Bounty, you’re off the hook. Just when I was ready to slam you for the Worst Commercial Ever, Toyota came along and one-upped you.
- I will therefore limit the Bounty bashing to a text box: Suburban kitchen. Father and son chat at the counter. Father spills drink. Woman swoops in from off camera with (Bounty!) paper towel and wipes the spill. Woman beams with satisfaction. Fade to product shot. It’s a great sales pitch for a Y chromosome, but turns out to be a paper towel commercial.
It’s almost unfair to expect anyone to make a commercial I hate more. In the wake of Toyota’s Lethal Floormat Incident, they knew they needed game. And they brought it.
Toyota’s newest ad campaign for the Toyota Highlander, an SUV that starts at over 27 grand and gets 20 MPG city, 25 highway, claims that the car will help parents become cool enough for our kids. They go all out: in the first commercial, a tow-headed 10-year-old spokesman, equipped with electronic gadgets (that his parents bought him!) sulks in the back seat of a lame car (that his parents bought!) that he’s too young to drive. The boy generously explains that though his chauffeur is an embarrassment, he has potential.
Good news: according to towhead, parents don’t have to be lame! They can buy the car that the kids want, so that in the next commercial he can brag about setting them straight. “They used to be total dorks,” the child says on voiceover. On screen, we see him taking down an embarrassing family Christmas portrait. “I got them squared away.”
More like cornered. Bound, gagged, and thrown in the trunk of the discarded Ford Tortoise.
- Did you know? I can make fun of cars I don’t like. Cuz I can drive. And get a car loan.
Toyota congratulates child on ordering his parents around and parents for spending nearly thirty thousand dollars to placate someone who is not competent to enter into a contract, weighs half as much as dad, and is unarmed.
- Some restrictions apply. Offer not available in Texas.
Who the hell would fall for that? Top ad firm Saatchi and Saatchi apparently did some market research before selling this ad to the world’s top car company (now available with non-lethal floor mats!). Who is this market segment?
Lighten up, you say. It’s just a commercial. Actually, it’s a series of commercials. Here’s the next: opening shot shows child crowing about how cool the Highlander is. He’s rockin’ a porkpie hat and sunglasses (that his parents bought!) and acting as a bouncer for the party barge that is his (parents’!) car. The towheaded bundle of joy leers at a blond girl, his head cocked, looks her up and down and lets her have a seat. He turns away a boy whom we are supposed to understand is less cool than he is.
He revels in the power that his formerly-lame parents have just made even stronger. Now, he not only exerts control over them. He gets to decide who else is cool and where they can sit.
The parents (who bought the car!) are nowhere in sight. He doesn’t need them (except to drive the posse to the mall).
I don’t like this 10-year-old douchebag. Fortunately, he’s fictional. But still.
I know it’s a joke. It’s a joke in a commercial. But it’s scary because there’s this tiny shred of truth to it. Everyone has a memory of some stranger cowering before their tyrannical child in a restaurant. It’s linked to a rare memory of feeling like a pretty good parent oneself.
But I also think there’s a little voice in every parent—more than a little voice—that tells us to prove ourselves to our children. That’s the scarier part—knowing that you really do want your kid to think you’re a rock star. I do, anyway.
But there’s no way I’m buying the rust coating.