2013 Ram 1500 Commercial: Help Me Understand It, Please [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.
(Note: this is embedded from a non-official account; Ram has yet to post the ad to its own YouTube account.)
Followers of this feature know my goal is to offer up thought-provoking critiques of the car commercials we all see. Of course, I’m not always right, and when that happens you’re quick to take issue with me, which is exactly what healthy debate is all about. Still, I’ve always at least tried to offer an explanation for what the advertisers are trying to accomplish, along with an opinion as to whether they’ve been successful. But this Ram commercial has me completely stumped. I’ve watched it a hundred times and I still can’t make sense of it. So will somebody please help me out?
As near as I can tell, a guy is driving along a mountain road in his new Ram 1500. The Jaws-like music let’s me know something bad is about to happen, so it’s no surprise when an eagle (or maybe it’s a hawk or a falcon—who am I, Jack Hanna?) suddenly swoops down in front of him. The guy slows down, but it’s too late. Although we don’t actually see it happen, some contact appears to have been made, as evidenced by the bird’s sudden slo-mo flapping and a sound effect that could be a dull thud. (Or a gunshot. Go back and listen, this time with your eyes shut. Did somebody shoot at the damned bird? Who would shoot an eagle? Crazy, right?)
But if the truck hit it, why didn’t we see that happen? Too graphic? I say if we can bear Sam Elliott’s cement-mixer voiceover, surely we can endure a stunt bird bouncing off a truck hood. But either way there’s no blood, and although Birdy appears to be slightly stunned, a post-event glimpse through the passenger window indicates that his avionics are still in working order, so not to worry. But just to be sure, Ram Dude utilizes the 1500’s “innovative new rotary shifter” to reverse not only the truck, but also time. It can do this because, as we all know, Ram’s are engineered to move heaven and earth. Reversing time is apparently one of its superpowers, and I’m fine with that, because it’s just a stupid advertising claim.
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Here’s what I don’t get: If the bird is okay—and it sure looked okay to me—why does the driver do this? Why doesn’t he just go along on his manly way? And if the bird’s not okay, shouldn’t he find it and bring it to a vet, even if it means scrambling down the rocky hillside, risking possible injury, and maybe even tumbling into the river and drowning or being shot at by the same guy who shot at the bird? Plus, he’s got that rotary gear selector that lets him “shift the balance of power decisively in his favor” whenever he wants to, so why not do the right thing? This guy’s got the most amazing innovation in the history of the motor vehicle—it can rewind time—and he squanders it by backing up a few feet? And all this just to announce Ram has a sissified Jaguar-like gear selector?
Since I know that can’t be what Ram really wants me to get from this commercial, I’m using one of my lifelines and asking for your help. Thanks.
By Don Klein