me when I became more aware of the history of black people in the US.

    Even the sheer number of car and car related commercials is overwhelming. I don’t normally listen to or watch commercial programming but when I first started listening to 1010 WINS in the morning I was appalled at how many commercials were car related. Now I’m pretty much inured to them.

  • LazyReader

    I luv the Charger commercial. The Subaru one is the cutest commercial i’ve seen ever………..almost

  • Marty Barfowitz

    I’d love to see some enterprising lawyer sue Dodge and the makers of this commercial the next time a Charger rips through an urban intersection at high speed and kills someone or causes lots of damage and destruction.

    Oh, wait! That happened last week in Park Slope:

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2011/03/15/eyes-on-the-street-nypd-cruiser-rammed-in-park-slope/

  • Scott Mercer

    This is filmed in downtown Los Angeles. Most of it is tooling down Flower Street. It would not be unrealistic to drive this way at that location during a weekend. It’s not heavily populated at that time. Monday to Friday, between 8 a.m. and about 7 p.m., certainly not. It’s a lot more crowded than pictured during business hours, with large skyscrapers full of office workers and the main branch of the public library. But I’m sure this commercial was shot on a Saturday.

  • Spokker

    “Kind of like how racist depictions of black people REALLY started bothered me when I became more aware of the history of black people in the US.”

    You need to stop watching BET.

  • Carter R

    Oh hey, a car commercial shot in L.A. Quelle suprise!

  • Bob Davis

    And how about the commercials for the “sportier” cars, filmed on mountain roads without another vehicle in sight? No logging trucks, no Highway Dept. trucks, no underpowered RVs, etc. The auto manufacturers aren’t selling machinery, they’re selling fantasy.

  • Beck B.

    Anyone notice a clear anti-transit bias in Rebeecca Black’s hit single “Friday”? She’s waiting for the bus on Friday and it’s implied that it SUCKS and then lo-and behold her friends (underage drivers mind you) arrive in a convertible bringing FUN FUN FUN and then her biggest dilema becomes which seat to take between her best friends. Wow. No mention of the fact that teenagers are the biggest demographic slaughtered by cars. We so excited my ass.

  • It’s fairly clear that Dodge is trying to market its powerful, mean-looking cars with unnecessarily loud engines primarily to brainwashed wannabee macho men. The narration stops short of saying “You’re entitled to run anyone or anything over if they get in your way” and the use of engine sounds and the color red are used to drive that point home.

    I find the Subaru ad very sad, because most parents’ decisions are indeed driven by fear. Get a bigger/safer car! It’s like the Cold War era, except instead of nuclear arsenal, you’re stocking up on the next more-monstrous car. At least Subaru is not selling an SUV in that ad…

    In a civilized country, you would see a backlash against this type of advertising in the mainstream media, not just on cycling/transportation blogs.

  • I’ve never understood why they show these cars in a city. I live in Downtown LA and see these commercials being filmed all the time. They literally block off an entire block to film them and/or police escort in front and behind them to give a large buffer so they’re able to pick up speed and show the road as wide-open. Even going 35mph in a city can be hazardous, you’re lucky to be able to go 25. Why not show them speed around in their home-land, Suburbia?

  • Suzanne

    “It’s fairly clear that Dodge is trying to market its powerful, mean-looking cars with unnecessarily loud engines primarily to brainwashed wannabee macho men.”

    The type that regularly almost runs me over every single day. I see these gigunda monster trucks and have to wonder how small the drivers’ “equipment” must be to require such oversized overcompensation.

    If I ruled the world, no man under 40 would be able to get a license. You’d all be cyclists until testosterone poisoning dropped to safe levels 🙂

    … (I’m only half kidding…)

  • Bike LA

    Car ad’s always have clear roads. Apparently the reality that you are just buying a comfortable place to sit in traffic doesn’t sell cars.

    And who doesn’t love this commercial… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfJnqbudMzs

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