By on November 30, 2011

We’ve been a bit critical of Honda’s advertising recently, and though I’m not a big fan of most of the latest David Puddy (OK, OK, Patrick Warburton) spots, I have to give it up for this one. I’ve wondered about the “cars with bows” ad meme for some time now, and though it was estimated that some 50,000+ vehicles were given as gifts last holiday season, I really can’t wait for the ad theme to die. We all love surprise gifts (especially expensive ones), but shouldn’t the person who will actually be driving the car have some say in what they get? I mean, I’d be grateful if someone bought me a new Lexus RX (a chief perpetrator of this ad meme) out of the blue… but mostly in the “it’s the thought that counts” way. Want to surprise someone with something expensive? Buy them jewelry or a watch. Want to buy someone a car? Make sure you really know exactly what car the giftee wants, and for goodness sake, make sure they drive it and the competition first. Surprises last a few seconds, the right car will delight for years to come.

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62 Comments on “Truth Versus Advertising: “Cars With Bows On Them” Ads Must Die...”

  • avatar

    Has anyone seen the new Buick ad where the husband gave his wife a car for Christmas, and at the moment he showed it to her she saw someone else’s LaCrosse go by, and she liked that so much that she didn’t want her own new car anymore?

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, I believe it’s a Lexus as well…mocking the Lexus commercials.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve driven the LaCrosse and the Lexus. The LaCrosse is the better driver’s car by far – especially in terms of handling, performance, and road feel. The LaCrosse’s 303-hp 3.6L DI V-6 kicks some serious butt – showing it’s autobahn pedigree – especially at triple-digit speeds.

      The Lexus on the other hand drove and felt like a luxury Camry. The steering felt disconnected from the road. Engine performance was decent, but if the chassis isn’t willing, then what’s the point?

      Just my $0.02.

    • 0 avatar

      Yes I saw that ad and I want the small car the ungrateful woman doesnt want. Is it a real car? anyone know what it is?

  • avatar

    Isn’t it like getting a toaster or vacuum cleaner for Christmas?

  • avatar
    Eric the Red

    Specific to David Puddy.

    He can’t sell Hondas! He was the picky/fussy SAAB mechanic in Seinfield. *Remember the episode when he stole Jerry’s car because he hadn’t treated it good enough.

    You can’t cast just anyone in ads. Some people are associated with a different brand or product and cannot crossover. I blame the ad agency for miscasting him.

  • avatar

    I’ve been waiting for someone to spoof those ads. Surely someone can do an ad where the happy giftee drives off in the car with the bow on top, the ribbon gets tangled in the rear wheels and the driver drives in circles with the rear tires smoking, with the gifter saying, “You should have let me take the bow off first, honey”. I guess the ad agencies shoot down ideas like that, huh?

  • avatar

    Wait, wait, wait.

    That is BROCK SAMPSON?!?!?

    • 0 avatar

      What would Brock pitch if he were pitching a modern-day machine? Would he convince you to drive a four-door Dodge Charger? Would he have to convince himself first?

      Mr. Warburton also voiced The Tick and Joe Swanson (Family Guy) among others, but I’ll always know him as the Walking Swedish Murder Machine protecting Dr. Venture.

      • 0 avatar
        Darth Lefty

        Warburton played The Tick in the live action version. The voice actor for the cartoon in the 1990’s was the same guy who played Mikey on TMNT.

        Warburton was also the palace guard Kronk in The Emperor’s New Groove.

        Just think of all the amazing things we could know if our heads weren’t filled with this sort of junk.

      • 0 avatar

        Brock Sampson for President.

        And with that, I’ll close with what I am convinced is an OnStar inspired clip from the Venture Bros. John Bonham rocks!!!

      • 0 avatar

        Other than Bock’s (electric powered) Charger, there are a lot of interesting cars in that show. There’s been a Bullitt Mustang, SAAB 96, and Jensen Interceptor as well. And of course a powder blue Stanza.

