The latest car ad YouTube foisted on me – mind you this was for a perfectly ordinary small SUV, no kind of sports car – went something like, "You deserve a car that thrills you, that puts goosebumps on your goosebumps."
Now, if there is one thing I do not want from my car it's goosebumps; what that phrase brings to my mind is all the years I drove worn out beaters, worrying that they might break down at any moment and strand me by the side of the highway.
I know I am not alone; I have in fact seen data on car buyers that rank performance pretty far down on down the list of things most car buyers want, well below dependability and price. So why aren't there any ads that say, "It's not much to look at or very fast, but it's cheap and reliable!"
So why aren't there any ads that say, "It's not much to look at or very fast, but it's cheap and reliable!"
Because those have smaller profit margins, and the kind of people who want cheap and reliable will buy them anyway, so why advertise?
The point of many, if not most, advertisements is to create a desire for a thing a person doesn't really need and wouldn't otherwise waste money on. There are a dozen different ways to approach it, but they all basically revolve around trying to make people feel insecure about themselves and their lives, and then telling them they can resolve that insecurity through consumerism.
The point of a car commercial isn't to showcase the actual merits of the vehicle, it's to sucker someone into wanting it for irrational, emotional reasons. Most of them don't sell an actual product so much as they sell a lifestyle.
Pickup truck commercials don't tell you much about the trucks themselves, but rather bombard you with messages about how you need to be masculine, tough, independent, etc. If they tell you vehicle specifications, it's only to reinforce those sorts of ideas - X amount of horsepower, Y amount of torque, spoken over clips rugged "country" men in flannel driving offroad or chucking lumber or tires in the cargo bed, all with appropriate musical accompaniment and video color correction to manipulate the emotionality of the viewer and prospective customer.
Luxury car commercials do the exact same thing, just emphasizing comfort, convenience, and status instead. They focus less on things like horsepower (unless it's a luxury performance "sports" vehicle), and more on things like leather interiors, computerized display and entertainment screens, etc; and they depict affluent individuals driving around affluent neighborhoods, conspicuously displaying their wealth to their similarly wealthy peers, with no sign at all of anyone outside the income bracket of the intended audience, because who wants to see riff raff? Buy a luxury car and insulate yourself away from the rest of the world in comfort today!
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