Jerry Seinfeld's prescription for bad car advertising? No more shots of speeding cars raising dust clouds in the desert.
"We've just got to rope off Death Valley and say, 'No More,'" says Seinfeld. "No more."
The star of the Web series, "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee," is entitled to weigh in on the modern state of advertising. In addition to starring in several Super Bowl commercials over the years, the co-creator and star of Seinfeld is now a copywriter himself.
Working with ad agency Mullen, Seinfeld wrote eight new Web videos for Acura, the luxury car division of American Honda Motor Co. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld -- "Men in Black" -- Seinfeld's commercials will bookend new Webisodes of "Comedians in Cars" when season three debuts Jan. 2.
Seinfeld's deliberately bad Acura ads spoof the often-hokey car commercials of the 1960s. There are even a few characters straight out of Mad Men -- which is no coincidence since Seinfeld said he recently starting watching the drama.
His new videos have drawn a mixed reaction online. Many say they're so bad they're good -- and a perfect complement to a niche Web show aimed at comedy enthusiasts. Others think they're just plain bad.
Acura serves as exclusive sponsor of Seinfeld's Web series. Mike Accavitti, senior vice president for American Honda, said he's happy. Seinfeld's comedic videos "perfectly align to our independent thinking, car enthusiast, target customers," he said in a statement.
Seinfeld has one of the largest collection of vintage Porsches in the world. He's always on the lookout for the hottest new sports cars.
Advertising Age, a sister publication of Automotive News, interviewed Seinfeld about the Acura videos, his all-time favorite ad campaign and the need for marketers not to take themselves too seriously. Excerpts:
What's with comedians and car ads? You for Acura? Will Ferrell for Dodge Durango?
If the comedians are funny, they can be very good in advertising. If Will Ferrell came out as Will Ferrell, as opposed to in-character, or I was standing there trying to do the Acura ads next to the car, all of a sudden everyone is feeling very uncomfortable. You know what I mean? ... But I think people tuning in to watch "Comedians in Cars" are comedy geeks anyway. So the flow into the advertising, which is purely comedic, is very smooth. If you put regular advertising next to "Comedians in Cars" it stands out as even more flat-footed and unappealing. ... If you want a different type of content, then that's what we're doing here. ["Comedians in Cars"] is not a real show. There's no narrative story like "Two and Half Men." It's not "The Tonight Show." It's a weird show. So if you have a show that's already a weird show, you want to have commercials that are weird. That's a good fit.
Why is there so much bad car advertising?
We've got to just rope off Death Valley and say no more. No more…We all want more creativity in everything. But it's easier said than done. Humor happens to be my field. So for me, it's always easy for me to say, 'Why don't you make that funnier?' It's not so easy to do it. It's like music. You want great music. But there's a handful of people who can do it. You can't get great music from the second- and third-tier musicians. That's the way everything works.