A Punk Rock Junkie And A Luxury Car Commercial– Isn’t This A Bad Joke Somewhere?

“We all go a little mad sometimes. But the end result isn’t always a car.”

That would be a fantastic punchline to the surrealist farce of Punk Rock Junkies Sell Me Luxury, but it’s not.

That’s the real life caption/tagline that accompanies this ad for the 2015 Acura TLX.

I don’t really care about the car, and the commercial is like every other car commercial I’ve seen, the caption however is indicative of a larger issue– and if the copywriter who wrote it wants to talk to me, I am here; 5’1 and all the ears.

The ad uses Sid Viscous’ cover of “My Way”, and since seeing it my mind has yet to really find peace about it.

Having been a teenager who loved the Sex Pistols and punk rock in general, and now an adult who finds all of her mental nourishment analyzing the unintended consequences of imagery, and in this case music, I cannot help but feel that the people behind this ad have created a thick semiotic catch-22.

I cannot be the only one who thinks the use of a heroin addict to sell a 30k luxury automobile under the guise of “individuality” is irresponsible. If we are subjected to an average of 5,000 ads per day, and the people crafting those ads are not putting much thought in beyond “lets make money”, where does the responsibility lie?

Whether or not you’re aware of Sid Vicious, here are some facts:

He was a bassist for The Sex Pistols for only two years, but it is also fair to point out that the Sex Pistols ain’t known for the amazing baselines.

He was a junkie from ridiculously young. And as I read Wikipedia’s entry on him, I became even more sad than I was first writing this article! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sid_Vicious

He was suspected on murdering his girlfriend, made it out on bail, and died of a supposed suicide (but a definite overdose) on heroin a few months later.

You know what though, Acura? You’re right to use all of this in your commercial and to pith it all out.  How silly that all of us in the creative industry have missed this golden nugget of an opportunity that you so graciously capitalized on.

In the endless search of pith we lose our ability to appreciate and discover the nuance in our communication, and in our favoring the glib, we sell our depth short. I can’t even get started on those in the creative field who are actually capable of experiencing and creating that depth. No I don’t care that that depth is used to sell things– that’s a reality of our existence. What I care about is how lazy people are when it is applied to their jobs.

I read that Acura wouldn’t use Frank Sinatra’s classic version because it was “too expensive”, but I also can’t help wondering if it would have been more palatable. Disregarding that a company selling a single automobile for $30,000 thinks using a song would be too cheap, I’d happily exchange the classic subtle misogyny we’re all used to for blatant and misaligned juxtaposition.

I’m so curious as to why this was the right choice. Was it designed to create a feeling that the people making the ad and/or the people affected by the ad were not ‘sell outs’? Did it make Acura, and therefore the people purchasing an Acura, come across as edgy and special? Is it creepy or beautifully symbolic to anyone out there that these same feelings people seek out when turning to drugs?

I’m not saying people need to be monk-level methodical when it comes to making ads, but a little deeper thought into the greater message that ad is portraying would not hurt. Creating positive associations with Sid Vicious/Punk Rock and Acura is insulting both to punk rock AND to Acura, but it also feels more dangerous than helpful.

It’s bizarre that we use music made by drug addicts 40 years ago to sell luxury cars to rich people under the guise of “being an individual”, while simultaneously shaming & criminalizing individuals addicted to drugs–race relations totally included! I’m not saying drugs are good, (drugs are bad, mmmk), but this dichotomous attitude towards drugs and the people who use them is too poorly defined (insert pithy drug reference joke here).

I can’t even begin going into all of the articles I read when Phillip Seymor Hoffman died of an overdose, and article after article came out point out how extreme heroin use is in upper middle class homes.

If we’re crafting messages to make people buy things, can’t we just take a little bit more time to craft that message properly? Not just simply for a product’s easy and quick absorption– because the thought of making something simply to be digested easier is actually scarier than people just throwing out crap without forethought– but something with a particular message, and purpose within that message, in hand.

If it’s “We went crazy and made the best car ever”, I’m 100% sure there’s a better song for that than I May Have Killed My Own Girlfriend But Don’t Remember Because I’ve Always Been High On Heroin.

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