By on December 19, 2013
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An imposing, expensive log home dominates a clearing, reclaimed from the rugged pine-infested wilderness that surrounds it. Smoke rises from the chimney, overlaying the picturesque mountain peak in the background. In front of the home, a man leans over the open engine bay of his obviously new truck. The chrome gleams, despite the trail mud artistically bespattered on the sides. As the camera zooms in, he looks up from the engine bay and smiles. His tousled hair, unshaven stubble, and harmonious blend of over-25-under-40 facial features comport well alongside his worn cowboy boots, perfectly soiled jeans and carefully rumpled flannel shirt. He wipes his hands with a rag, looks back at the house for just a moment, and then turns to the camera.

“Built it myself,” he says with a polished gruffness. “But I couldn’t have done it without the right tools for the job. Saws, hammers, nails, and varnish. And a truck I can depend on.” He reaches over and closes the hood with a “thunk” that took the sound editing guy three weeks to get right. “Brand X is as reliable as the day is long. But what I like the most is that I can do all the regular maintenance myself. Oil changes, fluid flushes, and anything else she needs. It’s easy. Everything comes in a handy guide. No experience necessary. Brand X builds a truck for you, not for mechanics.”

At that moment, the screen door on the porch swings open. A well-groomed Labrador Retriever rushes out with a happy bark, his collar jingling. As he runs towards his master, an achingly beautiful brunette steps out onto the porch. Her hair falls down over her slightly unbuttoned blouse as she smiles at the man in the courtyard. He turns to face her and gives a casual wave, just as the dog reaches his feet. She returns the wave, as he pets the dog with his free hand. She leans against a porch column as he turns back to the camera, the dog now sitting alongside him. Now he wears a knowing smirk on his face. “Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.” The challenge made, he turns back and heads towards the front door. The camera zooms out, and cuts away to the mountains as he reaches the porch and embraces the girl. The logo for Brand X looms onto the screen. An announcer calls out the tagline. “Brand X. Independence is everything.”

“Don’t provoke your customers.” The maxim seems simple enough. So is the script above a form of marketing suicide? Not necessarily. Megadoses of brash masculinity in contemporary truck ads are a given. Especially with the collapse of the small and mid-size truck markets, portraying the heavy-duty macho pedigree of pick-ups is essential. Nobody wants to build the next Brat. Instead, deep-voiced announcers harangue viewers with statistics and brawny narratives. The question becomes one of oversaturation. How many images of trucks towing impressive-looking gooseneck setups/ginormous almost-yachts/inferior trucks, trucks getting huge loads of bricks/rocks/other bulky substances dumped in the bed from ridiculous heights, and trucks pulling overloaded trailers up a Mad Max-ish winding tower of death surrounded by OMG FLAMES SO HARDCORE can the average guy absorb before the effect starts to wear thin?

Perhaps we already have the answer: pulling a freaking space shuttle into a hangar in a supposedly “real world” challenge without the slightest hint of irony or self-effacement (“It’s really heavy, and it’s also quite big.” Bob the Builder would be proud.) Or maybe it peaked even earlier: parking a perfectly good pickup between two bulldozers and bending the hell out of it just to prove that yes, it is hard to crush something made of metal that weighs the better part of three tons. (It’s worth noting that Ford pulled that ad after negative consumer reaction.) Every manufacturer is guilty of this to some degree; the struggle for breathless superlatives and ludicrous stunts is an arms race that not even Kissinger could de-escalate. What’s more of an insult to a customer: the insinuation that these shenanigans somehow represent real-world product value, or that maybe, just maybe, taking responsibility for your own vehicle maintenance is sexy?

The cartoonish over sincerity of truck advertising is ripe to be skewered. At least one ad exec working for GM has realized this. A memorable 2012 Super Bowl ad for Chevy trucks riffed cheekily on the Mayan Apocalypse as well as manly vigor in the face of chaos. The ad works because it gets the message across (GM builds the most reliable pickups) without resorting to overwrought machismo or torrents of forgettable facts and figures. Recently, brands in other product categories have gotten far by giving masculinity the ironic, playful treatment.

The line of Axe grooming products comes most readily to mind, as do the over-the-top ads for Dr. Pepper 10. Going farther back in automotive history, there are numerous examples where manufacturers achieved enormous success by attacking the marketing tropes of the day. The most iconic of these was the Doyle Dane Bernbach series of Volkswagen ads that appeared in 1959. “Think Small” exploded decades of conventional wisdom about what Americans expected from an automotive ad campaign. The enormous success of VW in swimming upstream changed not only that company’s fortunes, but arguably the entire character of the US car market.

