By on October 18, 2018

2018 Chrysler Pacifica S Appearance Package, Image: FCA

Of all the automakers embroiled in the Mad Men-era rush to plumb the psyches of American car buyers, Chrysler’s Dodge division stood head and shoulders above the rest in one key marketing element: sex. It sells, apparently, and Chrysler Corp. made sure to instill a little bit of it, overtly or subconsciously, into its print and TV advertising. As the circa ’66-67 “Dodge Rebellion” campaign gave way to 1968-70’s “Dodge Fever” gambit, the impact of the counterculture movement and America’s rapidly liberalizing attitudes soon became apparent in Dodge’s ad copy.

It was this era in Chrysler’s marketing history that spawned what’s arguably the most sexist (and psychosexual) car ad ever printed: Dodge’s 1969 Charger R/T ad, titled “The Eternal Triangle.”

These were sexy times for America, but even sexier times for Dodge, which had clearly grown too hot under the collar. The onset of the 1970s saw the brand put the tie-dyed shirt and address book in storage, trading its hedonistic copy for the far tamer “Dodge Material” campaign, and the rest is history (some of it quite embarrassing). Given this rich marketing heritage, it’s nice to see Chrysler attempt to spice up a family-oriented minivan with sex.

Two ads came out this week for the Chrysler Pacifica, one featuring comedic actress Kathryn Hahn (who’s now an FCA ad veteran), the other a continuation of the brand’s “Street Smarts” campaign.

It’s odd that both of these ads, released Wednesday, get a little suggestive in their content. As it’s 2018, we’ve grown used to car ads that feature, essentially, ourselves, our life goals, and our ideologies. Oh, and family, family, family. New car marketing, when it’s not pretentious, confusing, or maudlin, is usually eye-rolling or annoying in some other way. When an audience stands a chance of having fun, we notice.

In the Hahn ad, titled “Tasty Cucumbers,” our flushed and flustered protagonist is on the hunt for her neighbor Bob’s cucumbers — but it’s not what you think, she insists. Hahn’s quest to poach a couple of mouth-watering cukes from her neighbor’s vegetable garden provides ample opportunity to show off the usefulness of the Pacifica’s surround-view camera. It’s light, comedic, and brief. With that suggestive dialogue tossed in (the no-doubt-agonized-over plural usage of “cucumber” is noted), it’s a far better way to spend 42 seconds than something featuring screaming kids or the cast of Sesame Street. Not a child in sight, actually.

(The implied location of Bob in this ad makes absolutely no sense. – Ed)

In the new Street Smarts ad, we take a step closer towards the old Chrysler, the racy Chrysler of days long past. A child asks his father why their family has two cars (played with great realism by a Toyota Sienna and Prius Prime).

“Because one is a hybrid and the other is a van,” dad responds, to which the child asks, “Why?”

“Well, because I want to save the world,” says the dad, before adding, in a slightly exhausted, grimmer tone, “and your mother wants to save us from ourselves.”

The child then inquires as to why he doesn’t just buy a vehicle that’s both a minivan and a hybrid, as a Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid pulls into the driveway across the street. “Because they don’t exist,” dad states, chortling at the audacity of this know-nothing kid.

“Then what’s Mr. Sexy driving?” says junior, pointing across the street.

“What?” the alarmed dad retorts.

“That’s what mommy calls him,” says junior, who quickly receives a sustained watery blast to the side of the head from his dad’s garden hose. The father’s other hand clenches tightly, squeezing the suds from his soapy car washing rag. Across the street, a five o’clock shadow, coiffed hair, and brown leather shoes gives ‘ol dad the douchey, two-finger “I see you” gesture.

There’s marriage menace afoot, but it’s up to the audience to wonder just how worried the father should be. It would be interesting to see Chrysler flesh out this newfound friskiness, but alas, it’s a Pacifica. True, a number of single men — and no doubt women — secretly yearn for a van, but FCA can’t count on volume from this underground group of undetermined numbers. They’re not worth the ad spend. Thus, we continue waiting for a mainstream automaker to make like it’s 1969 and really let its hair down.

[Image: Fiat Chrysler Automobiles]

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25 Comments on “Chrysler’s Pacifica Ads Grow Mildly Risqué, As All Minivan Ads Should...”

  • avatar

    I found them both amusing, the second one especially so. Yeah, they’re definitely a big improvement on the usual harried parent/disgusting kids (making me smug in having never reproduced).

    In a couple of years, when its time to replace the Sedona, a hybrid Pacifica is my first consideration. Unfortunately, at my age, I won’t look as good as Mr. Sexy.

