Do All Car Commercials Occur in ‘Mad Max’ Times?

12 Nov

I’ve noticed a hilarious trend in car commercials.  The cities in these commercials are almost completely devoid of humanity.  I’m not just talking about pedestrians and cyclists but even other cars.  Start paying attention to car commercials.  They are really weird.  Why are there never any other cars around?  It really does look like some sort of post-rapture nightmare complete with heated seats, anti-lock brakes, and a moon roof.

Click on some of the thumbnails below for examples.

In this one, two people are getting ready for a date.  I suppose dinner reservations and curb parking are easy to come by in the End Times.  Seriously, where is everyone?  I can’t be the only person who finds these commercials creepy.

What city is this that literally has zero traffic?  I guess if the entire highway system existed as-is, and I was the only person allowed to drive on it, you bet your ass I’d drive everywhere.  Especially if someone was paying for all that sweet infrastructure.  

I am really wondering how they even film these commercials.  Do they have to block off entire streets of cars in order to film a commercial for cars?  Why can’t they just show the car in its natural habitat?  Oh wait. That’s right.  No one wants to buy a car that just sits in traffic.  People want to buy magic cars that make traffic disappear.  It’s pure fantasy.  It’s a load of bull****.  Buying these cars won’t get you from point A to point B any faster than any other jalopy.  These commercials must be made by the same tools that tell you drinking Bud Light will get you laid.Ok this next one really gets me.  It’s a Nissan Altima speeding through midtown Manhattan and doing donuts in Columbus Circle.  What strikes me about this one is all the pedestrians milling around completely devoid of the car which has apparently rented out Manhattan for the weekend.  (Manhattan is also available for birthdays, Bar Mitzvahs, and bachelor parties.)  If this was real life, all of these pedestrians would be running for their lives.  A lunatic is doing his best to kill himself and his girlfriend, where one wrong move would kill dozens in a flaming ball of stupidity, and no one seems to notice.  I know it’s just a commercial, but it seems very bizarre to me.

This last commercial goes over the top with the ’empty city’ concept.  They really are trying to sell the car as if driving it would make it seem as if all humanity had vaporized.  At least in this one they are aware of the absurdity of this notion.   But the question remains, why do car commercials want everyone in the city to disappear?  One of the coolest things about living in a city is experiencing all the different types of people everyday.  When I walk, or bike, or even take transit, I actually enjoy people watching.  I don’t want them to rapture away.Why aren’t all the people in these commercials freaking out?  If I found myself driving through Atlanta with the streets completely devoid of traffic, sidewalks completely empty, and not one single car to be seen on our 15-lane interstate, I would definitely freak out like Tom Cruise in the opening scene of Vanilla Sky.   I would not go for a joy ride, I would be trying to contact all of my family and friends to make sure that I had not missed out on the Second Coming.

Anyway, I know that these are just commercials intended to sell fantasy and cars.  But after living a car-light lifestyle for a while, you really notice how damaging cars can be to cities.  And when you start paying attention to how cars are advertised, it makes more and more sense.  Cars aren’t meant to operate within cities, they are meant to eviscerate cities.  They are bulls in the china shop.  They don’t mix well with others, they are completely impractical for dense urban transportation, they erode the culture of the city, and unfortunately they are the most popular mode of transportation in nearly every single city.  This last fact can be attributed to many factors.  Not the least of which is commercials like these convincing consumers that driving in cities is hassle free, fast, efficient, and fun. When in reality, sitting in traffic is none of these things.


2 Responses to “Do All Car Commercials Occur in ‘Mad Max’ Times?”

  1. philgeland November 13, 2012 at 3:40 am #

    I´ve been wondering the same thing …

    It´s been a while that this kind of commercial is also quite trendy in Brazil.
    Most creepy are those clips who show a clean virtual version of São Paulo.
    Which means: the “ambient” reminds you of certain places here but – at
    the same time – it does not.

    The message remains the same: you and your car and empty streets.

  2. aaronwk November 23, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    Great post. I’ve been thinking about this for years.

    Is it any wonder that sitting down behind the wheel turns normal people into the most aggravated and short-tempered in society? They are fed an illusion of effortlessness gets subconsciously embedded into their expectations. Yet actual driving only happens in a world that assaults this illusion and those expectations at every turn: red lights, bicycles, pedestrians, other drivers, traffic, ambulances, etc. When auto advertising is built almost entirely around feeding an impossible dream of autonomy and my-way-ness, it’s no surprise that driving an automobile is a frustrating experience.

    Have you ever seen someone get insta-angry demanding that a fellow shopper get out of their way in the supermarket? The experiences are analogous: lots of single persons moving large metal things around a confined space where they are often found stopped and waiting, but there is much more mutual respect and courtesy on display. I guess it’s the face-to-face nature of supermarkets that makes them so much more friendly compared to the road. The isolation of the automobile, which is only beginning to be advertised more and more (the idea of the haven or halo), is potentially dangerous for all others when those fantasies are expected.

    The experience of driving today is already too similar to a Black Friday shopping frenzy. I’ll keep on riding. : )

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