The DIY aesthetic has long been a favorite background for truck ads. Since at least the 1980s, though, manufacturers have been hesitant to apply it to the trucks themselves. Perhaps this is due to the need to maintain good relations with dealers, who rely on service for a steady income stream. More likely, it rests on the presumption that modern drivers want nothing to do with the mechanical upkeep of their vehicles of they can help it. It wasn’t always this way; ads from the 1970s and before are replete with references to the ease of do-it-yourself maintenance for both cars and trucks alike. Resurrecting self-maintenance would be a quick and easy way for a manufacturer to stake out a unique niche in the marketing game.

Because many truck buyers are commercial customers who are already more likely to self-maintain, the strategy carries less risk than if it were applied to passenger cars. It could help a marginal player like Nissan establish a reputation as a “man’s truck,” owned by the confident and technically savvy. This is the most crucial part of the game: the creation of an image that customers will want to buy into, not necessarily one they live themselves. Very few smokers of Marlboro Reds are lasso-wielding cowboys. But the image offered by that campaign proved to be an immensely powerful draw. It isn’t necessary to throw out all conventional wisdom at once, like DDB did for VW. However, the existing stale and hyper-masculine paradigm of truck ads is ripe to be shaken up, one way or another.

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103 Comments on “Editorial: It’s Time to Rethink Truck Advertising...”


  • avatar
    EquipmentJunkie

    Ram’s “So God made a farmer” ad during last year’s Super Bowl was a welcome change showing more real-world (while scenic) applications. Ram’s market sales gains this year tend to validate that change.

  • avatar

    Thanks, J. Emerson for a cogent editorial. The elephant in the room is that virtually all advertising is premised on deception and on the creation of a desire to buy something you don’t need. Truck advertising, hell, the trucks themselves, is a prime example. Compare the startlingly honest pickup of 1970 to today’s huge pavement queens, or the ever-so functional compact pickups to the few remaining mid-size units. Did the work change?

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      I have what I call “Bunkie’s Rule”:

      The more they try to sell it to you, the less you need it.

      Wants, however, are where it gets tricky…

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      Consumers expect the market to deliver more value via better performance or lower prices. The manufacturers realized that consumers were willing to buy increasingly larger trucks, and since they are completely unnecessary and ridiculously overpriced, the manufacturers have to advertise aggressively.

  • avatar
    philipbarrett

    Although I agree that truck advertising personifies the term “cliche” more than any other (and living as I do in Texas, is completely unescapable) I don’t think it’s likely to go away anytime soon.

    Most trucks aren’t bought by hard-working salt-of-the-earths looking to get a good day’s work done, they’re bought by people who want to appear as if they’re salt-of-the-earths getting that work done. And that demographic is exactly who the manufacturers are attempting to woo. Witness the slew of Texas Editions, King Ranch Editions and Built Texas Tough Editions, in fact enough editions to make a librarian swoon!

    Of course, when you actually get into the areas where real work is done and in the summer months, reliability can literally mean life and death, you find a plethora of almost identical pickups. Almost universally white and devoid of any creature comforts bar A/C (when worming cattle Bluetooth connectability is not high on an options list) these are the real workhorses of the truck world.

    But then a camera pulling into a close up of a cowboy massaging medication into cattle ringworm lesions as the sun sets over the Chisos Mountains probably doesn’t play well in The Woodlands during football watching season.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “… in the summer months, reliability can literally mean life and death…”

      Please explain.

      I’m not sure if you’re being literal or have dipped a toe into the pool of sarcasm. I can see reliability being a life and death situation in winter months when temps drop well below freezing, especially in remote areas. In the summer, I just don’t see it.

      • 0 avatar
        radcardude

        When you consider many ranchers and farmers on huge ranches in the middle of winter feeding their cows or fixing fences, a reliable truck is mandatory so you don’t freeze to death when the day is done

      • 0 avatar
        993cc

        I live in Canada, so can’t speak from experience, but I’m thinking summer in Texas can equal heat stroke, without a reliably air conditioned space to retreat to.

