Despite signs that the horsepower wars are over (or have at least been refined), nobody would argue that the American market lacks for high-powered offerings. Except, apparently, Dodge and its crack ad team at Wieden + Kennedy who have based the latest Durango ad around the idea that performance is dead in America. This canard is so preposterously misguided and thoroughly misinformed that I can’t even bring myself to lay out the all-to-obvious critique piece-by-piece. Instead, let’s turn to the legendary auto ad-blaster, the Autoextremist himself to point out why this may well be one of the most stupid car ads in a long time.
The former GM marketer Peter DeLorenzo notes in his “On The Table” for this week:
First of all, while showing dilapidated and abandoned old race tracks, the premise of the spot revolves around the fact that we’re living in a downtrodden era that is deprived of automotive performance and that people have even forgotten what real performance is all about. Really? In an era of 550hp Cadillacs, 400hp+ Mustangs and Camaros, 400, 500 and even 600hp Corvettes, 600hp Mercedes, 400 and 500hp Audis and BMWs and 300 and 400hp trucks, we’re living in an era deprived of performance?
…and to make matters worse, the punch line of the spot suggests that the new Dodge Durango is the answer to all of our performance ills and that it puts the “sport” back into SUV. Huh? This spot smacks of everything I absolutely loathe about modern car advertising, clueless ad agencies and the marketing people responsible for such dismal trash. Not having a clue is one thing, but to flaunt that fact with malicious, abject stupidity while actually thinking you have got it goin’ on is criminal. And in case you’re wondering, even if they had used the Challenger or Charger the premise would still be fatally flawed. We’re currently living in what will be considered to be the Golden Era of high-performance in the not-too-distant future, an era likely never to be repeated again (and even if we do it will be exponentially much more costly), so, when I see such blatant disregard for the facts, a stunning lack of awareness and such utter cluelessness such as this, it just makes me cringe. Flat-out inexcusable.
Preach it, brother! In fact, the only point I would add to DeLorenzo’s takedown is that even if Dodge were right and performance were “dead,” this ad would simply be saying “we build vehicles people don’t want to buy.” Unfortunately, as the Autoextremist points out, the situation is even worse than that.
In its time as Chrysler Group’s lead agency, Wieden + Kennedy has has made a single ad that I found truly compelling, and put out one other spot that got a lot of attention (although I wasn’t much of a fan myself). Otherwise, the clearly-talented agency has put out one stinker after another. At this point we can only look on an ad like this one as a cry for help… but given the brilliance of some of Wieden’s other automotive work, it seems like the problem may be more on Chrysler’s side of the table.