For more than 100 years, the advertising agencies of automobile manufacturers have faced a conundrum: 'The car's not so great, so the advertising has really got to be great to sell it!'
So what happens when the car looks like it's going to be great, when the reviews from journalists are sensational, when dealers have the car on delivery waiting lists? Shouldn't all the advertising be as great as the car - or maybe even better? I think it should.
That's why the new Lincoln LS advertising, particularly the TV spots, was, to put it bluntly, disappointing.
The LS looks sensational inside and out. But the Young & Rubicam Lincoln brand team, now on the Left Coast, appears to have succumbed to the dreaded malady Cinecommunicationitis in the production of the new commercials.
You know the symptoms. The TV creative concept is just OK, so the spot is packed with special digital effects, most of them pretty cheesy.
Two commercials were produced: a 60-second spot called 'Surprising Journey,' and a 30-second spot called 'Water Droplets.' I think the viewer is going to have a hard time understanding the message or even realizing that these are commercials for the new Lincoln LS. Production techniques override - no, overwhelm - the thin creative concept.
What's being sold?
The opening sequence sets the puzzling tone of the longer commercial. It starts with a wide shot of a person playing a concert grand piano. This scene morphs into a compact disc, which a female passenger puts into a car's CD player. Then we see the driver shifting gears, driving along the highway.
The sequence has a smooth effect, but what is being sold? A piano? A CD? Maybe the CD player? Oh - it's a car. But which car?
There has been no mention of Lincoln at all. In fact, there was no copy. Just music.
Then the spot goes through a series of mind-numbing morphs, transitions and segues. From the previous driving scene, the spot moves through the turret of an old castle. This becomes a chess piece on a game board in the club car of a train. The spot then moves to an exterior shot of the car running past the European train, which becomes part of a model train layout. Then the car appears rounding a curve in what appear to be the Swiss Alps.
OK - now they're selling real estate, or chess sets, or was it a seat on the train? A trip to Europe? I was mystified, confused, bewildered.
As the commercial ends, the voice-over gives you the first mention that this is a Lincoln.
The copy? It's not Valley-speak but equally vapid and inane. It's sparse, spare and - like a bad tire - it's flat. The key words used to sell the new LS are 'wood,' 'leather,' 'adrenaline.' That's motivational? That's inspirational? That sells a car? Give me a break.
Shorter is better
The 30-second spot is better but only because it's shorter. It shows extreme close-ups of raindrops changing to a car driving along the Pacific Coast Highway. There is an interesting move to the tachometer, but it has the same copy and tag line. Otherwise - YAWN.
By the way, Lincoln's new corporate line is used for the first time, 'America's Luxury Car.' Then why does it look like the commercial was shot in Europe? I am confused, and I think most other people will be, too.