Sunday, September 13, 2009

Saturn: Whose POV?

If I were not chronically ill and stuck in bed for extended periods of time I would not watch/listen to so much television, and you would be reading someone else's blog. But I am, and am, and do, so here we are.

Saturn has a newish commercial out, in which a man speaks past the camera, presumably (therefore) to someone we can't see -- perhaps an interviewer -- and immediately avers that when he comes home, he turns on the television and listens to pundits talking about the fact that American car manufacturers are not producing cars that Americans want to buy. He calls it a fact; I may be misquoting slightly but I have the essentials correct. He uses the word "pundits," these days a rather popular word in ads, meaning "self-professed or actual expert," used in these instances derogatorily to mean "self-professed." So why, then, does he use the word "fact"? It's odd. But he goes on to explain, again oddly, not that Americans DO want to buy some American cars, but that Saturn has recently PRODUCED some new cars. He emphasizes that the cars are not revisions of older models but totally new cars, which may be of interest but certainly has no relevance to his argument against the assertion of the so-called pundits. In fact, he never actually rebuts their assertion. He never even says anything along the lines of, "they're right; Americans don't want American cars... but they SHOULD and here is why!" He just tells us what he hears them say when he comes home from work and turns on the TV, and then drops the ball.

He ends the ad, still looking past us at the unseen recipient of his "information," by urging us to stop by and check out the new Saturns, adding that "we" have always stood by "our" cars (or some such thing). Okay... if he works for Saturn, 1. why does he have to come home and turn on the TV to find out what the "pundits" are saying and 2. why isn't he speaking directly to us when he urges us to come by and see what he's got? Lately I've been seeing this "technique" of having the speaker look past the camera used and abused half to death. SOMETIMES it works. If the intended effect is that the speaker is being interviewed by someone off-camera, or speaking to a friend, not directly to us, this works. But I think some commercial directors use it without understanding (or perhaps caring) what it means, what effect it has or anything other than that "this would be cool" (which, if it gives the wrong impression, has the wrong effect, makes not sense, it is NOT).

Semiotics aside, the whole thing is just a shifting, albeit brief, hodgepodge of non sequiturs. Makes me want to run out and buy a Saturn... NOT. Aww, that's not fair. The new cars might be quite nice. I'll never know.

Of course I don't drive. Please don't take this to mean I'm just a pundit when it comes to auto ads. I know incompetence when I see it. Find yourself a new ad agency, guys!

Addendum, 9/14/09: Well, I do not flatter myself that Saturn or its minions (no, honestly, I have nothing against Saturn; the cars even look okay!) read my blog, but the very same day I wrote this, the ad changed: it begins, audially, the same way, but with a label identifying the speaker as a Saturn dealer, and a line has been added saying outright that (proving the "pundits" wrong) Saturn makes cars that Americans want to buy. Obviously unless I fall prey to a severe and sudden case of megalomania, I must believe that others have noticed the shortcomings of the previous version of the ad.

The POV problem remains.

(And I still don't drive!)


Anonymous said...

So, follow up now!
I always though that guy looked like a begging cry baby. Now he what does he say now that Saturn is dead? I mean come on! I don't want to buy a Saturn. Never did. I don't know anybody that did, does, or ever would. And that point is moot now. RIP Saturn!

Anonymous said...

The pundits were right, Saturn DON'T make cars people want to buy. GM is shutting down Saturn by the end of the year. Looks like the joke's on him.

genessa said...

the ad always did seem rather desperate, no less so (perhaps moreso) in its revised version. do i mourn for the death of saturn? only in that i truly believe america is not making cars that people want, and that is largely due to intense lobbyists by folks who want to sell lots of oil and don't care whether their grandkids will have a planet on which to drive. sad, sad, sad. we could make good cars. we won't.