1/7/12

The Worst Commercial Ever Made: Chevy Silverado

In this commercial, a man is asked which house is his. He says, "The one with the Silverado out front." So far, there's no real problem here. A Silverado is a pretty singular marker -- I don't see a lot of people driving them, and can't imagine why anyone would -- and a good way to identify something as distinct from other things, like "the woman with the hairy goiter" or "the dog with the huge balls, you know the one I mean."

Then, friendlily enough, the interrogator asks, "What do you do?" The man -- our hero -- says, "Well," and seems on the verge of answering the question like not-an-asshole. At which point, the commercial smash-cuts to a montage of the man doing the following things: Swimming; pulling dirt bikes with his truck; driving his family and singing; playing paintball; wearing a hardhat and throwing lumber in the back of the truck; fishing; chopping a log; washing his hands with a hose; loading the back of his truck with hay; playing chess with an old guy; pulling a boat; lighting a barbecue; and having dinner with his wife, who is giving him the googly-eyes. Then, he says, "Ayyyyye," trails off, furrows his brows, and looks down, discouraged, overwhelmed by the glut of possibilities. Then, Tim Allen tells us something about how manly and efficient the Chevy Silverado is, and then the anti-actor who plays the jock on Numb3rs gives you some specifics about a sale because his rate per hour in the recording booth is way more reasonable than Tim Allen's, and finally Tim Allen comes back and there's something about "From work site to home front, Chevy runs deep," which if you think about it doesn't make any sense at all. Does Chevy burrow under the ground to get from one of those things to the other? Is Chevy an underground river, and is the entire neighborhood going to collapse into it when it erodes the cave ceiling?

Ok, so ultimately the message the commercial is trying to convey is the ol' 'Merkin corporate standby, "If you buy our product you're a rugged individual who, like Thoreau, cannot be bound up by definitions or constrained by the strictures of society. And like Whitman, you contain multitudes. You're not like everybody else, everybody else being sheep and ciphers." In this, the commercial is only as egregiously awful as just about every other commercial ever made. It becomes uniquely terrible in trying to be specific about the unique multiplicity of the asshole -- our hero -- in question.

A couple of points. First, the two men are at a children's party. The interrogator is drinking out of a clear kitchen cup; the Silverado doucher is drinking out of a blue flippie-cup. So he's probably wasted in the middle of the afternoon at a kid's birthday party, so fuck that guy.

Second, no American of average-or-better intelligence doesn't know that when someone asks "What do you do?" the question is actually shorthand for "how do you make money, what do you do for a living, please don't walk me through a list of all the things you actually do with your life like walk, eat, breathe, drink water, and smirk at your own cleverness." This last, you will have noticed, is exactly the function of the montage.

It seems to me there are three options here: First, the man is unemployed, and so he's trying to come up with a way to answer the question that doesn't cause him public humiliation, exacerbated by the fact that he's just moved into a bougey new suburb and owns a brand new truck; second, he doesn't understand the utilitarian function of the question "what do you do" and thinks it is an open, metaphysical question -- "what do you really do, y'know?" -- and is therefore the kind of person I can't imagine anyone enjoying to be around; and third, that he understands perfectly well what the question implies, but smugly thinks that his job, his career, the source of his income, doesn't encompass his identity, so the question insults his personal special-snowflakeness, and he is therefore the kind of person I can't imagine anyone enjoying to be around.

For the sake of argument, we'll assume he has a job, and are left with options 2 and 3. Based on the list of options presented by the montage, there are two new options: 1) he is a construction worker (loading lumber), or 2) he works in some agro-business or livestock capacity (loading hay). He is not, that is to say, in all likelihood a professional swimmer, a professional dirt bike rider, professional chauffer for his own family, a professional paintball player, a professional fisherman, a professional lumberjack who specializes in splitting a single log at a time by hand, a professional hand-washer, a chess grandmaster, a barbecue chef, or a kept man. Why, then, he doesn't simply answer that he is either a) a construction worker or b) in agro-business in some capacity isn't easy to say without making him look like a terrible, terrible person.

Let's also remember that the man is new to the neighborhood -- his house still has the "sold" sign out front. He's making a first impression at somebody else's party in this back-and-forth. And it actually flashes through his mind to say, "Well, sometimes I eat dinner with my wife and then I probably fuck her based on the look she's giving me," and, "I play chess with an old guy," and, "Me and my asshole friends won a paintball tournament and then we got all rowdy about it, it was sweet." He thinks about saying "I own a boat and some dirt bikes and I pull them with my truck." This is an infant who, when you ask him his name, tells you that he's Adam and he's five-and-a-half and he has 112 Pokemon cards exactly wrapped up in a rubber band want to see them? This is the waitress-who-says-she-is-an-actress elevated to the nth degree, and made even worse by the fact that this guy doesn't define himself by an aspiration, a goal to someday reach, but by perfectly trivial day-to-day activities that nobody outside of his little clan of mouth-breathers could possibly give a shit about.