        • 0 avatar

          Water discipline and carrying an EZ-up can help to survive, but a breakdown is hazardous emergency nonetheless. It’s not just Texas either. Nevada is like that too all the way from Austin to Fallon and further north.

          • 0 avatar
            raph

            While I’ve never made a desert run, the best piece of advice I burned into my brain was;

            a) Carry a case of water with you

            b) Something to shade you from the sun

      • 0 avatar
        Dirk Stigler

        West Texas is functionally a desert environment, with low humidity that can kill you almost before you notice it. Being stranded by the roadside is a serious problem, such that people carry water with them if they’re driving out of town.

        • 0 avatar
          philipbarrett

          Exactly, and being stranded on some remote trail or fence line you better hope someone knows where you are. The only shade is under your vehicle, just watch out for rattlesnakes!

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Have you ever been in Texas in the Summer, with triple digit temperatures, dozens of miles from the nearest building, person, or cell phone relay?

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        Throughout the southwest, from Texas to the deserts of California, Summer temperatures are routinely in triple digits. You can easily be in places dozens of miles from “civilization”, where cell phones don’t work.

      • 0 avatar
        LALoser

        In the late 80s and early 90s I drove bush to installations in British Columbia, Yukon Territory and Alaska. Many times I was stuck in snow, over banks and in ditches. One time the wind blew me off an ice covered trail…and it was cold…with some hungry critters running around. The vehicle that did all this work: A bought new Mazda B2600i 4×4. Manual, standard everything. It never missed a beat, but sure took a beating.

      • 0 avatar
        the_overdog

        It’s not life or death. When I was a teen in the ’90s I worked ranches in TX summers (mostly digging ditches and doing dirtwork). Our trucks didn’t even have A/C, and cell phones weren’t very common in the ’90s. If a truck broke down, you just had to walk. Or use some other vehicle usually a backhoe (also no A/C) to drive somewhere to get help.

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Well, Texas is the extreme case. It’s the biggest pickup market in the U.S., I believe. Having lived there a few years and having married a Texan, I would say that those folks are unique in having and maintaining a distinct identity as “Texans” in a way that people from other states don’t. Even Southerners who may maintain a distinct identity as “Southerners” don’t do so as Virginians, Georgians, Mississippians, etc.

      So the pickup truck — the essential work truck for ranchers and roughnecks — is part of that package as is the Stetson hat and cowboy boots.

      I have some sympathy for the folks who create truck ads. They range in extreme from the “Guts, Glory, Ram!” ads, which are kind of cringe-inducing to the Chevy ads touting their pickups as having the quietest interior of any pickup truck (Guys, isn’t that carrying the “cowboy Cadillac” thing a little too far?)

      Obviously the “work truck” version of these trucks is most often used by folks who use them for real work. That said, take a look at some of the used trucks advertised in the Houston area on Cars.com. Some of these trucks are just a year old and they have 30,000 miles on them, including some of the heavy duty trucks that are rated to tow 20,000 lbs. or more. And those same trucks are not the work truck models; they’re the fancy models with leather seats and so on. So, putting two-and-two together, they were trucks in which someone spent a lot of time hauling something and wanted to be comfortable doing it.

      As to why I got involved in all of this, it’s because I want to take a year off and travel around in an Airstream; and I’m looking for something to tow it. Pickup prices (new and used) are so much cheaper in the Texas metro than around here that’s its worth my while to buy a plane ticket, fly down, by one and drive it back home.

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        That quietest pickup ad is horrible–He says Chevy trucks are “second to nobody, and by nobody, I mean Ford and Ram.” So, am I to understand he’s saying “Chevy trucks are second to Ford and Ram,” which would technically make them third.

        A simple rule I think about with advertising is to not insult your customers. If you are Domino’s Pizza, don’t depict people who like/buy Domino’s Pizza as foolish, incompetent, etc. Surprising, that is a rule that is broken regularly to elicit a bit of humor.

      • 0 avatar
        ellomdian

        It may be the biggest pickup market in the US, but it’s certainly not because everyone there owns a ranch and drives a dusty trail to get home every night. You touched the key point – maintaining a distinct identity. Except in most cases, it’s not maintaining – it’s synthesizing.

        To be fair to Texas, the same thing happens in more urban areas of Colorado and Wyoming – I see shiny expensive trucks with no visible trim damage parked in front of the Grizzly Rose and Shepler’s, branded with bumper stickers of schools 50 miles from the closest ranch. The parking spaces here (Denver) and in DFW are shockingly wide, even though it seems there is always someone who doesn’t know how to drive or park their huge vehicle.

