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On an evening that I usually spend in a humor–induced coma thanks to NBC’s Thursday night line–up and the very sophomoric humor of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” I was instead in an upright position, notepad and pen fully secured. It seemed every other commercial was about carwashing — and not in a “Wow-what-great-free-advertising-let’s-feature-it-at-Car-Care-World-Expo” kind of way. Instead the ads implied that professional carwashing was either unnecessary (thanks, Subaru) or too expensive (thanks, Target).
The Subaru commercial features an adventurous man driving his compact SUV through the dirt and muck while a voiceover explains that filthy cars are loved cars — in fact, dirt is a “badge of honor.” (A line, I should mention, they lifted from Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue’s 2007 speech telling state workers they needed to cut back on carwashes during the state’s drought.)
Right after the 30–second endorsement of filthy SUVs, a new Target ad suggested washing your car at home was a fantastic way to save money.
I’m sure we’re not the only industry left with an open mouth after Target not–so–subtly implied that nearly every service — from washing the car to getting your hair done to heading to the local Starbuck’s — is more cost effectively done at home. Target didn’t even take the reasonably “p.c.” move of placing the car on the grass. Nope, the shot zooms in on Dad behind the driver’s wheel, presumably at a conveyor carwash, only to pan out and reveal that Tommy and Suzie are having a blast with the hose and bucket smack dab in the middle of the driveway.
The sum total of the commercial break was this: either you love your car and keep it dirty, or you love your money and you let your kids take the Windex and Palmolive to the chrome.
At least the commercials weren’t placed during the six o’clock news hour where they would presumably be accompanied by a chorus of reports that confirm the economy is in ramshackles and Americans are being laid off by the tens of thousands.
What really worries me is whether there is any hope of our industry banning together to buy our own primetime spot. Lacking a national carwash chain (which we assume would spend big bucks on a media presence) or a national association willing to step up to the plate, we seem to be at a loss. What this industry really needs is a 30–second educational spot: Save money. Save time. Save the planet.
Save the carwash industry.