Jigsaw LLC


Hunting season

— Branding & Marketing —

When I thought about blogging this week I stared out my window and started thinking about advertising…. Yeah – that’s right, I said I “started” to think about advertising…at my job…in the advertising industry. So anyway – what’s going on in advertising, I wondered. Oh I know. It’s Car Hunters.

(Don’t know what I’m talking about? Watch now)

Mimicking the format of the popular HGTV show House Hunters , participants test drive three vehicles and then comment on their favorite – which turns out to be a Chevrolet. After the choice is revealed the “hidden camera” moment is shown as the participant is told that they are filming a commercial for Chevy (“ahhhh! OMG!!”) This is followed by the disclaimer information about the experiment being super-duper independent and not possibly influenced by the sponsor in any way.

Used as TV commercials, an “episode” of Car Hunters is broken into three :60 spots run in consecutive commercial breaks during House Hunters. From the moment these commercials launched on the season premier of HH on Sept. 13 (yep, I was there), I was bothered.

First of all, it’s like the strange and new friend that my BFF House Hunters brought along to our girls’ night in. Hmmm, I only made popcorn for two…

Second, as a consumer first, my red flags went up fast as I started to comprehend these new commercials.  This is fake. This can’t be trusted. This is someone going out of their way to tell me it’s legit only because it isn’t. I have no proof to back up these feelings – but I can’t help being a little grossed out. And that can’t be good, right?

Since the spots were developed specifically for this one program, specifically for this one target audience, I don’t think it’s a case of mistaken identity. I think it’s just a mistake

Looking at where House Hunters goes RIGHT is perhaps an indication of how this Chevy advertising goes wrong:

  1. House Hunters is a little about houses and a lot about other things viewers are curious about – locations, money, relationships, risks and results. The Car Hunters commercials would be a lot more compelling to me if the participant chose the Chevy Malibu against a BMW 3-Series (Over-budget, Gourmet Kitchen) and a Toyota Prius (Eco-friendly, Small Yard).  Also, I’d like to see the participant after 3 months of driving the car – to see how they’ve utilized that extra leg room.
  2. Also, House Hunters has an inherent honesty to it. At least as far as I can tell, the show has no hidden agenda. While surely more footage has been filmed than what we see; the editing process is a necessity to bring the episode to the correct length and to provide the most entertaining program for the viewer. Even though the process of conducting and filming the independent research for Chevy was likely very legitimate, the fact that it needs to be edited to produce a certain Chevy outcome feels dishonest. Where is the footage we didn’t see? Where are the episodes where people picked the Honda? Oh, that’s right – you’ve hidden that from me because it doesn’t fit your agenda.  Liars.
  3. And then there is simply the element of surprise. So which house did they chose? Suzanne Whang (or more recently the new wanna-be), please TELL ME!! I place a bet in my mind; I root for the Bungalow on the corner… “We chose… House #2!” Yeah!!! It’s good every time. Every Time. It even works if you’ve seen it already. For Chevy – not so much. Seen it once, seen ‘em all. I don’t even care what the participant says about the features on the vehicle, because I know they are going to pick Chevy. Smooth ride? Fold-down seat? Blah, blah, whatever. You’re gonna pick the Chevy anyway, so what.

I mean really, I think I can appreciate where the team was going with the whole Car Hunters concept. The target audience seems right for them. The integration is good. It probably seemed like it would play well across social mediums and has a nice sweepstakes tie-in.

But for a testimonial, it fails to be believable.  And for a borrowed format, it fails to be funny or memorable and is maybe a bit insulting.  It’s like if you take something everyone is familiar with and loves – like apple pie – and don’t follow the recipe. It tastes more “off” to people than if you’d have just tried a brand new recipe for say, Peach-a-Berry Pie. People like it or they don’t, but since they don’t know what it’s supposed to taste like, they aren’t bothered. You know?

The reason I care is, well, mainly because I watch House Hunters a lot and I’m sick of being forced to do productive things away from the TV during the commercial breaks. But also, I really do want Chevy to win as a brand. I wouldn’t mind a classic phoenix-type come-back of the brand, of the Nova…or of my 401K for that matter. I want them to make smart advertising decisions to try to seduce me. But this was an awkward and uncomfortable date at best in my opinion.

What do you think? Have you seen these ads? Do they work for you in any way?

Posted by Jigsaw