Ad Nauseam: Ford Mustang Shelby GT 500


Vehicle: Ford Mustang Shelby GT 500

Ad title: "Germany"

Created by: JWT Detroit: "We create ideas for our clients that people want to spend time with" [sic]

Narrative: A bustling shipyard. Forklifts. Foghorn sounds. Dockworkers shouting out to each other in a language and accent that we quickly recognize from Hogan’s Heroes and Saving Private Ryan as German.


A container is loaded off of a big cargo vessel. It is opened to reveal a squat, grinning, muscular sports car with two blue stripes running down the hood.


A male model with nearly perfect facial bone structure and two days stubble is standing next to a German dockworker. The dockworker turns to him and, in the vaguely threatening tone of a German interrogator (Ve have vays to make you talk), asks, "So, you couldn’t find a car you like here in Germany?"


Cut to scenes of the white sports car tearing down a wet, winding highway over gear-shifting and husky engine-revving noises. The highway signs are blue, not green. It’s the Autobahn. Driven NASCAR fast, the white sports car blows past other vehicles like they are standing still.

Cut back to the male model and German dockworker. The model replies, "No, I couldn’t find a speed limit I liked in America."

Tag line: Bold is 500 horsepower.

Analysis: Sociopathic is 500 horsepower. Unnecessary is 500 horsepower. Dangerous, irresponsible and sick-in-the-head is 500 horsepower. Society must look upon you as an outcast and social pariah with your 500 horsepower. Sorry to be a sourpuss about it. I know how great the old Mustangs were. I grew up on the legend of my Dad’s ’65 Ford Mustang, the beloved convertible that he got rid of in 1971, on my account, for a more sensible and family-friendly Pinto hatchback. He was wistful about that old Mustang for years and not just because the Pinto, with its exploding gas tank, turned out to be one of the most egregiously horrible vehicles ever produced by an American automaker.

The Shelby GT 500 is supposed to harken back to those good old days of that ’65 Mustang and "to carry on the Ford performance torch that burned brightly under the reign of the Ford GT," says John Felice, general marketing manager for the Ford brand. Indeed, with the Ford Motor Company expected to lose $10 billion this year, the 500 horsepower Shelby is clearly the sign of a company whose best days are long behind it.

  • Steve

    ZING! Nice work. This is exactly why GM is going down the drain, and many Americans still think they are cowboys.

  • That poor German dock worker probably drives a Opel or something tiny like that, destined to live a life of secure employment, health insurance, never worrying about the cost of his children’s education. The American guy has obviously escaped from the US to dodge his alimony payment for his sick child because his job was outsourced to India. But at least he has his fast car and a bottle of Jim Beam for the Autobahn.

    All I can say is “Auchtung Deutchland”

  • AD

    Tremendous work. Great analysis. Aaron: Re these Ad Nauseum posts, keep ’em coming!

  • jtg

    I actually think these posts are kinda stupid. There’s hypocrisy and hidden messages in car advertising? No way! Really who cares. I think this is a really good blog, but these posts kinda seem like filler.

  • I might agree jtg, but this has to be part of the debate over the car culture. These ads foster a It is so hard to have a rational discussion about automobiles even in NYC where most people don’t drive.

    I work in marketing and I know that for most consumers, emotional beats rational 9 times out of 10.

    If they regulated car commercials the way they do for pharmaceuticals, imagine the side effects they would have to list – risk of injury/death by accident, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, heart attack, etc.

    Imagine if they could only talk about the car’s physicial attributes and not make claims that could not be substantiated (like flying through the air).

    Or imagine we treated cars as a threat to public health the way we view cigarettes and alcohol, something that needs more regulation lest they create artificially high demand for their product or encourage product users to engage in sociopathic behaviors.

    Then maybe people would care more about the rational attributes like safety, mileage, durability, etc. Or maybe they would not be so attached to their cars and more readily take mass transit.

  • Sorry, that second sentence should read “These ads foster an emotional attachment to cars and encourage sociopathic behaviors by with their product”.