But the worst part about this commercial, to me, is the implication that this guy, who does all this trivial shit, is inherently deeper than the other guy, who is a fucking schlub, too, obviously. The other guy probably drives, like, a Honda Camry or a Ford Accord or something, and is just as entrenched in the breeding, nose-wiping middle-class as Silverado Man. He has enough disposable income to have a cute little montage of his own where he, I dunno, sits in an expensive La-Z-Boy and drinks brandy out of a crystal snifter and hits an expensive golf ball with an expensive golf club and goes to a jazz concert and slaps his daughter for back-talking and blindfolds his wife after they come up with a safe-word. All of this is possible. But it's not necessary. You know why? Because as awful as this man no doubt is -- the commercial invites us to disdain him, so we might as well play by its rules -- he doesn't need this montage. Because when somebody asks him what he does, he says "I'm an accountant" or "I'm a pharmacist" or "I run numbers for the mafia." And he does this because he is, against all odds, the less awful man in this awful, awful commercial: The Worst Commercial Ever Made.

20 comments:

Pumpkin said...

I've watched this commercial several times now, and must say that I agree with each and every one of your points. Not only is this commercial annoying, it doesn't even make sense ! Surely the folks at Chevy and its hired ad agency could see this beforehand. Not even the focus groups ???

Alessandro Cima said...

I'm on the side of the guy in the commercial. I have never answered the 'what do you do' question without a similar series of images passing through my mind. But that's only because I'm an asshole and goddamn proud of it too. Assholes rule the world and think a lot about fucking their wives.

Hence72 said...

have you seen this responce

http://youtu.be/zCepJkOte_Q

Utah Open Lands said...

We agree and in fact made our own version of it, check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCepJkOte_Q

Anonymous said...

It just means the Silverado is made for the middle class working man who needs a reliable vehicle for his family-oriented life. I just wasted 5 minutes reading your negative article. Lighten up.

Anonymous said...

Love your critique. I cannot stand commercials these days. To me I see a lowly construction worker who is buried up to his wife's sweet mouth in debt. New house, new truck, two dirt bikes, motor boat, more leisure than work, five mouths to feed on a construction salary. He better be the foreman or better yet company owner (which I doubt, what owner do you know goes on site to pick up 2x4s). It's almost like ad agencies target audience kids age 3-9, and people with down syndrome. (just for you pc people, I am not making fun of people with down syndrome. But I know that doesn't matter to you so please send your comments to idontgivea$hit@blowme.com)

Anonymous said...

You're goofy. It simply means that the truck is very useful, so much that even when he's working, he's having fun with his truck. He now can't remember when he's working and when he's not because he's always having fun. Also, this is not a kids party. It's clearly a block party. Otherwise, why would the guy say which house is his? A parent could live anywhere.

Anonymous said...

Over analyzing this. This is better than a dodge truck ad tht implies its drivers are cowboys and oil rig wild catters

sports handicapping services said...

interesting critics do not share the opinion

Anonymous said...

His wife is hot...that is all that matters

jaramima said...

I love the analysis, I analize the shit out of stuff too and this stupid ad lead me here. I feel a schlub since I don't owe my next 5 years to a Silverado lease =]

The HQ said...

In diametric relation to the amount of time and effort you put into your blog effort, all I can hope for humanity is that you do not procreate and contaminate the problem-solving gene pool. This comes from a guy that rides his bike to work, and sincerely hopes you spend your time more productively.

D said...

I have a couple of pieces of business here.

First, belatedly, to Alessandro Cima: well met. An excellent counterpoint, carried off with a light touch and a sense of mischief. I liked it.

Second, to The HQ:

I admit I was disheartened by your argument that if I tried to breed it would "contaminate the problem-solving gene pool." It bothered me, because there's totally no such thing as a "problem-solving gene pool." Unless you think genes are capable of instrumental rationality, which I'm sure you'll agree would be preposterous, you just made that shit up and hoped it would fly; but it was born a tragically ground-bound bird. So, seeing as how the thing in question doesn't exist, it would be real hard to contaminate it. But I did appreciate how your basic message was a kind of less-coherent version of Tommy Lee Jones's rant from Under Siege about the "irreversibly progressive depletion of the global gene pool" -- which has the virtue of at least potentially describing a phenomenon that theoretically could happen in the world. God, Under Siege is awesome. I wish all phases of life were as well-written as Under Siege, don't you?

