By on October 9, 2009

It’s easy to understand how a commercial like this gets made. Funny people miss the mark occasionally. What’s more difficult to explain is the decision to build an entire marketing campaign around such weak middle school humor. Are the executives at Subaru the same people who decided to buy the slapchop after Vince threw in the gratie, or did this actually test well thanks to Billy Mays nostalgia? If educated,experienced auto executives can be sold on this idea what hope do the rest of us have? Sebrings and WNBA tickets for all?

It would be one thing if this ad were pure escapism, alá the Bud Lite “tailgate tested” faux-infomercials. However the motivation for the Outback Detergent ads hide an underlying reality that Subaru is desperate to conceal. Outback was always “the original sport utility wagon.” Now it’s “just another crossover.” Having bloated the vehicle’s traditional tagline into irrelevance, Subaru has to find someway to connect to its past. You can almost see the discussion in the “creative” session: “I know, Subaru ads always show the cars getting dirty,” says one dim bulb. “Let’s do a whole campaign about dirt,” guffaws another. Too bad making a gimmick of a traditional brand image only seems to underline the co-optation of Subaru into the crossover mainstream. As it did in days gone by, Subaru should have simply looked to Australia to sell the new Outback. Then again, the competition is a little better down under.

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37 Comments on “Subaru Outback Ads Hit The Spin Cycle...”

  • avatar

    That’s two minutes of my life, I can never get back.

  • avatar

    Forget the humor (such as it is). Detergent seems an odd route to go if you’re trying to convince men that the Outback is the car for them.

  • avatar

    I didn’t know this was a joke. I bought the detergent and it really does make my smelly undergarments springtime fresh.

  • avatar

    Call me silly, but I liked it.

  • avatar

    There’s a Subaru dealer next to my office

    I’m grabbing some of that on my way home.

    /Yes, I drive a Subaru
    //Legacy GT :)

  • avatar
    Martin Albright

    How can it be worse than the nauseatingly sincere (or uber-hiply ironic) “Love” ads?

  • avatar

    I just got this email this morning and I thought it was some scam so I deleted it without looking at the links. I had no idea this was real, I thought this was another ED or penis enlargement junk mail.

    I guess now I need to watch this thing.

  • avatar

    Sorry, I don’t get it either. What does this do for the Outback? What it won’t do is sell more cars.

  • avatar

    What makes me crazy is one ad here in the NYC area on AM radio. The female voice talks about Subaru being “surprising.” She says “I didn’t know Subaru made an all-wheel-drive sedan.” … Wut? Someone got paid to write this?!? THE FREAKING COMPANY BUILT THEIR REPUTATION ON AWD CARS!!! AAARRRGGGHHH!!!!


  • avatar

    Sheesh. Lighten up people. I loved that spoof.

  • avatar

    I thought it was cute. It reinforces Subaru’s outdoorsy image, without pandering to or papering over the kind of people who buy them.

    That said, it’s a little too hip and meta to really build a premium image, so I guess going after Audi is no longer the aim.

    I guess what I don’t understand is what people do with detergent. It must be something the maid does to our clothes after she’s finished detailing my S-class.

    Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  • avatar

    Overall I thought it was cute, though IMHO it veered into “Are they really doing that?” territory when that woman started sniffing the crotch of that guy’s bike shorts then passed the shorts around so the audience could sniff the crotch as well.

  • avatar

    Ok, lame humour is sometimes funny (not really in this case), but more importantly;
    Shouldn’t an advert for a car actually feature THE CAR? There were exactly 33 combined seconds of footage showing only tiny snippets of the Subaru Outback, and I still have no idea what it looks like.
    You really do have to shake your head in disbelief at how wrong so many car manufacturers are getting it at the moment. COME ON SUBARU!

  • avatar

    It wasn’t bad, but not great, par for the course for most car ads. With the length though they can’t run this as a traditional spot – is this web only?

    Subaru is in a tough spot. They built their reputation and customers base on a combination of Saab quirkiness, Volvo practicality, and Toyota reliability. The WRX opened up a lot of new customers with the youth market, and the recent more mainstreamed Forester and Legacy are bringing more ‘normal’ customers to the lots. How does Subaru continue to expand its market share without letting the core group of customers feel like they have been left behind?

  • avatar
    Daniel J. Stern

    I saw an ad for the new Outback the other day, in which the main claim to fame was that the new car is “bigger and better”.

    *yawn* Suddenly it’s 1958? No thanks, I’m driving.

  • avatar

    Good to see that one of the Gremlins (not the car) got work after all these years, even it’s advertising a kitchen gadget.

  • avatar

    I lasted 33 seconds.

  • avatar

    It wasn’t that bad, a little entertaining and I think I will head down to my local dealer in my Legacy and pick up some of the FREE detergent. Might even drive an Outback while I’m there. But I won’t be buying one, they have totally lost the plot with their pricing lately. We love our Subaru but not at the prices they want for them now.

