2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport Commercial: Crashing Symbols Loudly [The Ad Section]
Award-winning ad man-cum-auto journalist Don Klein knows a good (or bad) car commercial when he sees one; the Ad Section is his space to tell you what he thinks of the latest spots. The ad’s rating is depicted via the shift pattern at the bottom, but everyone has an opinion when it comes to advertising, so hit Backfires below and tell us what you think, too.
When I was a middle-class kid going to my middle-class high school in my middle-class hometown, being labeled “pretentious” was a heavy-duty condemnation. The rich kids from neighboring Essex Fells were pretentious; we were “honest” and “down to earth.” Of course, what we really were was jealous, but we wore our collective cloak of humility, woven from sturdy grass roots, like a badge of honor. It kept us safe from, among other things, the green-eyed monster. So I totally get that there’s something powerful about the have-nots getting their due, especially if the haves can be taught a lesson as part of the bargain. That’s the energy (negative though it may be) that Mitsubishi is tapping into with its “End Pretentiousness” campaign.
When the copy says, “great design should be inclusive, not exclusive,” it means that you shouldn’t have to be rich to drive an SUV that looks like the SUVs that rich people drive. (Although I’m not sure which “great design” it is referring to; is the Outlander Sport any better looking than a Kia Sportage or Hyundai Tucson, both of which are in the Outlander’s price range?) But even if we give Mitsubishi that one—even if we agree that the Outlander Sport is every bit as well designed as a BMW or Mercedes or other SUV that costs a lot more—why isn’t it enough to just say that? Why smash the crap out of those symbols of wealth?
Since they’re being used as icons of pretension, I can only guess it’s because Mitsubishi thinks middle-class Americans are angry at rich people, angry enough to literally “lay to waste” (a direct quote from a Mitsubishi press post) their ice swans, champagne towers, and chandeliers. Well, maybe they are angry. And maybe they have good reason to be, what with rich people being so annoyingly pretentious and all. But then why in the world do they want to emulate them? Isn’t pretending to be pretentious even more pretentious than actually being pretentious?
Yet Mitsubishi is so sure it has hit upon a productive nerve that it’s extended the “End Pretentiousness” theme to its social-media campaign as well. Thanks to a dedicated Facebook app, you can upload photos of your pretentious friends’ stuff (or your pretentious friends themselves) and watch with self-righteous indignation as an Outlander rends them asunder along with the magically suspended crystal chandelier and all that perfectly good champagne. But if these people are so pretentious, why are they your friends in the first place? And why does the Outlander in the app get dusted off by two butlers before it dusts its next victim? Tell me again who’s being pretentious?
- Instrumented Test: 2012 Mitsubishi i Electric Vehicle
- Instrumented Test: 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport ES
- Feature: Best-Handling Car for Less Than $40,000
But maybe I’m looking at this all wrong. Maybe Mitsubishi is really aiming this spot at premium SUV buyers in the hope that it will get them to trade down and to swap out their chandeliers and champagne for Ikea lamps and Miller Lite. To junk the GL and get a Mitsu. Why not? After all, it looks just as good.
Yeah, right. A more plausible explanation is that guys, especially those with jealousy or anger issues, like to see things get blown up. There’s just something about that Y chromosome that makes witnessing graphic destruction an inherently satisfying experience. Hey, Michael Bay built a whole career on it. And it’s not by random chance that “Explosions A to Z” was one of the most-popular MythBusters episodes. So if that’s what’s really going on here, then maybe Mitsubishi is onto something with this commercial. Especially if its target audience thinks like middle-class high-school kids who fancy themselves “down to earth” and haven’t yet acknowledged their green-eyed monster within.
By Don Klein