December 4, 2020


There once was a time where you would see an advertisement for a vehicle, and that ad would tell you about the vehicle.  Now we have a three minute music video about a minivan (which is a rehash of a four year old video they did… FOR THE SAME VAN!) and YouTube channels filled with videos that are just commercials that didn’t make the cut.  I understand advertising is a tricky business, but do we really need these ridiculous productions for, to be honest, rather mundane products?  I don’t think so.

Here’s a commercial for a Honda Odyssey.  It’s a short spot, but it shows off the van.  It’s ridiculous, but not three minutes of ridiculous and it doesn’t have a past-his-prime Busta Rhymes in it.  No swag, no sixteen bars, just thirty seconds of “Here’s a van, and some ridiculousness, but mostly a van.”

“But Michael,” you’re saying “the swagger wagon commercial is funny!” Sure, it is.  That’s your opinion, and you can run with it all you like; however, I disagree with your opinion.  I don’t think it’s funny.  I can see that it can be, but not for me.  Here’s a funnier series of commercials:

It’s funny because we’ve all wanted to do that to some peoples’ cars, and it works as an ad because it’s saying “The Mark 5 GTi is better than your homemade whatever”.  It has a message other than “swagger wagon” and “we’re suburban parents who fall asleep at 10:30pm.”  Volkswagen has some of the best ads, hands down.  They’re entertaining, and they make a point without beating you over the head with a shtick or talking down to you.

Kia, in addition to building cars that aren’t terrible, are making some good commercials as well.  Entertaining, and just informative enough to make you look at an Optima. or a K900, or Adriana Lima…

The American manufacturers have had some solid spots as well…

And also some odd ones…

And ones where they don’t seem like they’re trying.

I understand that commercials for everything have to hit certain criteria, which is different for everyone making the ads and for everything being advertised.  I’m not demanding that all new vehicle commercials from here on out be thirty seconds of entertainment bliss, or that we outlaw Dennis Leary from yelling over another Ford truck commercial.  I’m not even asking Toyota abandon the whole “swagger wagon” thing (although I think they might want to think about it); no, I’m pointing out that that video is ridiculous.  It doesn’t push the van, doesn’t make it cooler or more appealing.  Are you afraid buying a minivan will make you less cool to your kids, who will for a long time think that you aren’t and never were and never will be cool? Don’t buy the one that refers to itself as a “swagger wagon”, that will only exacerbate the situation.  If you desperately need to buy something that can haul people AND things, then buy something that society has agreed is cool.

Words by Michael Chandler


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Michael Chandler

Director of Photography, writer, man about town and owner of Big Ronda, the Mk3 Toyota Supra project

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