  • avatar

    I received a new car as a gift once. The sad thing is it wasn’t what I would have bought, but I had to pretend that I absolutely in love with the car for the time I owned it. It really pained me to know how much money was spent on it, knowing that the car I really wanted costed less.

    • 0 avatar

      Thank you. This is exactly what I’m talking about. I knew it had to have happened to someone…

      • 0 avatar

        Put down two. The one car I received as a gift, I wasn’t really in love in the first place with and grew to absolutely hate over the years. I pawned it off on my sister and she grew to hate it even more than me.

        My father had terrible taste in cars. He picked me up at the airport and had the car there as a surprise. I thought I was going to do some car shopping when I got home and had some ideas.

        He bought it new, so I’d have a warranty and “wouldn’t have to worry about it.” That POS was constantly in the shop, half an hour’s drive away from where I went to school.

        God, I hated that car.

      • 0 avatar

        Whenever I see those Lexus commercials, I think to myself, “I wonder if that thing came with a gift receipt?”

      • 0 avatar

        FWIW, mine was a 97 Grand Am. Just thinking about that car makes my eyelid twitch a little.

    • 0 avatar

      In my household, the reaction would almost certainly be, “Nice, you obligated us to a big car note for the next several years, all you did was pick out the car!” Or she’d ask where I managed to squirrel away enough cash to buy a car without her knowing about it.

  • avatar

    I just bought my wife a car for Christmas. And yes…we discussed the model and she test drove it first. It’s not like a sweater, I’m not investing that much money in something without her testing it first.


  • avatar

    I often see minivans with license plates suggesting they were a gift to the wife (like a heart and then her first name). That really does feel like being given a toaster or vacuum cleaner. I’m not saying minivans are lame or deserve their stigma, but I only see those license plates on minivans, and that sets off my gender role alarms.

  • avatar

    The $60k surprise December to Remember Lexus must be a 1% thing, because I can’t really relate to those ads.

    Also, today’s F-Minus seems relevant:

  • avatar

    Puddy was the car salesman.

    I think you are misunderstanding the nature of commercials. They are not trying to get you to buy someone a car as a gift; they are attempting to get you to value the Lexus more by pointing out how wonderful it would be to get as a gift. What caremaker would ever have a significant number of its units purchased as gifts for other people? They would all go broke.

    Also, they don’t care if Mikey eats Life cereal, they want you to.

  • avatar

    I don’t know what you’re talking about. The recent Honda ads with Patrick Warburton are the most effective advertising I’ve seen in a while. When Brock Sampson tells you to buy a Honda, you buy a Fugging Honda.

  • avatar

    Buying someone else a car as a surprise gift is such a bad idea. Last year, for my GF’s 22nd B’day, I bought her a Red 04 RX-8. She loved everything about it, the 6 spd, leather racing seats, pop up nav and the looks. However one week later she would not drive it as much and slowly gravitated towards her 98 Jeep GC. The straight seats were uncomfortable, driving stick was difficult with heels, and the car rattled like a tin can. 6 months later sold her GC, got her an 09 Acadia this time after a test drive and she couldn’t be any happier.

    Regarding the RX-8, I drive it sometimes to rest my 02 Focus. Too hesitant to sell it and eat the loss.

    • 0 avatar

      That actually doesn’t sound like it was a bad idea at all. Buy someone a toy car that you want to drive, and then hope they don’t like it enough so you can drive it instead. Perfect!

    • 0 avatar

      If nobody is really in love with it, or really wants to drive it frequently, then you are already eating the loss, and are burdened with an emotional hinkelstein.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    There were a few clever ones I saw years ago, I think from Lexus, where they had the car in the living room or something, and the kid is like “how did this in here?”