  • MDowd

    So,they design a dangerous product for the purpose of breaking the law and then advertise it as such. I still can’t understand why these people aren’t held partly liable when someone drives 110mph and kills someone.

  • AD

    The continuous barrage of automobile advertising that television viewers are subjected to encourages a great many people to drive, to avoid mass transit and to ignore the negative consequences of driving. It also subtly and indirectly influences all debates of public policy pertaining to the automobile by, among other things, creating more drivers.

    The incessant manipulation of people’s minds is an insidious aspect of car culture. The most effective way to fight it would be to put up sexy ads showing people cycling and enjoying the outdoors via exercize, or riding the train and actually interacting with other people and relaxing on the way to work. Before a constituency to pay for them can be put together, these posts will do.

  • Rick

    Aaron, The Mustang GT500 is selling at $25,000 over the sticker price. Why do you think that is? In America big brother or the social police do not tell us what to drive or what to buy. No one tells us to waste gas or to conserve it, to waste money or save it, to watch tv or read a book. We choose on our own. You are free to drive what you want as I am. I ride a motorcycle and have for 30 years. I ride it because I like it, simple. Its my choice. You can drive a Prius or a Mercedes or a Pinto, or a bicycle, it is your choice. Where do you get off implying you are right and someone else is wrong?

  • Nicolo Macchiavelli

    It is car cultual hegemony. But it also skips over a lot of hidden contradictions. Yeah, in Germany the autobahn has unlimited speed limits. But there is more to German transportation than the speed limit on the autobahn.

    There is an enormous fuel tax that offsets many other taxes that we pay. Thats why people drive small cars for the most part. They also use that gas tax to provide a modern and efficient mass transit system that goes everywhere the autobahns go only faster yet. Also, there is a bike path that also parallels the autobahn and the high speed rail. Transporation choices all built into the high fuel taxes.

    And when you get your mustang off the autobahn you better obey the posted (slow) street speed limits or the mean old Germans will take your Mustang away. There are radar cameras everywhere and street architecture that demands calm traffic.

    Don’t even think about a DUI in Germany, or at least don’t expect to drive again. Getting a liscence to drive is not a simple or cheap thing in Germany or anywhere else in Europe. The tests take time and money.

    And the high fuel taxes and prices also allow for the development of wind farming. There are wind turbines everywhere you go, thousands of them, even in the less developed Ost (east).

    In my opinion (humble and respectful) it would take us fifty years to catch up to the German transportation model if we start right now which we won’t. I think, each year they get another two years ahead of us.

    It is in many ways our transportation model stood on its head. On the autobahns, where there are only cars, trucks and motorcycles there is no speed limit, although there are rules and unsafe driving is clearly understood even on the autobahn and severely punished when it is determined. Speed they allow, tail-gating they don’t. But you better not impede traffic out there either.

    We on the other hand, police the high-speed limited access roads with radar, laser and chase car. To my mind we don’t do a real good job of it but that is where the traffic enforcement dollars go. In Germany they allow speed on the autobahn but nowhere else. Certainly nowhere pedestrians and bicyclists travel. They…are number one in Germany.

  • david

    As usual Macchiavelli comments are right on. Now if we could get the police to stop using his tactics as the CM rides…

    As I recall there was a similar ad for Mercedes in the late 1980s, so it’s not a new idea.

    In Ford’s defense, at least the “cool dude” went to where it is legal to drive at excessive speeds instead of doing what Spike Lee and Derek Jeter do and tear around the streets of Brooklyn in their Mustangs.

  • AD


    You raise a thoughtful point. I can’t speak for Aaron N., but I will raise a few points since I am a fan of this series.

    You are absolutely right, the individual freedom that allows us to do, say, buy or sell what we want (within reason) is the root of the capitalism and democracy that distinguish our society and make the United States great. The freedom of speech has given us a long history of people criticizing the purchases of others, from the housing choices of celebrities to the musical choices of fellow teenagers to the fashion choices of just about anybody. Here, Aaron isn’t criticizing a particular person, but only a hypothetical person who would buy this car, as well the auto maker and the ad agency it does business with.

