David Ogilvy reminded us, “Tell the truth, but make the truth fascinating.” Jeep, in its latest television spot promoting an upcoming electric version of the Wrangler 4xe, created a fascinating message, but forgot to tell the truth.
In fact, truth is as far away as the image of the “pale blue dot” of the Earth they used in the spot.
Leaning entirely on the universally acclaimed scientist and humanitarian, the late Carl Sagan, with the blessing of his widow, this spot demonstrates the worst of advertising at the expense of one of American’s best icons of truth telling.
I was appalled as I watched. I was aghast as I listened to one of my heroes tell his story about our planet, the image of which is seen on a vast black background photographed some 4 billion miles away, beyond Neptune, against the unambiguous logo of Jeep in the lower right corner. I knew where this was leading.
Intended or not, the message screamed at me: Buy an electric Jeep, assuage your guilt about exploring the Earth, likely by going off road and wrecking havoc on terra firma.
I have practiced the art and science of advertising as a creative for more than 25 years. I love and respect the power of brands, well executed, grounded in a universal truth.
This Jeep spot is cynical, hubristic, hyperbolic.
I believe in the aspirational potential of branding, but not at the expense of reality. Are we to believe that a single automobile, recently converted to an electric vehicle, would answer Carl Sagan’s plea to wake up? Jeep wants us to think so. Sadly, Sagan’s passionate voice loses its reverential gravitas the instant the viewer sees the first hint of a product emerge on screen.
I had a similar reaction the first time I saw a spot that used a song by the Beatles many years ago. I rolled my eyes then. This time, the impact was like a gut punch. I liked the Beatles, but I revere Carl Sagan. Like so many others, I sat in front of my television riveted by Cosmos when it aired 40 years ago. I raced through his novel Contact. I couldn’t wait to see the movie adaptation.
Worse (is it possible?), Ann Druyan endorsed the rights request from Fiat Chrysler. Worse still, every online review of the Jeep spot I’ve read raves in obsequious blather. Why am I surprised? We have a sitting president who not only crosses the line dividing commerce and public service, but does not even see the line.
I should know better. We have no sacred cows. Only once and future product endorsers. Say it ain’t so, Ann.