Throughout the course of 2015 and 2016, humanity’s TV screens have been cursed with the bearded presence of this man:
This unfortunate soul, Potsch Boyd, in case you were wondering, is an actor who as far as I can tell has been hired to talk with some individuals of questionable automotive intelligence. Many people have already expressed their displeasure with the level of stupidity on display here but I am not going to discuss the people actually in the ads. Oh no, I am here to talk to YOU. The car buying public whom Chevrolet apparently believes will be persuaded by this.
On their own, the ads actually seem to be well produced and effective at eliciting a response. It’s not like Jalopnik hasn’t written about these commercials before and a quick trip to reddit (dear God, why?) shows some general displeasure about the ads. So, maybe, just maybe, Chevrolet is on to something here with these pieces. A little further examination of the ads shows a little something more basic going on too.
Take a look at this image on the left. I’ve singled out a particular focus grouper. Let’s call her Marge, because Marge never actually gets any real screen time. Now Marge seems like a perfectly nice participant in this particular group but for some reason, isn’t important enough to warrant a close-up.
However, those that do get their close up screen time don’t seem to vary too far from the white-washed vision of “attractiveness” that Hollywood tends to promote. Running counter to that there are three black males singled out in the commercial but the majority of one on one screen time is spent on thin, “attractive,” young looking white women. Now, I’m not attempting to point out what could be inherent sexism or racism in advertising. I would like to use this moment to show that Chevrolet and whatever ad company hired by them is attempting to make you the viewer feel attractive by telling you that these are “real people.” Now that you feel good about being one of these regular people, hey, good lookin’, you should go out and buy a Chevrolet because Attractive Real PeopleTM like you drive Chevrolets. That’s why it doesn’t matter what these people say on these commercials, they’re just hot, so your mind shuts off.
Ok, so Marketing 101 out of the way, it’s pretty clear what Chevy is going after here. However, as consumers, we should be better than the inane comments dropped left and right during these commercials. Last time that I checked no, a Malibu does not feel or look like it’s in the “$80,000 range,” although apparently Lucille Bluth is in this commercial and she doesn’t have time for that sort of thing anyway. But, since Chevrolet thinks we as consumers are no better than our basic human urge to procreate with attractive people, their sales figures should show how right they are.
Let’s take a look at the sales from a few of their most heavily advertised models, the Malibu, Silverado, and Cruze. All recently updated and released in January 2016 and all prominently featured in these “Real People” commercials since mid 2015.
Starting from the bottom, the new Cruze is anything but a sales success story. Sales have been falling since 2014 and seemed to accelerate their spiral in 2016 despite the introduction of these advertisements. Even Dieselgate and the old Cruze diesel which was the only real competitor to VW small diesels didn’t give it a bump. It seems that not even a gift wrapped screw-up from a major competitor and these ads can reverse the slide of the small sedan segment for Chevy.
The Silverado on the other hand has been a stalwart of the pickup segment for as long as it has been on sale. These “Real People” ads have been more directly targeted towards men if their focus groups are any indication. There are only three women in the commercial pictured below, compared to nineteen men by my count.
So, at last, we get to the $80,000 Malibu. Surprisingly, sales for the Malibu in 2016 are strong in a segment that is generally seen as dying due to the crossover revolution. In every month except July of 2016 Malibu sales have seen a year over year increase to the tune of exactly 19,603 more Malibus sold. How much of that these commercials are responsible for is difficult to tell without being able to ask the buyers directly but it’s probably safe to assume that at least some of them were persuaded by these spots. However, for the sake of this argument though, let’s attribute ALL of those Malibus to the new commercials.
So is Chevy really convincing anyone with those ads? Well, to recap, Cruze sales are down, Silverado sales are flat, and Chevy has sold almost 20,000 more Malibus this year. So what does that mean for these commercials? Now, I’m not entirely sure what the overall measurement of success is for Chevrolet, but I can’t imagine that 1 for 3 is good enough for Ms. Barra. Sales numbers aren’t looking too great and it looks like the ads aren’t working, except for those who really want that new Malibu. I think we can all agree then that hopefully that ad buy might run out sooner rather than later because otherwise, what on earth is Chevrolet doing?
If anything these commercials have at least provided us all with a very important service. Finally, definitive proof of what people have suspected about Malibu drivers all along. They’re little more than animals who define their worth by identifying themselves with attractive people on TV. Looks like you nailed it, Chevy.