Column: Christmas car commercials – A terrible idea, horribly executed

The commercial starts any number of ways.

  • Sitting under a Christmas tree, an attractive woman hands an attractive man a small wrapped gift. He opens it. It is a toy car. He looks surprised.
  • Sitting under a Christmas tree, an attractive man hands an attractive woman a small box. She opens it. Is it a ring? Is it a necklace? No. It is a car key. She looks surprised.
  • Sitting under a Christmas tree, an attractive man smiles at an attractive woman. She returns his smile with a WTF look. Then he smiles the way you imagine Mitt Romney does when someone tells him his money has made him more money. She looks surprised.

(Yeah, that’s the look. Photo by geraintwn/Flickr.)

The commercials always end the same. The man leads the woman to the driveway of their mansion. The music soars. Wrapped in a giant red bow is a $45,000 luxury car. The woman draws her hands to her face in glee as the voiceover guy says something about “giving the perfect gift this holiday season.”

In order for the commercial to achieve its desired effect of increasing car sales, the following things must happen next. Follow me on this heartwarming Christmas adventure. 

Let us say a husband sees the commercial and decides to buy his wife a car for Christmas. First the man must sneak behind his wife’s back all day so he can visit dealerships.

Wife: Where are you going?
Husband: Out.
Wife: When will you be back?
Husband: Not sure.
Wife: Can I come with you?
Husband: No.
Wife: Why are you taking the checkbook?
Husband: No reason.
Wife: Is that your good leather jacket?
Husband: Yes.
Wife: Are you having an affair, Steve?
Husband: (UNDER HIS BREATH) Yeah, with a new Acura. (OUT LOUD) No. I told you, Beth. That part of my life is over.

Having smoothly escaped his wife’s prying eyes, the man must choose the car of his wife’s dreams. Bear in mind, he does not know what brand of jeans she wears or which salad dressing she prefers, but he is going to buy her a car. Because he does not know her favorite color, he buys the vehicle in silver. The Christmas gift cars in commercials are always silver. This plays to reality.

Having found the vehicle of his version of his wife’s dreams, the man must now do something any woman would love – spend $45,000 of their money without her permission. Under normal circumstances a man would never tell his sweetie, “Hey babe, I just dropped 45 large on a luxury item you have never seen, nor as far as I know, want. Also, this particular item lost half its resale value the moment I moved it one inch.” Drunk on Christmas, this thought never crosses the man’s mind.

(Say, “I spent $45,000 without your permission” again. Say it again. Please say it. I’m begging you to say it. I need you to say it. Say it. Say, “I spent $45,000 of OUR money without consulting my wife.” Photo by brewedfreshdaily/Flickr.)

Now add the final touch: the surprise. The couple goes to bed with no new car in its driveway and wakes up with a new car in its driveway. To accomplish this, the man asks his brother to drive the car over in the early Christmas morning hours. Startled by the sound of a car pulling in the driveway, the wife wakes.

Wife: Someone’s here.
Husband: It’s probably Santa.
Wife: What if it’s your coked out ex-mistress? She’s probably all alone on Christmas, plotting. I don’t feel safe.
Husband: (UNDER HIS BREATH) You’ll feel safe with those anti-lock brakes. (OUT LOUD) I’ll go check.

A few hours later, after opening all of the presents under the tree, the husband smiles at his wife Mitt Romney-style.

Husband: There’s one more gift.
Wife: Is it a car? I bet it’s a car.
Husband: Close your eyes and follow me to the driveway.
Wife: I guessed it was a car when I heard someone dropping a car off in our driveway this morning.
Husband: You are going to be really surprised.
Wife: The only thing that will surprise me is if it’s not a car.
Husband: Surprise!
Wife: (UNDER HER BREATH) Where’d you get a bow that big? (OUT LOUD) It’s great.

You know an industry – the auto industry in this case – is dangerously out of touch when its Christmas commercials, which air during a season of good tiding and good cheer, leave viewers thinking, “No fucking way.”

Joe Donatelli
Joe Donatelli is a writer in Los Angeles

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