Suddenly the car maker is no longer encumbered by the actual capabilities of their vehicles and feel empowered to create commercials with the truck performing heroic actions. Maybe you’ve seen the commercials where disabled jet liner lands its front wheels in the bed of Nissan that races to the rescue.
Never mind that the truck would have to be going more than 200 mph, and the massive weight of the jet would crush the truck which is rated to carry only 1,500 pounds.
A Nissan spokesman explained to The New York Times that the commercials are meant to “position the Frontier as a midsize truck that acts more like a full-size.”
“In order to get the message across we showcased the vehicle pulling off impossible feats, all in order to recapture the attention of the active and adventurous midsize truck audience.”
In other words, they lied.
Another spot in the campaign has a Nissan truck racing to the aid of a dune buggy stranded trying to climb an impossibly steep sand dune. If you look closely on both spots you’ll see mouse type that the events are “fictionalized.”
Look I’m no virgin to marketing. We teach our kids from a young age that ads try to convince that we need things that we don’t really. True, babies can’t really trade stocks or roller skate and then there’s that damn gecko. Obviously lizards don’t have an Australian accent. But those commercials aren’t demonstrating the product’s core capabilities.
For years automotive ads have required disclaimers about how the performance demonstrated in the commercial was achieved. Professional driver on a closed course, etc. If we are to believe Nissan and their legendary agency, TBWA/Chiat/Day it’s acceptable to leave credibility in the rear view mirror, literally. And there is something very dangerous in that assumption.
If we are now expected to parse which product demonstrations are flat-out lies what else will be acceptable? Why not let the car salesman convince you that the vehicle can plow through walls unscathed?
Imagine what Viagra will be free to claim once we remove the shackles of truth.
Of course we can blame the Internet. How many times have you seen a video that left you wondering, “Is that for real?” Indeed, in this case Nissan is borrowing concept two guys created in a 2000 video called 405. So why shouldn’t marketers be allowed to play in the space?
Why? Because none of those viral videos are asking you to spend your hard-earned money on their products.
The irony is that Nissan’s Peter Pan moment comes at a time when consumers have an ever-expanding platform for holding companies accountable for their actions. There is a reason why shows like MythBusters have become so popular. They feed the public’s appetite for calling BS on what they see in the mass media.
Will the industry step in and make it clear that this type of marketing is unacceptable? Will television networks draw the line at commercials like this? Will the FTC come down with prohibition on it? Or will we all be left to our own defenses?
What do you think?