        From the discussion about Mid-Sized trucks last week;

        “I would be awfully surprised if more than 75% of all full-size trucks sold actually get used for ‘truck stuff.’ It readily reflects the SUV craze of the 90s – buying more car than you actually need, for stuff you don’t actually do. While a pickup might be crazy versatile, it seems like most of the ad copy these days is going to What-If’s; I don’t need to pull a space shuttle, ever.”

      • 0 avatar
        sportsuburbangt

        I bought my Expedition from a dealer in Texas. It was 10k cheaper than the dealers in new york. it only cost 1000 to ship it to me. Trucks are big down there, but they are reasonably priced.

  • avatar
    tedward

    I like the idea of advertising self maintenance. Not because customers will start doing so because of an ad campaign or because a car company makes it easier, but because people (men) who can’t do it admire those who can. Also, those who do self maintain are a highly opinionated group that easily fall into a victim complex (you know…us.) They are likely to feel vindicated and appreciated and are also more likely to be vocal with their friends and family about vehicle choice than a no-knowledge slob. If catering to them can also make you look good and not cost too much…why not?

    Same exact argument applies for manual transmissions. Offer a full sized truck with a manual and 4wd, then advertise the rugged do-it-yourself angle till your face turns blue. The hot brunette needs to be the one driving the though (market reality needs to be present somewhere.)

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Seriously? The farmers and ranchers of 50 years ago typically maintained all of their equipment. It was designed with that in mind, because mechanics are not just around the corner in places like western Kansas; and farmers and ranchers often can’t afford to have a piece of equipment out of service for weeks on end.

      Take one look at the top side of either Chevy’s Duramax diesel or Ford’s Powerstroke diesel and ask yourself whether that’s any place that even talented amateurs should be messing around. The Cummins diesel in the Ram is only a little better, mostly because it’s an in-line engine, rather than a V-8.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        The large numbers of old but still running vintage tractors I’ve found just in my little chunk of Pennsylvania is enough for me to believe you. People still use the small but strong Ford 8N around here, usually with a front end loader attached, and there’s a small (as in…not industrial) farmer right across the street using a John Deere 720 diesel for various tasks.

        You just can’t kill an old tractor. Hell, they don’t even rust out because everything is cast iron.

  • avatar
    cwallace

    This would be a good tack for Nissan– make a truck whose engine you can actually reach, and a bed that doesn’t require a pop-up handrail to climb into.

    Which, I guess, is what a Ford Ranger was. Never mind.

  • avatar
    phlipski

    I’d like to see more truth in truck advertising..

    Here’s a few taglines I can think of:

    1. Just because your penis is small doesn’t mean your truck has to be!

    2. We offer the diesel because deep down you always wanted to drive an 18-wheeler, you could just never admit it to yourself.

    3. Gas mileage? You’re buying a $50k truck! Why the F^&K do you care about gas mileage?

    I’ll be here all week….

  • avatar
    stryker1

    This has everything to do with the fact that the majority of trucks on offer are ridiculously over-sized and over-powered. Ads like these are the only way to justify that. My brother is shopping for a pick-up, because he wants to be able to haul equipment in the back, and have some ground clearance to drive up West Virginia mountain-”roads”. He’s resigned to getting a Tacoma at this point, because everything else is so over-the-top (and expensive).

    • 0 avatar
      Quentin

      My dad and his WV bear hunting friends all drive Tacomas. He told me that 15 of the 16 trucks they had on the last hunt were Tacomas. I guess they all just love the size.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        What are the chances that 93% of any sixteen randomly selected truck owners in the US drive a Tacoma? Talk about a statistical anomaly.

        • 0 avatar
          phlipski

          Every time I’ve been to Hawaii I’ve noticed nothing BUT Toyota pickups! And I’m talking all years and lots of rust, but they’re everywhere!

        • 0 avatar
          Quentin

          Yeah, I couldn’t believe it when he told me. I think it is a function of the narrow trails they have to access the forests that they do their hunting. You want to be able to get reasonably close to where the bear is treed as to prevent carrying a 300lb bear out too far. The Tacoma fits these small trails really well compared to the full sizers. All the hunting is done in the winter under the cover of snow with dog boxes on the back, so side-by-sides and Jeeps don’t really work. I’ll have to upload some of the Go Pro footage he took driving back into these places.

