Episode 12:  Propaganda Blitz 


Announcer: There is some language in this episode that some listeners may find offensive.

[Radio jingle: WCAR, The Car!]

Aaron Naparstek: Hey, did you guys—did you guys watch the Super Bowl?

Doug Gordon: I’m from the Boston area, and I watched. It was really boring.

Sarah Goodyear: I managed to miss the entire thing. I did not watch a single instant of the Super Bowl.

Aaron: You really didn’t miss anything. But there was this one ad that was just—it was incredible. I couldn’t believe it!

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: Do you remember your first bicycle? You know, the one with the streamers, training wheels and banana seat. But it wasn’t just a bike, it was your ticket to freedom, hanging out with pals chasing the ice cream truck down the block. America, you loved that bike. Now you’re grown up, you drive a car. You’ve got monthly payments, insurance, kids whining in the backseat. You’re stuck in traffic watching as your tank approaches empty. Didn’t you just fill up last week? And that transmission repair is gonna break the bank. It’s time to fall in love again, travel on your own power. Go where you want, when you want. Save money, be happy, be free. America, it’s just like riding a bike.]

Aaron: Right? Huh?

Doug: Wow!

Sarah: Oh my God. Like, I’m so—I’m, like, totally choked up by that.

Doug: God, what a great country. I love this place. That was amazing.

Aaron: Amazing. I mean, finally. Finally, there’s a good ad on the Super Bowl.

Sarah: I just am wondering—I know it costs, like, over $10 million a minute to advertise on the Super Bowl. Like, who paid for that?

Aaron: That’s a—yeah, that’s a good question. Let me look that up real quick. Ogilvy Worldwide did the ad, directed by Sofia Coppola. Paid for by the all powerful bike lobby. [laughs]

Doug: Hello, and welcome to The War on Cars. I’m Doug Gordon. I’m joined by Sarah Goodyear and Aaron Naparstek. And today we are talking about …

Sarah: Commercials.

Aaron: Car ads.

Doug: The big game.

Sarah: Yeah. This is when Americans get indoctrinated into the cult of cars.

Aaron: Yeah. Last Sunday, of course, was the Super Bowl. And that’s the day when 100 million Americans gather in front of their TVs. We drink beer, we stuff our faces with nachos and mini hot dogs. For most of America, Super Bowl Sunday is like our national secular holiday, but for us here at The War on Cars, Super Bowl Sunday is a mission critical intelligence-gathering opportunity.

Doug: So in this episode, we are going to get to know car culture. We’re gonna take a close look at the ads that the auto industry runs during the Super Bowl. What do they say about America? What do they say about driving? What do they say about our culture?

Sarah: We’re gonna deconstruct it and break it down.

Aaron: Yeah. Because, you know, as Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu said in The Art of War, you know, you must—if you want to know—no, fuck! What the fuck did he say?

Doug: [laughs]

Sarah: Know your enemy?

Aaron: Yeah, because …

Sarah: Keep your enemies close? Or …

Aaron: No, he said—you know, he said, if you know your enemy like you know yourself, it would be as if you’ve won a hundred battles.

Doug: We’re gonna do a new quiz: Maroon 5 lyric or Sun Tzu quote.

Sarah: [laughs]

Aaron: Sun Tzu wasn’t even a real person.

Doug: Yeah, exactly.

Aaron: It’s a totally fake thing business guys made in, like …

Sarah: Okay. [laughs]

Doug: All right. But before we get to know the enemy, we are going to take care of some business.

Sarah: Yeah that’s right, because we are not yet getting $10.5 million per minute for advertising on The War on Cars, so we need you to give us some money instead on our Patreon account.

Aaron: That’s right. So please go to TheWaronCars.org, click “Donate” and send us a few bucks via Patreon. It’s really helping out. We depend on your support and we appreciate it a lot.