    • 0 avatar

      “the usual harried parent/disgusting kids (making me smug in having never reproduced).”

      That’s is frankly what is wrong with modern American culture.

      • 0 avatar

        Oh, do tell. Is this more crap about your “legacy” BS?

        • 0 avatar

          Convincing humans to literally go against basic instinct and reason-for-existing (procreation and continuation of the species), pretty sick stuff man. Then you’ll have childless politicians convincing you that the country needs more child-bearing third world immigrants to compensate for the cratered birth rate. The degradation of the nuclear family unit has been the single most catastrophic thing to happen to civilized nations.

  • avatar

    The 69 Charger ad is by far the best

    • 0 avatar

      Yes, the girl in the Charger ad should feel sooo lucky. “Imagine, Ralph taught me how drive the stick-shift. Because all of those pedals and levers are usually just too complicated for us females. And not only does he let me pick out tapes he LETS me clean his seats!” Yes, Ralph is quite a catch.

  • avatar

    And people wonder why we don’t see more dudes driving minivans.

  • avatar

    There is one thing that’s pretty easy to do in a van, to put it politely, sex sells.

  • avatar

    Mmmm… Kathryn Hahn. She was the slutty/crazy mom in the 2016 movie “Bad Moms”. She brings a little slutty/crazy to the Pacifica commercials. There was another one a few months back with her writhing all over the hood of a Pacy, I was duly interested in the… writhing. I liked the Pacifica beforehand, so that was just a bit of fun eye candy.

    Glad to see some humor injected into minivan ads, some are just so anodyne that you have no idea what vehicle they’re attempting to sell. I hope it’s evident to #MeToo-ers this is meant as a spoof, not #RealLife…

  • avatar

    Sex sells – yes but people like tough love from Subaru more.

    • 0 avatar

      There has never been a car campaign that has made me dislike a brand more than one half of the current Subaru campaign. The maudlin tone and emotional manipulation of these ads is bloody awful. The other half of the campaign with the dogs, however is original, memorable and funny. The worst is the one with the blind guy who gives the neo-hippies turn-by-turn directions. In a more perfect world he would have them all drive off a cliff.

  • avatar
    R Henry

    As the child of a mom who ruined her marriage to my father by sleeping with the neighbor….nope, not funny.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think they are suggesting that adultery is cool. Lighten up. It’s just humor and lots of people appreciate it, that is, before the snowflakes ruin it.

    • 0 avatar

      Married != Dead. It is not incompatible with a healthy marriage for one spouse to find a 3rd person attractive.

      Sorry your Mom decided to act on it, but parents are human beings just like the rest of us; it’d be downright unnatural to NOT even notice attractive other people.

      I guess humor is highly personal, but it’s not an inherently un-funny ad, even if you didn’t like it.

  • avatar

    First one is just odd, second one okay. And I don’t see any brown shoes.

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    I think both are great, when viewed through fhe lens of car commercial comparison. The GM commercials are gawd awful and the ford f150 spots witdd h dennis leery are kinda getting a bit tired.

    So good for them in putting together some tv spots that wont cause wide spread use of the mute button.

    • 0 avatar

      The Real People, Not Actors, ads are stupid, but GM insists they work.

      I do think they have some self-awareness of how cheesy they are, as they did a version featuring Lego Batman running a focus group on the Batmobile (“Real Minifigures, not Actors”), and it was a pretty funny parody of the real thing.

  • avatar
    Edsel Maserati

    There is indeed a bit of history in the risqué Dodge ad. This is one of the so-called “banned” commercials — designed to be so funny we’d all send links to our friends. So I’m guilty here.

    In case the youtube link doesn’t show up it would be under Dodge Banned Commercial — for a Durango truck, 12 years ago.

  • avatar

    Without a doubt, the ’69 Charger is the sexiest-looking car Dodge ever made. Despite the fact that mine was an electrical-system nightmare with rust issues and an anemic 318, I loved it. Every time I see one, it tugs at my heart.

    Showing how far I’ve come since 1975 (possibly in reverse), the Pacifica Hybrid is high on my list as my next vehicle.

  • avatar

    Does anybody under 60 ever watch TV commercials?

    I’m the target demographic for the Pacifica Hybrid (3 kids, own a minivan, former Prius owner, EV enthusiast), but this is the first I’ve ever heard of these commercials.

    The commercials are pretty meh. My minivan-driving friends are much more entertaining.

  • avatar

    That’s it. They’ve crossed the line. The shark has been jumped. Pigs are flying.

    We’re now shooting vertical commercials???

    I’m done!

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