March 8, 2014

Commercial Rips Out Our Hearts & then WTF? ~ Alicia Wozniak


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I’m an animal lover and not a car lover so maybe I’m really biased when I say, “Bad form, Chevy.”

The commercial starts with a woman giving her dog loving comfort. We assume she’s having to put her old friend down. Geez… The thought of it gives me goosebumps having had to make that decision years ago for “The Best Cat in the World” and recently having been there when my mom’s long time companion needed the same comfort.

The ad then backtracks though the woman’s life with her dog pal to the moment she as a child selected her friend from its littermates.

And then…

Chevy reminds us blatantly with a full shot of one of its models that this is a car commercial.

Somehow they make the connection between life long fur friends and cars being the same. Again, I’m not a car person so perhaps I don’t understand the connection. I am an animal lover and I am kind of miffed at Chevy for pulling on my heart strings so hard to the point of tears and then presenting me with a car, “Hey, here’s a tissue and a brand new car!”

Listen, Chevy, I get it. I’m in Marketing. My team tries to figure out how to get customers to open emails, look at ads and choose our products. What’s the “thing” that will make someone say, “Yes, I must open this and review it. Yes! I must have that!”

It’s a challenge.

My colleagues and I joke that we should make every email subject line, “Free Puppies!” One of them did that once in an email to me during my workday. I stopped everything I was doing and opened it. It worked. Sneaky bastard.

So, Chevy, you essentially did that too. Not cool.

Having to put down a forever friend is one of the hardest decisions, I think, we as pet owners have to make. Many Chevy employees and executives, I imagine, are pet owners as well and have had to deal with this same heart wrenching dilemma.

Who in the world sitting around the table during that marketing meeting said, “Hey, you know, what about associating a relationship with a car to putting down a pet? That’s the same, right?” I’ve never once bawled my eyes out over turning in a car. I’ve never once grappled with the decision of, “Man, this car is old. What do I do? I can’t get rid of it. I can’t live without it. What do I do?”

Never happened to me, but then again, I am not a car lover. 

I did have that same sort of conversation for months with myself, however, as my cat, Phoebe, slowly succumbed to kidney failure; she was almost 21 years old. Her quality of life was not what it had been through her life, even just months earlier. Was I keeping her alive for me? She was just skin and bones. She was happy to see me every day and I had her since I was in 8th Grade. Could I keep up the water treatments for just a little longer? Her vet agreed when I called that we’d done everything we could possibly do.

I had to make that decision.

She hissed when the vet inserted the needle, I doubted my decision though I knew ultimately it was the right one. She passed shortly after and I pet her one last time.

I’ve seen other car commercials in the past that associate a pet growing older with their human companion riding around in whatever make / model of car. Totally cool. The owner has had the same make / model of car since the pooch was a pup and both relationships move through time. Last scene, old pooch and man who is older as well, exit the car and I think head into the woods for another day of life. That’s a feel good commercial that, to me, makes sense as far as the dependency of a car—not the dog at the vet, super sad music, and a track back through life indicating that this old friend is now at the end of its life.

Bad form, Chevy. Bad form.

Tapping into human emotion is key to making marketing work. It’s what sells products, but this approach in a car commercial was not OK. Too personal. Too close to the heart.

What’s next, Chevy? Nursing homes?

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 Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: author’s own

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