Doug: And we want to thank the law office of Vaccaro and White, as always, for their generosity. We also have a new top sponsor tying for the number one spot, the law office of Charley Gee, Human Powered Law in Portland, Oregon. You may notice a theme.

Sarah: Yeah. [laughs]

Doug: Two personal injury attorneys are competing for the top spot for the sponsorship of The War on Cars, which I guess says something about who they think our target audience is. But we really appreciate their generosity.

Aaron: Yeah. Our sponsors are pretty sure you’re gonna get run over by a car on your bike.

Sarah: Yeah. That’s not actually—when we were putting together the podcast that I don’t think we anticipated that that would be an important revenue stream, but hey!

Doug: Okay, let’s talk about the best and/or worst car ads we saw on this year’s Super Bowl. Any nominations? Anybody have a favorite that stands out?

Aaron: Oh, man. Well, there—you know, there’s so many. I mean, there were at least, you know, 14 ads that I tallied up that were car ads on the Super Bowl, and then there were like a half dozen more that actually have nothing to do with cars, but still have car crap in them. Like, there was one for the CupFone holder.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: Don’t let this happen to you. The WeatherTech CupFone fits virtually any size cup holder. That’s better. Order your CupFone today at weathertech.com]

Sarah: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Aaron: FoneCup. FoneCup.

Sarah: It was like a thing that you put on your coffee cup that then you put your phone in so that you can, like, talk to your …

Aaron: And be extra distracted in your car.

Doug: Yeah.

Aaron: There was a Fast & Furious movie franchise ad. There was a Walmart ad that was all just cars.

Doug: Yeah, I loved the Walmart ad because I think it was basically targeted towards people my age. It was all cars as cultural icons, it was like the Ghostbusters‘ Ecto-1 car.

Aaron: Scooby Doo van.

Doug: The Mystery Machine. The Back to the Future Delorean. I think it was cars from, like, the Cars Pixar movie.

Aaron: Knight Rider.

Doug: Yeah, KITT. So it was all like, there’s gotta be a 45-year-old guy watching this somewhere who’s gonna love this and likes shopping at Walmart. I mean, basically half of that describes me.

Aaron: Weirdly, though, it was for, like, Walmart’s delivery service. So it wasn’t like, “Drive your car to Walmart and park in our parking lot,” it was like, “Let our sort of like robot car Knight Riders bring you your stuff from.

Sarah: Oh, I thought that it was that you just had to go to the parking lot and they, like, brought the stuff out to you.

Aaron: Is that what it was?

Doug: Yeah. It’s basically like you don’t ever have to set foot in a store or have your feet touch pavement. You can drive up into the parking lot, and our happy employees will bring out bags of stuff and load it into your car, and you can drive away without ever interacting with another human being.

Aaron: So Walmart drive-through Walmart to-go.

Sarah: Yeah. Yeah, right. It’s like a pit stop at Walmart in the Walmart parking lot.

Aaron: So anyway, so bottom line, like, 20 or more ads, at least 20 or more minutes, we’re talking, like, $300 million worth of car-related advertising on the Super Bowl last night. It’s just, like, last—like, imagine what your local bike advocacy organization or transit agency could do with $300 million. These guys, like, spend it in a three-hour football game on car stuff. So that’s what we’re up against.

Doug: So that 100 million people watching at home can see it all at once.

Aaron: Yeah.

Sarah: So that’s why we need to exploit this opportunity to understand what are they doing and how did they get so successful?

Doug: Let’s talk about I think it was one of the earliest ads, one of the big themes in a lot of these ads was basically just famous people. It was a lot of celebrities in ads doing stuff, and one of the first—ran pretty early during the game—was Jason Bateman of Arrested Development fame as, like, an elevator operator going up and down a skyscraper. And on every floor, he would let people off or announce, like, some horrible thing that they were about to see. Should we play a little bit of that?

Aaron: Yeah, this was a good one.