  • avatar
    SomeGuy

    I think the brand loyalty that shakes out from all of these commercials proves their effectiveness. When I sold GM vehciles, nearly all of the customers of the trucks were GM only fanboys. Meaning, they only owned, and drove GM cars and trucks.

    If you are brand loyal then the marketers have done their job, and done it well.

  • avatar
    Dirk Stigler

    Turning the tables and poking fun at the cowboy image could come across as hipster-izing the product, which would be death with the people who actually buy it. At least around here, I see family men driving these trucks. Being one myself (though not owning a truck – U-Haul fills my needs more economically in that department) I think what you’re expecting in the ‘truck image’ is apple pie, baseball and grilling on the deck with your buddies who just helped you build said deck. If nothing else, it’s a more realistic image than a lot of other advertising.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    They’ll change the marketing when they aren’t selling close to 2 million trucks a year in the US at over $32,000 a piece.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      This. Add that margins are almost five figures each.

      The advertising is doing it’s job very well. The people who don’t like it are probably not good customer prospects to begin with.

  • avatar
    ash78

    If someone really built and touted a vehicle based on easy DIY maintenance, I would put a premium on that…probably $3k-$5k on the new vehicle price, since over the life of the car I would gain at least that much in saved cash and time. For the non-DIY crowd, I think you could sell a car with the same price differential if you promised a certain longevity. Imagine a retiree, pragmatic and not fickle about styling. They’re 65 years old and want to buy “their last car” and have the cash to pay for something really solid.

    Further, imagine a bifurcated car market where the 3-5-year trade-in crowd had one version, and the 15+ crowd had a “heavy duty” alternative. Many consumer products are already sold this way, so I wonder if it would work for cars…simply upgrade certain failure-prone componentry to a higher MTBF/MTBO standard and pass the extra cost along to the consumer. Then offer a slightly better warranty to help prove your model and justify the higher price.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Detroit has done a lot of things wrong. Its abilities to persuade Americans and Canadians to buy full-size pickups, and to make them repeat, brand-loyal buyers are not among them.

  • avatar
    86er

    Almost all automobile industry advertising is horrid in one way or another. How do you market to people who consider a vehicle purchase similar to buying a house? You don’t see housing developers with tv ads touting the latest model (although this would be equally risible: (“now with non-structural pillars, more fake pillars than you can shake a stick at! Also with fewer windows!”)

    People who make truck ads are trying to invoke the passions and devotion they (may) have to their vehicles, passion and devotion they’ll never have for a four door sedan with a four cylinder engine. They’re trying to shout above the promos for Honey Boo Boo and the results are, who knows?

    Anyway, seeing that TTAC is populated with a commentariat that is by and large a bunch of outlier weirdo contrarians, I don’t feel eminently qualified to question their judgment.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    Where can I buy that Brand X truck?

  • avatar
    thelaine

    This truck is going to put me over the top in the manliness department. I have to run out and buy one before all the other dudes on TTAC get one. (Big Trucks probably already has two-damn it.)

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I must say that I think some car ads are impressive. The best one I’ve seen so far is the Dodge Dart’s “This Is how you build a car” advertisement. It kind of advertised an environment of youthfulness and mass-Internet culture without thrusting a prospective customer into that world…

  • avatar
    ash78

    VO: “The New Brand X MasterCab: With the higest ratio of underhood space to actual metal!”

    (proceed to cram 6-8 dwarfs into the engine bay and shut the hood)

    Cut: Sam Elliott saying “Little People, Big Truck.”

    Cut to black, text “Brand X: Like a Cock”

  • avatar
    Windy

    I am trying to imagine a pickup truck add that riffed on the theme of that wonderful VW add of the funeral procession of big limos with the original bug bringing up the rear driven by the thrifty chap (who was also the only one moved by the demise of the object of the exercise) without doubt one of the top ten auto adds of the last 50 years. It got me into a VW showroom way back when…. And though I did not buy a bug I did buy a Combi.

    An add like that requires a very deft touch that the smallest thing not quite right could turn a triumph into a disaster.

