2013 Chevrolet Sonic “Milk Run” Commercial: Careful, the Kids Are Watching [The Ad Section]
I could watch this commercial over and over again. In fact, I’ve been replaying it all morning. Why? Because every time I do, I see something new. There’s a lot going on here beyond an addictive music track and eye-catching CGI stunts. On one hand, it’s an action-packed, fun-to-watch video that defies reality (as well as gravity) and serves as a primer on how to market cars to young males, the Chevy Sonic’s primary target audience and historically the most difficult demographic to reach with traditional media. By those criteria, it’s a great spot and ties in with the Sonic’s event and social-media programs as well. On the other hand, it arguably encourages stupid on-road antics, despite the repeated “warnings” that the Sonic is not a skateboard and that said antics should not be attempted in real life. If anyone tries anything similar, then it’s a terrible commercial. So let’s take a closer look at the spot with both arguments in mind.
In its simplest terms, this commercial is about a cool young guy (rapper Theophilus London) who runs out of milk and takes his skateboard across town to pick up a carton. Only instead of a real skateboard, he ollies, grinds, and rail slides a turbocharged Sonic RS through the city streets. He even manages to pull off what looks like a Caballerial 360 after using a warehouse wall as a half pipe to get launched, although with the speedometer reading 35 mph in mid-flight, I’m amazed he was able to stick his Ken Block–worthy landing on the top of that semi. “Milk Run” is a street skater’s fantasy, but there should be no surprise there considering the Sonic’s strong involvement with Street League Skateboarding. In fact, SLS’s founder Rob Dyrdek has done a series of promotional videos in which he performs stunts using a Sonic as a skateboard. Despite a few editorial glitches (sometimes Theophilus is wearing shades, moments later he’s not, and in some scenes the car appears to have no driver), the spot works because of its combination of expert stunt driving and really, really good CGI. (A longer cut of the commercial has also been posted.) And obviously, it’s all in good fun. I mean, who in their right mind would actually try any of those moves in a real car, on a real street?
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The target audience, for starters. As anybody who’s ever watched epic fail compilation videos on YouTube knows, full -developed adults have attempted much more idiotic stunts in motor vehicles and they don’t even have the same sense of invincibility that comes (and, alas, goes) with youth. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen? Well, how about death and paralysis? A national NHTSA research study concluded that a major factor in teen driver accidents is friends encouraging the driver to speed, chase someone, or “do other stupid things, like try to jump a curb or ‘pop a donut.’ ” In March, a 13-year-old Denver boy was killed when his 16-year-old sister lost control of her Saturn and slammed into a mobile home while practicing high speed J-turn stunts like the ones in this commercial. Last spring, a 17-year-old died while “car surfing” in Tennessee. Despite losing someone in his social circle, one teenager was quoted as saying, “What good’s living if you’re not having fun doing it?” Sadly, I could go on and on.
So, does this Sonic commercial contribute to the stupidity? I’m going to leave the shift lever in neutral for this one, but I’m curious to see where you come out.
Award-winning ad man-cum-auto journalist Don Klein knows a good (or bad) car commercial when he sees one; the Ad Section is his space to tell you what he thinks of the latest spots. The ad’s rating is depicted via the shift pattern at the bottom, but everyone has an opinion when it comes to advertising, so hit Backfires below and tell us what you think, too.
By Don Klein