Friday, February 6, 2009

Bad Things Happen When Youngsters Write Ads

I know that it's typical in the advertising agency business for creative types to be about 14 years old but the trend seems to be slipping onto the client side, as well. Take the current commercials for the 2009 Lincoln Continental.

Apparently, no one on either the agency side or the account side is old enough to remember - let alone have lived through - the Vietnam War. I'm not sure they even read about the war or how it tore the US apart. But right now, Lincoln is running a spot where the music is an old Vietnam-era protest song, Ground Control to Major Tom. (And, yes, I used to think it was Major Tong, too.) It is an allegorical anti-war song about a pilot who becomes lost and trapped after being shot into space for a mission he doesn't understand.

OK, it's one thing when a major bank used a Bob Dylan song five years ago to attract accounts from then-increasingly wealthy (and now increasingly poor) boomers. But I hardly put The Times They Are A-Changin' in the same category as an anti-war protest song.

Since boomers are the only people who might be remotely interested in driving an overgrown, outsized tank like a Lincoln, why would the agency (or Ford, for that matter) want to dredge up all of those bad old memories of riots and draft cards and draft dodging and the generation gap? Why not something happy like a Beach Boys number (perhaps something like Little Duece Coupe) or even the Stones (maybe Brown Sugar) from the same era?

That the agency pitched the idea is one thing; agencies are always pitching lousy ideas to clients. But that the car company execs bought it is another matter altogether. And we're bailing out Detroit for this? No wonder the auto industry is in such bad shape.

Sadly, it’s becoming a widespread phenomenon not limited to Ford's Lincoln. The new Obama-fied Pepsi campaign is also using a lot of '60s tunes. And, anyway, the music belies Pepsi's current play-on-words tag line: Every generation refreshes itself.

I shouldn't think any of this speaks to the millenial generation. Or even the Pepsi generation, for that matter.