  • avatar

    I got a car as a gift once. It was a 15 year old, rusty, underpowered Ford Fiesta with no radio or brakes. Despite how lame it seems now, at the time I was desperately in need of a cheap car and I was eternally grateful for it. After a new set of brake lines and and some other *minor* work I drove the wheels off it for several years.
    Not all of us are lucky enough to have minted friends or family who have enough cash to spunk on a new car as a gift. So if ever someone is nice enough to buy you a brand spanking new car – even if it’s not exactly the one you want, don’t be a spoilt turd and turn your nose up. There are people in the world far worse off than you.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s the perfect gift car: anything for someone who can’t even afford a beater themselves. I was happy driving all the cheap vehicles my father provided me in high school and university.

      There are many vehicles that I’d be able to tolerate driving if I were given them as a gift – especially an occasional-use toy like a sports car – but if someone gave me a brand new car with a sloppy suspension and an automatic, they can’t expect me to pretend to be happy suffering through the entire life of the car when I’d have preferred any old beater with a stick. Driving is a source of pleasure for me as much as a source of transportation. I’d have to be so broke that I can’t even afford a $2000 car before I’m going to sacrifice my enjoyment of driving no matter what the gift vehicle is worth. Though I suppose I could view it like a job, where I look at future resale value and determine that I’m being paid X amount of dollars per day to drive it until a reasonable time has passed so that I can sell it.

  • avatar

    Perhaps the person who gives you a car without finding out what you want is not the person for you.

    (Just kidding, sort of …)

  • avatar

    With Honda’s commitment to keep the Ridgeline around in its present form for years to come we can measure how many are sold per year versus all cars given as actual gifts for the holidays – I still say more cars are given as gifts than Honda can sell its v6 power, v8 mpg cute truck.

  • avatar

    Some of you really think that these new Honda ads are good? Sheesh, I must be getting really old or something!

    I did watch ‘Seinfeld’ every week and it was my favorite show. I seem to remember JFK’s golf clubs being thrown out of Jerry’s Saab and getting run over by Cramer & Neuman in a postal van while they were transporting empty cans and bottles to Michigan to get a higher per-can return . . .

  • avatar

    I was walking around a very upscale neighborhood one Christmas Eve and in the middle of an undeveloped lot was parked a Lexus SC300 with an enormous red bow on the top of it, just like in the Honda ad. It was a used car, probably eight or so years old, but it was clean and I suspect some father was going to surprise a 16 year old son or daughter with it. People do surprise others with cars now and then, even though it is an anathema to us car enthusiasts.

    That said, every Christmas I put down on my list a very specific car that I wouldn’t mind having under the tree. I go into great detail about what options it should have, what color I want, and what trim level. But alas, no car has ever shown up. That doesn’t keep from trying, though.

  • avatar

    If you *don’t* know what car your spouse really wants…you don’t need a Honda, you need a marriage counselor, because if you communicate at all, you’ll know this one.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      Driving can change everything. My fiance loved the first gen Vibe the min she set eyes on it but if the test drive had been crap she wouldn’t have bought it. She actually ended up ordering it exactally the way she wanted it and waiting for delivery. That is not someone I’d by a car for.

    • 0 avatar

      Considering that many of _us_ don’t know what car we’ll actually end up buying until we test drive a handful of them, I’m not sure I agree. She may know what she thinks she wants, but if she takes off the giant bow, drives the car around the neighborhood and suddenly realizes that she doesn’t fit in the seat properly, the dashboard feels cheap, the sightlines are bad, it’s not as fun as it looks, etc., etc., then, well, that’s four years of punishment for not knowing any better.

  • avatar

    I’ve had multiple customers buy cars as gifts, but in most cases the recipient has come along with the benefactor to pick out the car they want.

    There have been a couple of ‘surprise’ gifts. In one case it was a son who had made good money doing something for the DOD in Iraq buying a new Focus for his parents who had never had a new car. From my followup with him and them they apparently loved it. The other was a husband buying his wife a car (I can’t remember if it was a Focus, Fusion, or Escape) but she had already picked it out as the car she wanted, she just didn’t know she was getting it for Christmas.

