Truth in advertising


I was watching television the other day, and a commercial came on for a car.

The basic design of the ad was one of those average, ordinary, everyday people concepts, with a woman driving along and talking about how the car had helped her improve her travel. (I’m deliberately not mentioning the brand and model of the car. Also not mentioning where the commercial was broadcast or the dealership she was representing. None of that is important for where we are headed. The quote I am about to share though… it is the direct quote. I was able to watch the ad multiple times to get it right. These are the exact words.)

…I get up hills that I never could get up before, park in parking spots that I would have gotten stuck in…


…just… wow.

Let’s share that again.

…I get up hills that I never could get up before, park in parking spots that I would have gotten stuck in…

Now, in partial fairness (but more as full disclosure), this was for a local dealership that was promoting an SUV by featuring what they presented as one of our real neighbors. So… SUV… northeast United States… broadcast in January… peak winter driving season where peak winter can be factors of note for an SUV.

Still… come on…

Number one – Even if you’ve driven on some pretty unbelievable and amazing roads, with twists and turns and elevations and descents, how often during normal weather conditions are those roads unpassable? She didn’t say that she can now get up hills she was frightened to drive on during ice and snow and freezing temperatures. Didn’t say her neighborhood was up a mountain, across the valley, covering miles of dirt roads and landslide warnings.

Number two – Parking spots you would have gotten stuck in? Really? Where are you shopping? You had nothing to say about other cars of yours being too big to fit in spaces, with this SUV parking like a smaller vehicle with specially designed doors and more. Just the freedom to park in spots that would have resulted in being trapped. In fact, what is… no, never mind… let’s get away from the commercial and over to a more generalized thought from it…

What the hell is happening? Why is this advertisement, like so many other commercials, so out of touch? How is it possible to be this far off and not see it? Sure, it is pleasant. The woman seems quite happy. That’s all lovely. But…

Let’s get away from cars and shift things for a moment to buying a house. Consider the very first checklist you might design for your needs. There are bound to be at least a handful of items that you consider necessities. Is it the number of bedrooms or bathrooms? Is it how it’s heated or cooled? Do you focus on the quality of the schools?

Chances are good that you would design a list that covers some pretty standard stuff we might all be writing down, and then throws in a few twists based on personal desires, preferences and experiences.

You might have pets and want a fenced in yard. Maybe you are looking for garage space, a large shed, or an area that’s perfect for a garden. Perhaps you are strongly against living on a busy street or can’t stand carpeting.

I think you can understand very quickly that the list will have two segments. We all want to get the most for our money. We can all understand wanting the best education for kids, the potential needs of a certain minimum number of bedrooms or the ability to set up a home office, and the joys of a second bathroom. And in that personal wish list section, you might want to be closer to the beach while someone else prefers a city life.

Now let’s bring that same shopping overview concept back to cars.

Gas mileage? Sure. We all like good miles per gallon. Seating for a large family? Yup. That matters for many of us. Cost? Ratings from reliable reporting and evaluation groups? Looks? Interior design and options? Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Getting up a hill and not getting stuck in a parking spot? Really? A parking spot? I… uh…

Those seem either: (1) A bit of a given. Or, (2) issues that raise more questions about what was being driven (and where it was being driven) rather than generic qualifiers.

For the most part, advertising is a creative process, and the taking of a few liberties are to be forgiven. My problem isn’t with being creative or even with the expressing of opinions or a narrowed focus. It just seems like the frequency with which I’m stunned by what’s appearing in front of me on the screen is increasing.

I expect to find lies and exaggerations in commercials. I should on occasion be presented with new ways of looking at something. I recognize that truth isn’t always an accurate and definitive concept. It’s perspective and opinion and twisting and bending and viewing things from all sorts of unusual angles.

But being impressed because my new car can get in and out of parking spots? I’m at a loss.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at