February 8, 2016

Was Toyota Prius Superbowl Ad an Insult to Police?

Full disclosure. I typically don’t like Superbowl ads. Yes there are the occasional funny and memorable ones over the years, but for the most part they are often sophomoric in nature and really just not that funny. Maybe I say this because I never had the honor or excitement of writing or working on a Superbowl ad and watching friends and family members howl in delight, “Hey, you did that! Wow, so great.” No, never had that experience, so maybe temper some of this article with some shallow bitterness.

First off, regarding the Superbowl let’s get this out of the way...Lady Gaga’s performance singing the national anthem was beyond astounding. I’m glad I watched just for that. It was so freaking good it brought me to tears. Bravo Stefani Germanotta. You are a gold-plated superstar. Much respect for making the best play of the day. Even the game itself was pretty good, and it was nice to see ‘ole SuperCam getting a dose of humble pie during and after the game. By the way, did you catch his hoodie pulled over his head in his childish and unprofessional 3 minute post game presser? Truly embarrassing. But I digress.

I want to talk about the Prius ad. Well they gathered some old actors from the brilliant HBO show, The Wired, had them steal a red Prius and then go on an OJ-like car chase and media sensation adventure with the country watching. OK I get it. The Prius is a little non-descript car that Eco-friendly nerds may dig, but no one is ever going to mistake you for driving a Ferrari when behind the wheel of a Prius. And it’s quick, nimble and makes sharp turns. Yeah, yeah I get all that too.

Now for the marketing and cultural message here. In reality, it may have made the Police look like total fools and babbling idiots as it quickly outwitted every roadblock and chase scene they put up to capture these dim-witted crooks.

Ask yourself, is this a good idea in a political and race charged present-day America that is still feeling the effects of Ferguson, Baltimore and Black Lives Matter? Were the cops are positioned as the bad guys at every turn? Don’t the poor police have enough problems without this put in their faces too? Regardless of your feelings on the matter, you’d have to agree that even given the benefit of the doubt, it is a questionable call by agency and client in an election year. Also, it was clearly noticeable (at least to me anyway) that none of the four crooks were black. Just four white guys stealing a Prius and then setting off on a glorious adventure. That’s not to say that one or any of the crooks had to be black but I think the agency/client were more than cognizant that even one of the crooks being black may have caused a stir. That is clear racism in it’s own right.

And what about the cops watching this commercial around the country? I got to say if I’m a cop, I think I’m pretty pissed and insulted. I mean getting outrun by a Prius is fairly embarrasing to put in a police report. Matter of fact, there may be a cop or two out there who may pull over a red Prius just for the fun of it in retaliation. You never know.

But then again, it is supposedly all in fun and maybe I should just lighten up. Must be that thing about never doing a Superbowl commercial myself.