Discussing Chevy’s oft-played and mega-exploitive spots featuring John Mellencamp, The New York Times’ David Carr seems to hate freedom almost as much as the competent drumming of Kenny Aranof.
As the commercial begins, an industrial history rolls out, touching the usual icons of the Statue of Liberty, busy factory workers and Americans at their leisure. But then a more conflicted narrative emerges, quickly flashing on bus boycotts, Vietnam, Nixon resigning, Hurricane Katrina, fires, floods, then the attacks of Sept. 11, replete with firefighters.
All that™s missing is a plague of locusts, until the commercial intones œThis is our country, this is our truck as a large Silverado emerges from amber waves of grain.
The message seems to be that, even though America has been in the ditch several times during its history, it has always managed to pull itself out. And what is true for the country must be true for General Motors. It could be pointed out that Detroit and General Motors are in a ditch mostly because they drove there, ignoring global competition and consumer needs in pursuit of quarterly profits. But the back story of the disaster is obscured by the universal need to rebound.
As a piece of television craft and song craft ” I™m humming that sucker in spite of myself ” œThis is our country is a gorgeous, A.D.D. version of Ken Burns™s best work. But it is landing with a thud in the advertising community, and not just because it achieved the impossible: making viewers nostalgic for Chevy™s last anthem, Bob Seger™s œLike a Rock.
œThe message seems to be, ˜If you don™t buy our truck, we will go bankrupt,™ said Al Ries of Ries & Ries, a brand consultancy. œThe kind of people who buy trucks are not going to buy them because a company is in trouble. People like to buy from winners.
Now we have Mr. Mellencamp (above), who™s done some rebranding of his own, having dropped the œCougar from his name back when his image needed a folksy turn. His political values seem equally elastic. He and his spouse once wrote a jeremiad against the Bush administration that said, in part: œIt is time to take back our country. Take it back from political agendas, corporate greed and overall manipulation.
That was in 2003. Now he™s sitting on the fender of a Chevy truck, strumming a guitar and singing, œWell, I can stand beside ideals I think are right, and I can stand beside the idea to stand and fight. He can also stand beside a nice shiny truck, if the fee is right.
It oughta be stressed that while Mellencamp might not have nearly as many wives and kids to feed as Steve Earle, there’s something called a nest egg worth considering.