  • avatar

    The new Lexus commercial is the worst — the one where the wife plays the music box given to her by her husband. The box plays the Lexus “December to Remember Sales Event” theme and then the wife gets all gooey when she recognizes the theme. What kind of narcissistic, shallow misfit would actually connect tv commercial music with an actual gift? Most normal women would be thinking, “A piece of junk music box is all I get after birthing your children and scrubbing your underwear stains?” Infiniti commercials this year are also infantile.

  • avatar

    I bought my wife a new car for Christmas in 2003. She needed her car to have it’s oil change and since it was a Saturn, took it to the dealer. When I filled out the data to drop it off, I was shocked that her car had almost 100 thousand on it. So, instead of returning home in her car, I brought home a jet black Saturn VUE and parked it in the garage for her to find.

    We traded it in when we had too many kids to fit into it, but when we see any Saturn VUE, she tells me how much she loved that car and how much she wishes I would suprise her with another new car when the time comes.

    It was a gift that keeps on giving, even after we’ve moved onto other vehicles.

  • avatar

    As this year proved, Lexus is not getting rid of their big car bows, nor the hokey jingle that accompanies them around this time every year. Like flu or hurricane season, it’s just something we have to weather.

    As for Honda’s ads, I like Pat Warburton and never tire of his goofy gravitic deadpan, but from his button-down attire to the palette of his surroundings, these ads have a very spare, stodgy, 1950s feel to them.

    To me, this only reinforces Honda’s stalwart reluctance to create anything new or exciting, and is perfectly content to sell beige-mobiles only slightly less soul-crushing than Toyotas to 50- and 60-somethings.

  • avatar

    The new infiniti ads are even worse. Take-home message: BMW drivers ar jerks, but Infiniti drivers are biggger jerks, buy our cars.

  • avatar

    What I can’t understand is that the cars the Lexus ads show people buying as presents are inevitably the lower-end Lexi. I’m not going to judge them as cars (I drive a used Acura), but I feel like the people who can afford to pay cash for a new Lexus and park it in the driveway of their zillion-dollar modernist home with a bow on it could probably afford something nicer than a junior executive starter car.

    • 0 avatar

      In 1% land, I see mostly Range Rovers gathered at school bus stops these days – and some of those drivers are the nannies.

    • 0 avatar

      The people that are stupid enough with their money to:
      a) buy a car as a gift
      b) buy a Lexus at all

      are right in the demo of these ads. They can’t really afford one, but gosh darn it if their wife would be caught driving a non-luxury brand.

      • 0 avatar

        The people that are stupid enough with their money to buy a car as a gift.

        What’s the difference between buying it as a gift and buying it as a normal purchase?

        Why is it inherently stupid to buy a car as a gift?

        Do they cost more when they’re gifts?

      • 0 avatar

        If you buy someone a sweater and they don’t like it, oh well. You buy someone a car and they don’t like it… well look at other responses in this thread.

        If you give a vehicle as an agreed upon gift that is one thing (a vehicle the buyer and receiver agree on) and was implied as not included in my statement.

  • avatar

    Ed, I had to smile at your suggestion to “buy them jewelry or a watch”. I am almost as nutty about watches as I am about cars. Maybe this just means that it can be pretty hard to pick out a gift for an enthusiast, be it cars, watches, scotch or whatever…you better know what they like!

  • avatar

    OH! And can someone explain the latest Audi ads? 40 something son comes home in Audi. Parents, apparently more excited to see his car than him, somehow steal it in about 10 seconds. Dad, professional Alan Alda lookalike, to wife: “He’ll be fine”

    Seriously, WTF? Are Audi’s that easy to steal? Is it supposed to be a parody of kids coming home for Christmas and only wanting to go out with friends? The house looks nice enough that the parents could afford to buy one of their own and spend some time with their child as well. I just can’t figure out what they’re trying to say.

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