    The thing I liked best in your imagined script was the whole designed for easy standard service and repair. I recall back in the 70s a concept car where all things like oil and filter change could be done with out getting under the car. If you add in things like flushing the cooling system and changing the transmission and brake fluid; again without getting under the car or all other things that an older driver with mobility and range of motion limitations might have. You would be on to a winner for any sort of vehicle other than top cost designs where the costs of professional service are a matter of pocket change.
    I can recall a Cadillac my grandfather owned in the 1950s that had one of its spark plugs so located that to change it was a long many hours job for a mechanic. And modern cars with their engines hidden under the fancy plastic shrouds seem to be designed to put off all but the most dedicated do it your selfer.

    Why is not more thought put into ease of service? Modern dashboard design is a good example, the whole thing is frequently a single subassembly built by a contractor with the emphasis on packing the thing as tightly as posable and still be able to swing the entire thing into the car and plugging it in as quickly as can be done…. But should you need to replace something like a heater core… In some designs it can not be done in a single day….
    90% of design seems to be concentrated on manufacturing efficiency and little thought given to how the car will be maintained.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      You ask the same questions I’ve pondered for years by now.

      Interiors are designed the way they are for purely aesthetics and they’re assembled by machines, they’re made to be easy to put together but not necessarily to take apart.

      With engine bays carmakers typically try to cram as much as they can into the bay in order to maximize interior room while keeping the front end area only as big as it needs to be, those plastic coverings are only there for insulation purposes.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        Interior assembly isn’t all done by robots. A huge portion of it is man assembled with jigs and simple tools.

        What I’ve generally seen is the smaller the part and the further upstream, the more automation. Ignition coils: almost 100% automation. Transmissions: 50/50. Interior fitting: very little automation.

    • 0 avatar
      olddavid

      Amen to your observations, Windy. I have been putting off repairing the blend door of my Lincoln for a month now. I should have done preventive maintenance when I first bought it, like the door handles, but the prospect of dash removal is daunting to the factory-trained techs, not just me. My Father used to say he thought the design engineers were the most optimistic humans in the business.

      • 0 avatar
        Windy

        I can recall comments in the 60s that the dash board things like heater controls were designed and built by gnomes with hands the size of your thumb. So it is nothing new and it is seen everywhere try do do any work behind the instruments of a light aircraft for example….

        And in your home, consider repair of the electronic controls of a modern built in convection oven, or a dishwasher with a bad drying element … How about replacing a dried out electrolytic capacitor in the receiver of your home theatre. Most of the things in your home theatre are not even economic to repair. And even if they are they will need to be shipped somewhere and be out of service for quite a time.

        If you are of an older generation you will recall a time where every town had a TV and radio repair shop. And he would have the tools and parts to fix just about any problem from bad tubes to components who’s values had drifted out of tolerance places that did that sort of actual repair rather the plug in replacement of a board called for by a diagnostic check list rather than actually understanding the basic electronics involved.

        I have a neighbor who has a a fancy DCS double convection built in oven that went dark in its display he was told that as it is so (12 years) old the electronic parts are no longer available so he would have to junk it and replace it! This on something that cost over $4,000 when new in 2001. I offered to take a look and quickly found a dried out capacitor that took me only a few min to replace… The hard part was getting the board out and back in due to the very short inter board ribbon cables provided…. Yet the manufacturer was telling him to scrap it and buy another.

    • 0 avatar
      Power6

      It is pretty obvious nobody buys cars/trucks based on ease of service. They want that well packaged interior, space efficiency, low cost etc. that are directly at odds with ease of service. Just as soon as the average consumer demands ease of service, we will see some product to address that. Even on TTAC you will not find and “ease of service” section in any auto review. Ever.

      I would wager even those that *think* they care about ease of service don’t. I doubt most are going to buy an expensive car that has a cramped interior and bad fuel economy all so the heater core is easy to replace 8 years down the road…its not what you SAY it is what you DO that drives the product decisions at the automakers…

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Oh come on – how many people do ANYTHING to a car or truck themselves? A bare handful, and we are all members of this site. 99% of owners drive the car and put gas in it. If the car is lucky, it gets an oil change once in a while. A horrifying number of people just drive the car until something goes horribly wrong.

      I’m even to the point where I don’t know if I will bother to do oil changes on my Abarth myself anymore. They do them CHEAP at the studio, unlike the BMW store, and an oil change on the Abarth is a huge PITA.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Considering the cost of oil versus the average prices for an oil change you may as well go to a shop.

        But when it comes to interiors the more difficult they are to work with the higher the labor costs, ditto for under the hood. And if you don’t fix your interior (say a light burns out or something) you’ll take a huge hit in resale.

