Musings from Home

Ad to Real Life?

There is a car ad running on our local radio station right now that says, “Are you still making payments on a car you’re not in love with anymore?” And follows with a message to come by their dealership; they can help to put you in a car you will love. Say what? Are we really talking about dumping our cars because we are not in love with them? Especially in this economy?

This struck me on two levels: one truly related to cars and the irresponsibility of exchanging one for another for this reason and the other dealing with the greater impact of the statement and the emotions that led to the advertisers thinking this might be an effective approach.

Dealing literally first, buying a car for pure lust (let’s call a spade a spade, OK?)  is not an option for most of us. If it were, I would probably be driving this:

But alas, I am not driving a Ferrari and let me count the reasons in no particular order: 1) I am not made of money, nor does money grow on those big trees in “the woods” surrounding my house; 2) My two kids, all their gear, and their friends would not fit; 3) Heck, even our weekly groceries would not fit; 4) A small scratch the size of an eyebrow hair would send me into a frenzy and the chances of NOT getting such a scratch (or bigger) in parking lots and garages is unheard of; 5) In my neighborhood, in my town? That’s like begging someone to stalk and rob you because no one else appears to have so much money; 6) Waaaay too pretentious; 7) Can you say “waste of money” even if I had it to waste? I can think of better ways to blow a quarter to a half million dollars (if I had it to blow); 8) Gas guzzling and guilt — enough said. And the list goes on.

Like most of you, I choose the vehicle I drive for reasons that have little to do with love/lust. Does it meet the needs of my family? Can we afford it and does the cost of it make sense for what you get? Does it get decent gas mileage? Does it have the features that we need without going overboard? Will it last us for a good while? Honestly, we trade in our old cars when the car no longer meets our needs or it needs so many repairs that it is not cost-effective to repair it. I have yet to replace a car because I was “no longer in love”. In fact, I tend to get attached to our vehicles to an extent. The car has earned my respect and I have confidence in it that it will get me and my precious cargo where we need to go safely. [If this changes, it’s time for it to go.] I also know where all the buttons and switches I need are. There’s a certain amount of security and comfort in that.

Now for the bigger implications. The advertisers know exactly what they’re doing. Our society is such that the idea of being in love with anything, even your car, is appealing to people. We want that rush of excitement, that “Oh, this is so cool” feeling. It’s bad enough to do it with things, like a car, but some also seem to do it with people. Their lives get too rote, too familiar, too day-to-day, so they go looking for new excitement. Some do it while trying to hold onto what they have at the same time. But what people (again, just some, but this number does seem high) don’t seem to realize is that the newness will wear off quickly with the current “love” also, just as that new car will lose its new car smell; its “state-of-the-art” gadgets will be outdated; and its crisp clean-ness will disappear before you can say, “I love this car” 20 times fast. And then you go looking for “love” again.

I imagine that ad may help sell cars, but its message just left me sad. Not sad about my life (or that I don’t drive a Ferrari), but sad that their message is rooted in the very structure of human gratification today.

[Disclaimer: If you know me, please do not start worrying about me. I am not talking from personal experience or even about my life at all (except for how I choose to get a new car), but rather about my emotional reaction to the car ad and what the advertisers’ choice of words said to me about our society.]

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Comments on: "Ad to Real Life?" (7)

  1. Preach it, sister. My ex husband was more in love with his car (It was a Saab, how fitting) than me. One time I had worked hard making a really nice dinner and I kept saying dinner in 30 minutes, 15 minutes, 5 minutes, etc. He was washing his car in the driveway. Long story short, he never came in. I gave his steak to the dogs, ate mine and left. I should have left for good. Don’t worry about me either. This year will be 13 years of marriage to a truly benevolent, emotionally intelligent person. When me met he drove a modest, really old truck. We were both older, but he had never been in a serious relationship. I guess his modest vehicle and mode of dress were not attractive to the average person. I immediately had a big crush on him b/c he was so kind to me and my dogs. As it turns out, he did have money so I guess the joke is on all the women who were not smart enough to appreciate him, but I tell him truthfully I would rather live with him (and our dogs of course) in a cardboard box than with anyone else in a mansion. Nuff said.

  2. I have the opposite reaction – always suspicious of a new car and whether it will get me where I need to go when I need it. It comes down to whether the purchases you make define your life or whether your actions define your life. I’ll go for action every time!

    • I agree, Jackie and I go for action, as well. I also am reluctant to trust a new car and I always feel a little lost until I figure out where everything is and how that particular vehicle drives. There’s a reason I drove a 1968 VW Bug for so long, besides the fact that I truly *did* love it. 🙂

  3. I don’t get the car lust thing at all. I have always chosen cars that are practical, and a car is not a place where I want to spend money or make a statement. Except . . . I would love to drive a hybrid and make that kind of statement, but that is still out of my price range.

    I am disturbed how our society generally doesn’t seem to attach value to things that are older –whether we’re talking about people, houses, or cars.

    • Exactly! That’s what I was trying to say, as well. I hope my Ferrari comments came across as “tongue in cheek” as I intended. I would also love to get a hybrid, hopefully someday. I think things (and people) should be valued for what (who) they are, regardless of age.

  4. I hear this exact same commercial several times a day (if I’m in my car a lot). It drives me CRAZY! But maybe it’s because I’m madly in love with my car…my van. It gets me from point A to point B, and asks very little of me except gas and routine maintenance. I’ve even banged it up a few times and it never complains. I also rarely wash it (inside or out). And did I mention it’s paid off?? Oh Honda Odyssey, how I love thee… 🙂

  5. I drove the same 1995 Honda Civic for close to 16 years. I cried when we got rid of it, although we sold it to our mechanic, who’s son is now driving it. I get updates on how it’s doing.
    The hardest part of replacing that car was facing the idea of a car payment. We didn’t have one for 10 years. Thankfully, we were able to avoid it.
    Really, that’s what keeps us from getting new cars – we want one, we just don’t want to have to pay for it.
    The whole ‘consume’ society in which we live really sort of sickens me. Not only do I drive an old car, we don’t have cable nor do I have a cell phone. All of them fall into the category of “Things that are really just monthly bills that I don’t want to have to work for just to pay for.”

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