Nissan to Millennials: If You Really Want to Get Around, Don’t Drive

This Nissan ad, in heavy rotation during the NFL playoffs, smacks of 21st century carmaker desperation.

In “Commute,” a young motorist, stuck with colleagues in city traffic and watching cyclists pass her by, speeds onto a conveniently located ramp and launches her Nissan Rogue on top of a passing train. Now they can get where they’re going quickly and reliably.

“Fantasy, do not attempt,” reads a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer, as the driver floors it and M.I.A.’s “Y.A.L.A.” pulses in the background. “Cars can’t jump on trains.”

True to car ad convention, the millennial crew lands in an empty parking lot, having arrived early for their meeting. Says the voice-over: “Commute your way with the bold, all-new Nissan Rogue.”

This ad bears resemblance to the subject of the first-ever Streetsblog Ad Nauseam. The ground has shifted in the seven years since General Motors levitated cars and drivers above traffic-choked urban streets. While motorists still yearn to escape their own gridlock, the Nissan ad is a pretty clear-cut expression of automaker anxiety over millennials’ transportation preferences.

Cars can’t jump on trains — but people can, and increasing numbers of young Americans are opting not to drive. In 2014, “commute your way” sounds less like a car company slogan than an invitation to trade the hassles of auto ownership for a bike or metro pass.

The real fantasy, of course, is that you can drive everywhere without expecting to get stuck in traffic. Carmakers know this, and their target audience does too. Wrote one YouTube commenter: “Millennials are choosing transit and bikes over car-debt. Nissan, your strategy is showing.”

  • Komanoff

    Brad’s “Cars can’t jump on trains — but people can” grabs early lead in Sblog’s Best-2014-Soundbite contest!

  • john

    Just another irresponsible car ad – what’s new? First in the ad to be irresponsible: cyclists.

  • Danny G

    There was another car commercial this past year for a Toyota Corolla that showed the evolution of the car’s design over time. It was a long commercial, with lots of people dancing in different eras, and was actually pretty well done.

    Unfortunately, somebody must have realized that the 1960s and 1980s versions of the car looked way better than the present-day version (which was the one they had to sell), so later iterations of that commercial cut out the history.

    It’s nice to see that every so often, those pesky millenials working at the ad agencies are able to slip one past them. Keep it up, you crazy kids!

  • Jack Cebe

    Haha! I saw this the other day and thought the exact same thing

  • Today I learned San Francisco has elevated trains.

  • Michael Morris

    At least the son from Coach Carter got some work

  • thielges

    I noticed the same blooper though through a different detail: the train shown is neither Caltrain nor BART (which is elevated in the southern part of the city). I’m sure that the makers of this ad are relying on the fact that the 98% of the nation that lives outside of the SF Bay Area wouldn’t catch that error. (and most of of those who do live here wouldn’t catch it either 🙂

  • Joe R.

    I’ll give them props for at least showing the typical traffic conditions most car commuters experience in the beginning of the commercial. It’s much better than the usual driving at 80 mph on city streets with no traffic and nothing but green lights. I guess the marketing folks might finally be catching on the fact that the majority of the time you’ll be crawling along at bicycle speeds, not highway speeds. That said, it’s really a stretch showing how one can use the vehicle’s power to launch onto a moving train. I guess they finally realize there’s not much use for such power in the real world of stop-and-go, so let’s create a silly fantasy.

    A better fantasy might be if car makers finally realized millenials just aren’t interested in their products like previous generations. It might make more sense to start retooling auto manufacturing lines for mass transit vehicles, or even velomobiles. Or at least produce vehicles more suited to typical commuting conditions. I’m thinking streamlined one or two passenger electric vehicles with fairly low power-to-weight ratios. You don’t need 2-3 tons and 300+ HP to drive to work.

  • baklazhan

    Note that the cable cars don’t have a, y’know, cable.

  • thielges

    Good eye, I missed that detail. Wow, they really went all-out fabricate this fake city.

  • thielges

    Considering how much effort that went into creating this ad and the money spent to place it in prime time programming, you have to wonder whether the sponsors are so naive. Maybe their psychologists have placed a subliminal message in here, something like “You urban trendsetters know that driving in a congested city isn’t the best option. But you want a car anyways so might as well buy from the hippest manufacturer.”

  • JoshNY

    “[T]he Nissan ad is a pretty clear-cut expression of automaker anxiety over millenials’ transportation preferences.”

    Eh. I’m not convinced that’s the case. I think it’s just (the way they see it) a humorous look at what people wish they could do when stuck in traffic. I mean, we can’t mock car commercials that show people driving fast on empty roads and then mock the ones that also recognize the reality of traffic. It’s not like any car commercial will ever just show people sitting in traffic like the first scene in Office Space, because that won’t sell cars. A lighthearted take on traffic might. “Expression of automaker anxiety” attributes a mentality that I don’t know we can necessarily say exists.

  • GC

    No reason it can’t be both.

  • GC

    Nor MUNI

  • GC

    Like in a lot of other car ads, I found the engine sounds to be overly aggressive.

  • Trish

    I’m disgusted by the underhanded message of “do whatever it takes to get there on time.” It means that your time is more important than anyone else’s, that convenience and keeping up appearances are more important than safety. This is just one of the reasons we have the worst traffic safety records in the developed world.

  • bellevueguru

    I also learned that urban rapid transit trains have conductors on them.

  • JoshNY

    I mean, I suppose it CAN be both, but it just seems over-reaching to impute a certain mentality to Nissan just because we think they should feel that way.

  • Pat

    I like how they choose to portray cyclists as an aggressive pack that just blow through red lights and weave in and out of car traffic.

  • truthteller

    The real fantasy, of course, is that women can’t drive that well. 🙂

  • aaa

    The video got taken down, so here’s another link

  • Kairho

    You miss the part where even the ad itself says “fantasy?”


Go Judy go.

Throwback Thursday: The Great NYC Commuter Race of 1990

Via Streetfilms, here’s a blast from the past -- kind of. For a 1990 news segment called “Environment: In Your Own Backyard,” ABC staged a commuter race between Fred the motorist, Alvin the subway rider, and Judy the cyclist. The goal: be the first to get across the Brooklyn Bridge to Herald Square.