  • avatar
    360joules

    Great editorial! Nice work, J Emerson, whoever you are.

  • avatar
    360joules

    I’ve always thought a great ad for a truck or sport utility vehicle would involve a woman driving a an off-road truck or SUV through treacherous wilderness: lots of off camber rock crawling, a seriously messy mud crawl, and a splashy stream crossing…then knocking on the door of a cabin to ask for a cup of sugar from whatever hunky man/woman opened the door.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    There were actually two truck adds recently that really emphasized the more “lifestyle” vehicle rather than the “burly image”, which ran widely in California.

    The first was for the Ram (the music was “California Soul”, there is a bad rip on youtube) targeting California buyers with a lifestyle/recreational/luxury vehicle image: redwoods, city, ocean, desert, hauling “toys”, fancy dinner, surfing at the beach, etc.

    The second was a “We own the weekend” F150 ad, showing the truck hauling “toys”, golf clubs, etc, as a riff on their “We own Work” adds.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    This editorial reminds me of how easy it is to be right after the fact. Hell, Bill Simmons has made a career of second guessing football coaches on Tuesdays, to say nothing of the so-called “advanced metric” stat kids. In the same vein as the owner who believes he can represent his store better than anyone, we all think our “just folks” intuition is sufficient knowledge to advertise any product we personally use. Not true. There is a reason J.Walter got so rich, and BBDO is advert shorthand – its hard to hit that sweet spot of effectiveness in any promotional campaign. In almost 40 years of observing the process I never figured it out. Why do some programs work while others are abject failure? I would rather attempt lead to gold alchemy than make my living dependent on my advertising success. The Brand X idea is as good as any other.

  • avatar
    George B

    The pickup truck ad theme I’d try would be “Cleans up nice”. It would show a pickup and it’s owner getting dirty doing real work in the country, followed by both cleaning up for a night out in the city. This ad theme can plausibly work with either a male or female spin. It emphasizes the work roots of pickup trucks and their owners while showing that they “clean up nice” for life away from work.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    I’d like to see a Big HD truck ad that proclaims:

    “No matter how manly a man-truck you man up to buy to achieve myriad manly feats, you still can’t pump your own gas in New Jersey or Oregon.”

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Old Spice ads are great at poking absurd fun of advertising tropes of the last few decades.

    To whit: Wes Welker enjoying his Old Spice body wash only to find that he missed the second half of the game, or worse, is trapped in a dollar store snow globe.

  • avatar
    JK43123

    How does one do maintenance on a blend door?

  • avatar
    doublechili

    It’s kind of amazing the extent to which [we] people will buy things, like cars, based so much on the image said object will project to others. Is the statistically-improbable cohort of people in BMWs, Audis and MBs in my area (affluent NE suburb) really drawn by, say, the Beemer’s “telepathic steering” (Eeeew, I feel dirty even typing that)?

    I’m relatively immune to this, re: cars anyway. Maybe not so much with some other things.

  • avatar
    Scott_314

    How about this for an honest ad:

    “You are what we call a never-never. As in, never off-road, and never towing. You’ll spend the next ten years justifying your truck by planning to tow and go off-road, and you’ll probably do it. Twice.”

    “This truck is so high that you can’t even see into the pickup bed without opening the tail gate. Then again, you’ll probably not use the bed much, because your groceries and valuables will be out of the weather in the back seat. Like in a car.”

    “Realistically you’ll get in the high teens for mpg, but you’ll tell your friends you get the high 20′s because that’s what the computer says when you are cruising at a steady 45mph, which you never do.”

    “The 40+K you’re paying for this truck will mean you have to work a whole extra year before retirement. Fun!”

    “Ok that’s enough sarcasm. There is one real benefit to this truck. If you tail-gate small cars, they will usually be intimidated and get out of your way.”

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I’m waiting for the brutally honest truck ad, showing a mother in a 4-door pickup with kids in the back, delivering them to pre-school, or going to the mall.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      “I wanted a CUV, my husband wanted a truck, we decided to compromise.”

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I like your concept.