By your generously condescending hope that I "spend [my] time more productively," I guess you mean I should take a cue from your own blog and post cellphone camera pictures of fixer-upper trucks along with such cryptically rhythmic and image-heavy beat poetry as, "Step 1.1: Cut off all the suspended stinky cardboard trees." If I could only emulate that, I would be very productive indeed. I can only imagine the satisfaction you felt when you struck such an item off your to-do list, doubtless with a bold grease-pencil flourish! I bet you felt like Zorro.

Now that I think of it, though, your blog's conspicuous demonstration of your fondness for trucks, truckin', and truck-culture might explain why you're so indignant. I mean, it's a terrible commercial! And I really had a lot of fun writing about it, which actually seems to me like a useful way to spend time and energy. But, I'm afraid I didn't take to the task with a full payload of charity and goodwill in my heart.

Would you believe, a bit of me even worries you don't really care if I'm productive at all. You just want to be left alone with your trucks and your truckin' and your truck-culture without any of the bad mean people making fun of them. To which I can only plead guilty. We all have our sore spots, and if I had known this was one of yours, I'd have taken that into account in my preliminary brainstorming and pre-pre-drafting. But that's no excuse: I should have been more sensitive.

I'm happy to hear you ride your bike to work, though. Do you also give some of your disposable income to charities around the holidays?

And finally -- just to bring it all back to the beginning -- that's not what "diametric relation" means. See, if your notion is that I spent too much time and energy on my post, and your own effort is in a diametrical relationship my effort, it would in fact mean that you didn't spend any time or energy on your (appreciated and constructive!) feedback. The opposite of "some" is -- counterintuitive thought it may be -- not "a little," but "none." So if you'd wanted to use it right, in this context... gee whiz, I guess you'd have had to say nothing at all.

I love each and every one of you, you magnificent scoundrels.

Anonymous said...

Hilarious commentaries. However, you guys are missing the point. This ad is targeted to women (hence your confusion and disagreement).

Mr. Johnson is clearly a house-husband and his wife makes plenty. Why else is she googly-eyeing him?? She's in control, that's why. Major turn-on. She's got this guy doing everything for her - taking care of her father, learning words to sing-along car songs, renovating her kitchen, watering her garden, cooking, driving around a bunch a spoiled brats with their expensive toys, etc. So the montage is not of the joyful things the truck permits him to do - rather, it shows the chores he does for his wife and kids, dawn to dusk. The guy doesn't realize this until the very moment he is asked the question "What do you do?" Then, it suddenly comes crashing down on him. You can see it in his blank stare...the wheels are slowing starting to turn...hey, wait a minute... this is my wife's show...everything...the kids, the house, the yard, the 'burbs, and yes even the truck. It's my wife who needs a "long lasting, full sized" "Mr. Johnson" to "run her deep" on occasion. SHE bought the truck for me so she's not married to a totally emasculated weenie. Hum, geeze, what do I think about this? (He thinks for 2 seconds.) Big truck. Sex. What else do I need? Excellent. I’m the luckiest guy alive. (Sly smile.)

And the neighbor? He's been in the weenie husband club for years. But unfortunately, his wife didn't buy him a big truck so he grew a double chin and no doubt is worthless in bed.

That's what it's about. The ad is targeted at women. Message: Your guy will be an excellent house-husband AND continue to turn you on IF you buy him this truck. After all, women are in charge of most purchases, right? I rest my case.

Anonymous said...

The ad displays the things people do with Silverado's and why they own them. If you did anything fun and needed a vehicle like that, you'd understand it. There is a big difference between people who have a Silverado and live their life and people who sit in front of a computer all day writing multiple paragraphs about a commercial they don’t like. When they say Chevy runs deep, they mean in the hearts of Americans, not that it tunnels under things. Why would you take things so literally? I’ll bet you drive a Prius or something like that. You stick to your computer and your intense overanalyzing of nothing important, and die alone with a mouse in your hand. I’ll stick to living my life to the fullest with my family and towing my boat with my Silverado.

Anonymous said...

Wow, off all the stupid comments this piece of shit has received, that's the stupidest comment yet.

toronto_lover said...

who the hell is the actor with the glasses?

Anonymous said...

The actor is Sean Fenton

Goober McNitt said...

Just posting to say how much I enjoyed this takedown of the Silverado commercial and the comments it inspired.

Even though the commercial didn't bother me, I find the writing herein very entertaining.

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