Wednesday, June 17, 2009

"It's your f-ing duty, so just buy a GM already. Jesus!"

I know I'm a little behind on the times with this, and I've been meaning to write about it for a while, but I've been busy and haven't found the time. Until today! Because I'm home sick, and I'm bored and can't watch the TV because it is babysitting our niece!

Have you seen the GM rally cap ad? If not, here you go:

So. Right. I think it's just awful. Insulting, really.
"You know what America needs right now?"
Yes, in fact, yes I do. America needs equal pay for equal work. America needs health care coverage for all Americans. America needs her troops back home and getting the benefits they were promised and deserve. American needs her people to stop buying on credit and to learn to economize. America needs to educate all... What now? I'm sorry, what was that?
"America needs a come back."
Um, okay. I guess that's kind of the same thing, I mean, assuming we had all those things before the most recent economic crisis.

Nope, sorry: upon a quick check of any reference anywhere, we have never had those things, so a "come back" is setting the bar kind of low.
"Because we can do this, if we all start thinking differently."
Yeah, that's true! We can get this country all the things her citizens need and it will need to start with thinking differently!

Huh? Oh, you meant that whole "come back" thing. Right. So, um, how will thinking differently get us to this to the low bar you've set? It seems like "thinking samely" would be a better way to get back to where you were a decade ago.
"At GM, we're reinventing the entire company, starting with the ownership experience."
That is a great idea! Yes, make owning a GM like owning a better, more reliable car. Wait, can you just make a better, more reliable car instead?
"Introducing the Total Confidence Plan. It starts with up to nine months of payment protection. Lose your job? We'll make your payments, up to five hundred a month."
Okay, this seems like a nice thing to do, but is based on anything? What is the average length of time someone is out of a job these days? Will 9 months cover you? And what's the catch: do you have to make payments for 9 additional months once you get a new job? Also: why are you encouraging people to buy a new car with $500/month payments in this economy?? That just seems irresponsible.
"Then something you've never seen before: vehicle value protection. When you buy a new car, we'll help protect it's retail value at trade in time."
Again, unless you can make it be Not A GM, I don't see how this is possible. I assume it's because you'd be buying another GM. But doesn't that seem like blackmail? Or at least coercion?
"It also comes with our fully-backed, five-year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty, and the safety and security of On-Star, standard."
I'm just gonna go ahead and assume everyone hears "And believe us, you're gonna need it" after "warranty". On-Star just seems like bells and whistles to distract from the major faults inherent in any recent GM. And just as an aside: I have always wondered about the phrase, "fully-backed powertrain warranty." 1) Are you ever offered a "partially-backed" warranty? 2) Is it just on your powertrain? I assume that's something to do with the transmission. Or is it a PowerTrain warranty, like, it's as powerful as a train?
"It's time to reinvent, it's time to rally. It's time to come back with the total confidence plan."
Okay, where is the reinvention? You're still selling GMs. You have not once said that they will be of better quality, more reliable, better looking. Will they get better mileage? Will they have lower emissions? Will they buy you a puppy? You can't just point at a thing and say, "Ah, haha, I hereby reinvent this! See, it's reinvented!" It's not a performative, like pronouncing two people man and wife.

I'm going to skip over the next phrase for a moment to comment on the final sentence of the commercial (before they tell you to visit their website), but don't worry, I'll come back to it. (Ha! See what I did there?) Telling people "it's time to come back" implies that they were GM customers and left for whatever reason, but that those reasons are moot because they evidently signed some kind of agreement that after a certain amount of time, they would return to GMs cold, steel bosom. It's got this whole paternalistic vibe to it that, while appropriate for calling your kids in at night ("Kids! It's time for dinner! You have to come in, now!"), is not really appropriate for appealing to potential customers.

And now back to the phrase, "It's time to rally."

I guess the paternalism is really the core of what bothers me here. GM seems to believe that it has the right to tell you when to buy its vehicles and that it has simply held back in exercising that right because up until now, the economy was strong. They aren't saying, "These new models are totally awesome and address any, let alone all, of your concerns." They're saying, "Okay kids, it's time to suck it up! You have to buy a GM now!" And they're telling you that somehow this is going to fix America. That buying a GM is going to... what? Make us what we were? No, just make GM what it was. Kind of.

Finally, the whole rally cap thing strikes me as a misjudgement. If I understand the concept of the rally cap correctly, it's when fans turn their ball caps inside out if their team is losing near the end of the game. It's a show of support where there's nothing else you can do. (It's also another example of Magical Thinking in baseball, like the curse on the Cubs, but that is neither here nor there. I just think it's funny that baseball has more superstitions than a 17th century Welsh farmer.) So here is GM's basic thesis, in SAT syllogism format, as far as I can understand it.
Rally cap : Baseball game outcome :: Buying a GM : Fixing the economy
It implies that the only Americans who are cheering for the home team are those who are buying a GM. It implies that the average American cannot effect change in their country so they might as well give up on anything more significant than a symbolic gesture. It implies that GM has the right to make demands of you, that GM is the sole arbitrator of what is or is not American, and that like growing a Victory Garden in WWII, buying a GM in 2009 is a patriotic duty. And they're not going to offer you a goddamn thing to make it worth your while. 5 year/100,000 mile warranties and On Star are old hat; GM's been slapping those on their cars for years now.

The only things that are new are the "payment protection" plan (which also implies that you're likely to lose your job, making it unclear why you should be encouraging people to add another payment to their monthly bills) and the mythical "value protection" plan. I mean, whose to say in five years that they didn't do their damnedest to protect the retail value of your car, and they did, they really did, but gosh, how could they have known car values would drop by half, but they saved you some of that, so you're really only losing 40%, aren't they great?

What are your thoughts? Did this strike you as ridiculous as well? Were you insulted? Do you think anyone heard this message and went out and bought a GM?


Dale said...

Completely ridiculous. I don't understand the point of prolonging this company's deathbed scene. One of the few things I like about capitalism is that stupid organizations go out of business and disappear. If we're taking that out the mix, what the hell, let's set up a central soviet and see if we can get a little of the upside of socialism along with its downside.

Sydney said...

I heard an economist on the Daily Show (I think) say that he thinks GM should be allowed to fail because a healthier company will take its place. The thing is, that healthier company is going to be Chinese. Not that I have anything against the Chinese, but it's not like the healthier company is going to provide new jobs for those Americans who lose theirs when GM fails. And that is my problem: our concern for the well-being of our countrymen allows badly run companies like GM to hold us hostage.