    • 0 avatar
      TW5

      Brutally honest campaign is a natural-born beta-male, tripping Starbucks as he struggles to pilot his land yacht through stop-and-go traffic to a corporate cubicle-palace on the other side of town. He complains to his wife every night about his boss. On the weekends, his truck sits idle as he watches 48 hours of football. He has no idea how to be masculine (active) so he tries to consume masculinity (passive). The NFL commercials help him learn what to buy, but he can barely manage the family finances and pay for his truck/fuel. When he doesn’t act as an ATM machine for his kids, they wage a campaign of emotional terrorism. He cries himself to sleep once a month because his testosterone levels are plummeting due to his sedentary service-sector lifestyle. He wonders if it’s possible to commit suicide by overdosing on Viagra.

      By the end of the spot, you should be hoping that a kind soul will end his suffering by putting a bullet between his eyes.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “More likely, it rests on the presumption that modern drivers want nothing to do with the mechanical upkeep of their vehicles of they can help it. It wasn’t always this way; ads from the 1970s and before are replete with references to the ease of do-it-yourself maintenance for both cars and trucks alike. ”

    I submit that trucks (and cars) these days don’t emphasize that to a great extent because modern vehicles need a lot less regular maintenance.

    No 15,000 mile interval valve adjustments.

    No tune-ups, because EFI and electronic spark.

  • avatar

    Pitching Nissan trucks as “easy to work on” would be great, if that were ever the case in any manner. All their trucks I’ve worked on have been massively annoying in one way or another.

    Chevy’s, on the other hand, are quite simple. If they’d just stop with using torx screws to secure things, because this is America dammit.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    In an age when many cars can easily go 100k miles with only fluid changes, I just can’t see “Easy to work on” as being much of a selling point. But having once owned a 20-year-old Jaguar, I’m all for it.

  • avatar
    Wheatridger

    Script– “Of course I change my own oil. Mah truck’s so tall, I don’t need a lift! Just a little scaffolding, to wipe the windows.”

  • avatar
    April

    I change the channel whenever one of those macho truck commercials pops on the TV screen. It’s more nonsense than I can stomach.

    Same goes for those stupid AXE spray commercials. Note to all 12-year old boys. Drowning oneself in nasty smelling cologne is not the equivalent to taking a shower. With soap.

  • avatar
    Moparmann

    You can tell my preferred automotive affiliation by my name. When I got tired of borrowing my dad’s base Chevy pick up, I bought a pristine (used) ’83 Silverado, because I knew that it had a tilt wheel standard, that would get the steering wheel out of my lap! I’ve owned it for 12 years, but now I’m thinking of downsizing to a late 80′s up to ’93 S-10 Tahoe (the still square ones.)A Dodge Dakota might be a possibility, but I didn’t care for the styling on the later ones (after they starting growing). I use my truck for hauling/towing/etc., but I STILL clean it up when the work is done, ’cause my vehicles HAVE to be clean! (I’m weird like that!) (c:

  • avatar
    Morgan

    Suzuki has sold a ton of GSXR series sport bikes, and one big reason is they intentionally made them easy to work on.

    • 0 avatar
      philipbarrett

      I would argue that the big reason Suzuki shifted a ton of Gixxers is dollar for performance wise, they’re about as close to a race bike you can legally buy. Most I’ve seen have lived lives of extreme abuse with maintenance deferred.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        Is there really such a thing as a bad Japanese literbike, though?

        The Big Four’s entries are all damned fast damned cool looking rides.

      • 0 avatar
        Morgan

        No doubt they’re great bikes. I raced Hondas, but as a former racer I know many chose Suzuki for their ease of maintenance and repair, including that they’re actually built to crash well, with minimal damage and easier repair than other brands. They also supported the sport with quite good contingency programs. The fact that they are chosen by so many racers just makes their street credibility better.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Script: “It’s better to have a truck and not need it, than to need a truck and not have it”.

    When the need arises, I get the job done and on my way home, while the other are still scrambling to hook up a trailer to their Passat or get a truck borrowed, rented or the cobwebs off their beater pickup.

    A lot of free stuff (almost new appliances, cord of fire wood, perfect leather couches, good riding lawnmower, running ATV, ton of building material, etc) goes to whomever can get there quickest. Home owners and contractors often just want it gone immediately and don’t care what it’s worth or who gets to score on it.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    Truck ads need more Chuck Norris

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Norris is TOO macho, they need somebody less threatening, like David Hasselhoff or Lee Majors, or those Dukes of Hazzard guys, or even the Starsky And Hutch guys. They’re all older and out of shape, unlike Norris, who would give off a deadly “buy this truck or I’ll kill you” vibe.


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