    Here is why I think it is fine to criticize someone for buying a 500-horsepower ‘Stang. Every time you hit the ignition of an internal combustion engine you do two things: 1) You help raise the price on a commodity that everyone needs not only for transportation, but for heat, electricity, agricultural production and plastics production. 2) You contribute a tiny but non-zero amount to the presence of global-warming gasses in the atmosphere. The consequences of global warming are alarming and potentially catastrophic. Both of these negative consequences are directly proportional to horsepower.

    When a company and its customer freely enter into a contract for the purchase of a product, the two parties share 100% of the benefits of that transaction. The customer gets an awesome vehicle with leather seats, great pickup, surround-sound and a coffee mug holder. The company gets the cash equivalent of that. But in the case of the ‘Stang, there is an equal and opposite negative externality that results from the transaction: air pollution and oil depletion (not to mention putting people at risk as seen each week in the carnage column). While the benefit is shared equally between two parties, the cost is spread thinly over billions of people.

    It is in Ford’s interest to try to encourage a vehicle purchase because Ford stands to gain. It is in anyone else’s interest to try to prevent that purchase because everyone else stand to lose. Ford’s share of the benefit is larger than any individual’s share of the cost, so Ford is the much more motivated and articulate party to the discussion. Far from being a Big Brother, this series just tries to level the playing field.

  • Nethead

    Some people are born with spirit, passion, and ability. For those so fortunate, this is their car…
    For those not so fortunate, explaining this car to them is like trying to explain music to rocks. After all your most eloquent explanatory efforts, they’re still rocks…
    What can you do?

  • Rick,

    A fair question. There are lots of ways to respond but I’ll leave you with the short list and the moral dimension:

    45,000+ road fatalities per year in America. Sprawl. Epidemic obesity. Resource wars and political instability related to increasing oil demand. Climate change. The squandering of our nation’s great wealth.

    I think the selling and buy of this car is morally abhorrent and destructive to my neighborhood, my country and my planet. I think the buying and selling of products like this should be treated the same way we treat guns and drugs.

  • Rick,

    You’d have a point if Aaron was going out and physically blocking people from purchasing a car, but he’s doing nothing of the sort. The idea that one guy’s writings on an Internet blog are infringing the freedoms of car-shoppers is ludicrous.

    “Implying” (or coming right out and stating) that one is right and others are wrong is the foundation of debate, discourse, and living in a free society. You may go ahead and imply it’s not, but you’re wrong. “Social police” does not equate with one citizen (or a million) speaking his mind.

  • someguy

    Adam is exactly right. And in fact, every free society requires a million such decisions every day — for example, we, as a society, deem it wrong to steal from somebody. If somebody steals we say, with confidence, “that is wrong”. And then we punish them in some way. There is no scientific law that stealing is wrong, but that is our decision as a society. We also happen to think that giving a baby a cigarette is wrong – why? Because it has negative consequences. So if Aaron (or anyone) judges that there are negative consequences to your driving a particular vehicle or driving at all, whether or not you yourself are aware of those negative consequences, or care about them, or want to hear about them – then they can make the claim that your buying that car is a WRONG decision. And you know what – they might be right.

  • Tom

    The 500 hp in my 07 GT500 ragtop is all in my head .I probably will never go over 130mph. The looks I get at 25mph leaves me smilin’. God bless Ford and Mr.S.

  • Eric

    Aaron, these “Ad Nauseam” reviews kill me. You should pitch these to Ad Age or AdWeek (seriously). Keep up the great work!

  • Bill

    Hurry up. The trans fat bandwagon is leaving without you…

  • Jeff

    Now wait a minute. …………Ok, now that perhaps the hypocrisy has cleared. Not! Doesn’t Germany make an automobile called the Porsche? Many models turbocharged, and capable of top speeds in excess of 160 mph and more. Isn’t this why the Autobahns have no posted speed limits? So your drivers can “go fast”? Dang, talk about the pot calling the kettle black huh? Fast American cars are BAD, yet fast European cars aren’t? What……………..?

