.A not very big idea for Smart car USA

OK, i do not come here to mock. Let me get that out of the way.

I come here to help.

Merkley Newman Partners in NYC (also Mercedes Benz’ agency) recently produced THIS idea. please click to view

Perhaps tellingly, the video is not freely available online, hence my need to link.

why would anyone do that in 2011? To “control” the message i guess. Very 2005 PR thinking. at least act like you’re proud of the work. it’s a good execution and a cool product, you’ll be fine!

The video is basically a series of random not very likeable people saying “BIG” over and over again.

And then the SMART car appears, presumably as the antidote to all this bigness and badness.

i can guarantee you that this ad will not sell Americans on the Smart car.

How do i know this? I’ll tell you how.

I drove a Mercedes Smart car in the midwest of America for two years. Way before it was cool and mainstream. I was a SMART pioneer.

And let me tell you, it wasn’t easy being a pioneer.

People looked at me like i was driving a motorized easy chair.

These were the three most popular questions i would get asked on a daily basis:

1. “Is that thing electric?” No ma’am, it’s not. It’s gas driven. This question got really old.

2. “Do you take that thing on the highway?”, said in a highly incredulous voice. My response that I did in fact take it on the highway was frequently met with awe and wonder. This was usually followed by asking would happen if i got hit by a truck or something horrible like that. You could tell safety was a big concern of the average American.

3. “What kind of mileage do you get on that thing?” Here I would flat out lie and usually claim some astronomical mpg just for fun. I honestly didn’t know. But i do know that it wasn’t nearly what you might think. I think the Mini Cooper got better mileage per gallon.

Americans love cars. And there was a lot of curiousity about my SMART car. And i was, usually, happy to be a brand ambassador.

But any advertising that doesn’t address the obvious, basic questions Americans have about the SMART car is simply missing the mark.

UPDATE: I think THIS GUY made some great points

UPDATE 2: An “un agency” undid this un big idea.

13 responses to “.A not very big idea for Smart car USA

  1. Totally agree- what exactly is “unbig.uncar” supposed to mean anyway? If people want to buy a car, an “uncar” does not sound too appealing! I’m sure they could think of a better selling point for the Smart car instead of “small”. Not very imaginative or smart!

    • hi adpraisal,

      it sounds like corporate boardroom bullshit to me to be honest. not very connected to reality. Americans are really curious about this car. TELL THEM ABOUT IT IN THE AD!!!

      ***deep breath***

  2. I once saw a clip of reporter going live in main evening news just before the launching of “famous” YUGO America (anyone remember that car? Bruce Willis drove it some movie)…
    a reporter approaches a worker on assembly line and with typical socialistic pompousness asks him:
    “How is it – now that you’re working for America?”
    a worker (blue overall, a match between teeth) answers:
    “Well, now that I know I work for America I tight every screw to the end.”

    badda-bing badda-bong
    you could actually hear every Yugo owner in Yugoslavia going to his garage with screw-driver in his hand.

  3. I think this ad is the product of the sort of thinking that infects so much “brand” advertising. Products talk about their “cool” rather than about what they do. Cool is not a strategy. It’s not ownable. And it doesn’t contain a USP.

    It’s a lazy man’s strategy.

  4. This is an interesting post, thank you. I’m interested when people I respect have an opposite opinion on something. What accounts for the gap?

    When I first thought this ad, I thought, “heh. cool”. I know the car well and and favorably predisposed towards it (which helps a lot), but mainly I thought the juxtaposition was interesting enough, if not entirely original. I felt the ad was pivoting on the one most clear and obvious first impression, and trying to turn it on its head. So in summary, it wasn’t a favorite of mine, but it was cool. Good enough.

    Now, when I read your post, and in particular your 3 questions and conclusion, I tend to agree. So why did I “get it wrong” the first time?

    I think it has to do with relevance.

    To me the ad had some relevance, so it passed the initial attention hurdle.

    What you are stating is that for the common American, this ad fails to make itself relevant to the things they care/think about when thinking (small) cars. So it’s a no-go right from the start.

    This got me thinking, beyond the normal things one hopes for in ad ideas like impact, recall, persuasion, campaignability and emotional impact, there is a layer called relevance…which can either act as a booster (make you MORE persuaded, MORE impacted), or as a depressant. And here perhaps is where the role of a proper strategy and a properly defined target best comes into play.

    Thoughts for a future post on my blog, perhaps. Thank you for the inspiration.


    • martin,

      i think the SMART car is obviously exceptional and interesting. most products/cars aren’t. The SMART is freakishly small by American standards. it IS content. it’s an oddity people that are interested in it and curious about it. so i would satisfy that curiousity.

      sometimes there’s only one strategy and that strategy is defined by the product. this isn’t the new Nissan Mediocra. The SMART car turns heads. it’s a star.

      These guys never even got past the fact that it’s a very small car. not necessarily a good thing to many Americans. This isn’t Holland.

      And i’m pretty sure that in 2011 most of the people in the market for a very small car have heard of or seen a SMART and are aware that it’s small.

      if i were selling the SMART car in 30 second increments on TV, as these guys are, i would make all 30 of those seconds reasons why you should go check it out at your local SMART dealer. I would do on TV what i had to do personally in countless shopping mall parking lots: sell the SMART car to curious Americans.

      And the SMART car is not that easy a sell. And i’m not sure there’s a neatly defined demographic to sell it to in this country.

      plus i personally detest that old “repeat the same thing thing over and over and then pay it off with the product” :30 TV ad formula. it’s lazy and not very edifying.

      and how boring was that shoot? “OK, say BIG again, but this time with more energy…and…. ACTION!”

      The SMART car deserves and needs much better advertising in my opinion. This was an easy one and they messed it up.

  5. Martin,
    what else is there but relevance?
    if there’s no relevance you’ve got nothing.

  6. Terrible advert what is “unbig.uncar” is the best they can say about it corporate bull.

  7. Thank you for this post. It was the inspiration for a post of my own on relevance, which will appear on my blog tomorrow morning. I invite you to have a look and let me know what you think!


  8. Pingback: The secret sauce? It’s called relevance. | adboardingpass

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