  • avatar

    For some reason, car ads tend to be terrible. The dealer ads are worse that the make ads, but if you factor in terribleness/(dollar spent) they are actually probably 1 million times better, even the ones where the used car dealer is yelling at the camera for some reason. By that metric, this is not a disaster, just very stupid.

    Based on the girth of the vehicle and the tenor of the ad I would say they are trying to expand their market share from people who actually go outdoors to the kind of people who bought ginormous SUVs before gas went up to $4/gallon. The trouble with the ad in that respect is the same that faces movie adaptations of comic books, if you don’t get the basics right you will alienate the core of fans that you otherwise could have counted on to see it and talk it up to their less nerdy brethren.

  • avatar

    As my mother used to say, “if you don’t have anything positive to say, don’t say anything”.

  • avatar

    It’s a fairly clever spoof of infomercials but Suzuki had a better advert a couple years ago that poked fun at dinosaur SUV’s that was far better IMHO.
    Besides, it doesn’t take away from the fact the new Outback is hideous and gargantuan beyond belief.
    In their rush to follow Toyhonda and make mainstream fat ass cars for Middle America they left their core demographic behind.
    It’s getting harder and harder to find a car I’d actually want to buy in this continent.

    RIP Legacy Wagon.

  • avatar

    Not as good as:

    Maybe a little cleaner, though…

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    It’s an interesting way to get people into Subaru dealerships.

    I’m still surprised that Subaru has decided to not feature the Impreza model line in these difficult times. It’s probably one of the most neglected vehicles of the last fifteen years.

  • avatar
    Jerry Sutherland

    This ad maxed out at 1.3 seconds worth of humor in a 2 minute package.
    Life’s too short-I want 118.7 seconds back.

  • avatar
    Lug Nuts

    That advertisement is Subaru jumping the shark, times two. Way over the top, painful to watch, and downright nauseating at times. Subaru’s move to portlier, less-lively, full-on appliance vehicles will likely prove to be a huge blunder in a year or two, when the new model shine fades from the entire lineup. Most Subaru loyalists are already put off by the “Rue Paul” look of the new Legacy and Outback, never mind that every Subaru is seriously decontented at the same price point versus years past. Gone is the funky, rugged, go-anywhere, no-nonsense character of yore. Here today are softer, fru fru cars targeted at a fickle audience of fashionistas and image-conscious metrosexuals, effectively leaving loyalists a bit confused and looking for alternatives (hello opportunity, are you listening Kia and Hyundai?). In other words, not exactly a recipe for Subaru’s long-term success.

  • avatar

    And I thought the “Old Grey Mare …” series of adverts introducing the Legacy back in ’89 were lame.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    Looked at in the “Jesus, this is putrid!” lens, its pretty hysterical.

    Hopefully that was their aim.

  • avatar

    Long winded and annoying. But my wife’s 2009 Outback with the H6, is a nice car. It gives about the right amount of road feel as to give you the feeling it smaller than it is. Nice quality interior (beats the Venza hands down) with a decent ride. Will say that the H6 moves but does not seem to enjoy to be revved. Overall happy with the car, happy we got it before the 2010 bloat. I wanted her to by the H4 non turbo for the price since I had to pay for it and would not be driving that much, but she is correct the H6 was nicer. Call me whipped.

  • avatar

    …You can almost see the discussion in the “creative” session: “I know, Subaru ads always show the cars getting dirty,” says one dim bulb….

    Hey D.S.: I am a dim bulb. I liked this ad. That dude in the bear suit made me laugh.

  • avatar

    The idea of selling soap instead of cars, with the dirty husband sitting on the couch, might make a good 20-second commercial. Actually it plays to Subaru’s quirkiness rather well. But two full minutes of infomercial cornballism is just gawd-awful. I was embarrassed for both of us.

  • avatar

    Well… that went over like a fart in church.

    Actually the blog title “Subaru Outback Ads Hit The Spin Cycle” is more clever than the entire 2 (ouch) minute ad. Billy Mays is grimacing from the pearly gates…

  • avatar

    Is the wildlife photographer Josh Brolin?

  • avatar

    RIP Subaru.

  • avatar

    Having had three Outbacks including a current 2008 model we don’t think that we will buying another.
    Shame since they have always been well made and engineered cars. The new outback is way too big and SUV-like.

  • avatar

    Advertising has ONE purpose: Make you remember the product. So it worked…?

  • avatar

    No, advertising has one purpose: make you buy the product. So it didn’t work. Not for me at least.

  • avatar

    Well, it was goofy; that’s for sure. And I did see it on television the other day.

    It made me laugh. I won’t buy one, but that’s because I’m at a different place than their products; not necessarily because of any failure of the ad.

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