  • I believe all of the above are very good points, but to bring up a totally new point – American-made cars such as tha above mentioned Mustang, Hummer, Several Ford and Chevy SUVs are doing nothing but contributing to 2 major issues: global warming, and america’s dependence on oil – which is the number 1 reason our government justifies being in Iraq. We are literally killing ourselves, not caring about our environment or what will become of our own country. Honestly, who buys Mustangs? At their high prices, it certainly isn’t the poorly paid military families, it’s the rich fat cat GOPs and other white selfish families. True, Mustang is an all-time American memory, but times have changed and we must allow our social behaviors adapt. We know that gas-guzzlers such as these are destroying our ozone layer (which isn’t only affecting ourselves, but every other country and nation on this planet, and what gives us the right to monopolize???) It’s pompous and rude and it just proves how Americans have lost their values and don’t give a shit about anyone but theirselves. I am proud of my country for all that we’ve overcome, but I’m ashamed at the stubbornness of this generation to not change their ways for the better simply for a social status symbol.

  • Tristam

    I just took delivery of the finest Mustang ever produced and could not be more satisfied. I can only think your lack of understanding and arrogant self rightousness is truly rooted in jealousy. Perhaps a little less time volunteering for any and all the social causes of the day;a little more time at gainful employment and you could buy one for yourself.By the way Ford outsold Toyota in Decemeber. You were kidding about the Pinto werent you?

  • Tristam,

    Congrats on your new Mustang! This may come as a shock to you but a growing number of Americans no longer view a fancy new V8 gas guzzler as a status symbol.

  • Clarence


    Wow! A Mustang! That is impressive! Psychologists widely recognize that lashing out at others – particularly your citing of “jealousy” – is really a reflection upon yourself and your emotions. (I am sure even Dr. Phil who owns many cars would back me up on that.)

    I hope driving your Mustang gives you some self worth as you must be very lonely at your core.

  • Tristam

    Yes I have both Self worth and Net worth- Im guessing your lacking in both- My professional position does not allow for alot of Daytime TV. Ill stick with Trump – you stick with Rosie!!!!

  • Dr. Phil


    How’s that working for you?

  • Tristam


    Please clarify?

  • You know, the problem with all these anti-Mustang comments, is that reality does not match the rhetoric.

    The Lada/Prius/hybrid/plug-in electric/flavor of the month, won’t save the world, and the Mustang won’t kill the world. These cars a not just faster, they are safer, cleaner and more fuel efficient than virtually anything made even 15 years ago.

    If I could run my Mustang on biofuel I would. My diesel trucks all run on vegetable oil. There’s nothing wrong with something fun to drive and that doesn’t automatically make one insensitive to the environment or not wanting to eliminate the reliance on foreign oil.

    I also laughed at the comment about poor military families not buying them and the suggestion that only people who buy cars like the Mustang are looking for a status symbol. How do you say PRIUS ?? If that isn’t a status car to say I’m an environmentalist and I’m better than you, I don’t know what is.

  • Homo erectus

    You really didn’t get it!

    First, if you would have a clue about german language, you would know that the interrogator doesn’t have a threatening tone. Not at all!

    Second, you apparently have no idea about cars, no idea about passion and literally no humour. I guess you prefer an ugly, old, boring, tiny, less-eating, thrifty woman over a sex bomb? If that’s your attitude, Ad Nauseam!

    Thrird, your criticism is unworldly innocent! Come on, it’s just an AD. Btw. that’s bold: Why do think Isreal’s army uses a Desert Eagle with .50AE bullets, Aaron? Do you think smaller calibers like used at ’65 Mustang times don’t kill effectively enough? Time goes on! If you look back longingly, don’t stuck there. Tradition doesn’t mean to collect the ashes but to preserve the fire.

    Sorry for my vaguely threatening tone! I’m German 😉


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