A few days ago, as I mulled over various magazine ads, I realized that I wasn’t quite sure where to begin. There was certainly an abundance of ads from which to choose, but the vast majority of them were just superficial and shallow, making little or no effort to communicate with the people on an emotional level. The advertisements basically fell into two categories. First there were the unimaginative, pedestrian ones. They generally just featured the product—no background—and a few facts scampering across the bottom of the page. These were the uninspired ones that were essentially conveying the message, “Well, here we are (yawn) … want to buy our product?”
Alternately, some of the ads were flashy and brisk. They had lively displays of color, but were so loud and obnoxious that you felt like the product was being shoved down your throat.
These two general types are complete opposites of one another, yet they both have something alike: neither type of ad is making any sort of attempt to reach the reader on a personal level.
With a considerable degree of assistance, however, I came upon an ad that actually endeavors to appeal to people. In the October 2000 edition of "Family Life," Suburban features a modest little ad whose “main attraction” is a scene as viewed from the inside of a Suburban. The ad, which is printed mostly in grayscale, has the camera positioned between the front two seats of the car. Probably via a wide-angle lens, we can see most of the interior of the car, as well as the scene behind it, which is a family having some fun in a large empty field. There is a woman, probably the oldest daughter in the family, who looks like she is perusing a book or magazine of some sort. An older man with glasses, probably the grandfather, is reading it with her.
A little farther behind the first two people, an attractive young woman can be seen holding her little girl, who is probably two or three years old. Behind all of them, there are two boys and their father, who are playing catch. Look very closely and you can just make out, right on the horizon, a distant windmill.
Of interest, however, is the presence of a second picture in the top left corner which depicts a similar scene. The smaller image is that of an old-fashioned car, also amidst a wide field. A noteworthy difference is that, in the second scene, the back-door of the automobile is closed. On one of the seats a man’s hat can be seen, and in the distance we can just make out a path that zigzags off into the distance. The picture is so miniscule that it’s hard to make out what the people are doing, but it appears that the people seen through the far left window are discussing something. One is a young woman, the other person I just can’t make out. Other people included are a slightly heavyset man talking to a woman, a girl and two boys. The somewhat heavy man is talking to the woman, and the girl looks like she is heading in the boys’ direction.
Looking at the text in the ad, we can start with the corporation’s logo. Chevy belongs to General Motors Corp., whose insignia looks sort of like your average cross, but placed on its side. The slogan “Suburban: Like a Rock” is neatly tucked into the bottom right corner of the ad, with “Suburban” and “Like a Rock” separated by the company’s insignia. Next to the smaller picture, the ad’s text begins. “It’s not about where the family goes from here,” it tells us, “but how.” The last two words are positioned near the top of the larger photograph. Down at the bottom of the page, in smaller text, the ad tells us some more. It reads:
Introducing the best Suburban yet. A family favorite since 1935, it’s now even better. The all-new Chevy Suburban has a more comfortable interior with more hip room and headroom, new available second-row bucket seats and sunroof. More than an extension of its heritage, it’s the start of a new era. Chevy Trucks, the most dependable, longest-lasting trucks on the road.
There’s a lot to make out of all this, but taking it one step at a time, it’s a reasonable deduction that the smaller scene is set in the year 1935. The first Suburban, as the text informs us, was put out in 1935 and was popular back then. Look at the two scenes and compare them: the first one, which obviously depicts a scene of the past, is similar to the present-day depiction. The newer model is more spacious and just more comfortable in general. The text doesn’t say “A family favorite in 1935,” nor does it say “It used to be a family favorite, like around 1935.” The text specifically says “since,” implying that people have been enjoying it all these years.
The first part of the ad (“It’s not about where the family goes from here, but how”) is a key element. This new car isn’t just improved, it’s “an extension of its heritage.” The statement is basically saying that it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game. The ad also mentions “…it’s the start of a new era.” Look at the families—they are both out in the great outdoors, spending time together, and they have a sturdy yet comfortable car.
And the ad makes an excellent point: it’s not so much whether you win a race or lose it, it’s about how you run it. Do you put forth your best effort? Do you start strong but get worn out quickly? The same thing goes for our world — we don’t know what will happen in the end, but we do know that we can give everything the best possible effort. Our world is uncertain and ever-changing, but like the cars in this ad, certain things stay the same, like love and families. And other things, like technology and cars, don’t stay the same; they just get improved.
The start of a new era? For cars, the Suburban may be. What about our world in the overall scheme of things? A new era—times of change—don’t come about by the passing of time. Rather, things change when we move in the right direction. Whether we win the race or lose it isn’t so important, but we can sure decide which one it’ll be.