Sarah: Yeah, let’s play it.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jason Bateman: Hello, folks. What floor?]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, woman: Oh, we’re car shopping.]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jason Bateman: Oh, you’re going down. Way down. This floor, root canal.]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, dentist: Oh, this is bad.]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jason Bateman: This stop, jury duty. Remember, innocent until proven—well, he did it, right? Can we all agree he did it? Okay, six-hour flight, middle seat.]

Aaron: Middle seat on an airplane.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jason Bateman: Who’s got vitamin C?]

Doug: This was pretty good, actually.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jason Bateman: This floor, ‘The Talk.’]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, father: Your body’s changing. My body changed. Even grandma’s body.]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jason Bateman: Vegan dinner party. Is that even a thing?]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, woman: We’re having beet loaf. Sergio’s specialty.]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Sergio: Why, thank you.]

Sarah: So disgusting looking.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jason Bateman: Car shopping. Off you go.]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, man: No, sorry. We’re getting a Hyundai.]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, woman: Yeah, we used Shopper Assurance. It was really easy.]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jason Bateman: Hyundai. Going up.]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, voiceover: Hyundai shopper assurance.]

Sarah: Now they’re, like, in heaven.

Aaron: Yeah.

Doug: Right. They’re going up.

Sarah: Yeah, they’re going up into the stratosphere of happiness.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, Jason Bateman: Thank you.]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, voiceover: It’s car shopping made better.]

Aaron: Shopping for a Hyundai.

Doug: Car shopping made better.

Aaron: But what’s interesting there, so basically what they’re doing is they’re acknowledging that shopping for a car is like the final circle, the lowest rung. It’s the worst thing.

Doug: Yeah. It’s terrible. It’s the worst thing that you can go through, worse than a root canal or talking about sex with your parents.

Sarah: I will give it to them for honesty on this, the acknowledgment that just dealing with cars is horrible. It’s one of the things that everybody hates. And of course, then they completely falsely say that somehow it’s not going to hurt to spend $25,000. [laughs]

Aaron: Well see, that’s the thing. Like, I feel like this—I feel like this Hyundai ad is a step in the right direction in that, like, okay, so now you guys have admitted on the Super Bowl in your $11-million ad how terrible it is to shop for a car. Now let’s do an ad about how horrible it is to own and operate a car.

Doug: Right. Because every car ad shows—usually, when it’s not on the Super Bowl or even when it is—like, someone driving through an empty city. The streets are slick, they’re beautiful, and they’re just going. They never hit a red light. It’s perfect. And there should be a disclaimer at the bottom of every one of those ads that just says, “You will never drive like this.” You know, like, there are ads of people driving Jeeps on mountains or stuff like that. You’re not driving …

Aaron: You will never experience this.

Doug: You’re not driving on a mountain. You’re not fording a river in your Jeep Cherokee. You’re driving to Walmart to pick up your stuff.

Aaron: Actually, didn’t we once, like, produce some fine print like that for a car ad?

Doug: Oh, yeah.

Sarah: Yeah.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, parody advertisement: This episode is brought to you by cars. Do you need to go to work, take the kids to school, or bring an elderly relative to a doctor’s appointment? Then why not try cars? With cars, you can travel everywhere you need to go in climate-controlled comfort all year round. Thanks to a nationwide network of roads and free or low-cost parking, cars will take you anywhere you want to go.]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, disclaimer: Cars may not be right for everyone. 40,000 Americans will die each year from cars, not including deaths caused by exposure to particulate matter and the adverse health effects of using a mobile living room for daily activities that could otherwise be accomplished on foot or by bike if our country hadn’t spent a century subsidizing the highways, roads and parking that make cars possible. Use caution when planning journeys as cars render completely useless as a reliable form of transportation. Exposure to cars can turn ordinary people into psychopaths, and increase the likelihood that someone who, in any other situation would never even consider harming another person could suddenly, through a brief moment of distraction, be responsible for the death or life-altering injury of a fellow human being. The resources to produce and power cars could destabilize the climate to the point where Earth is turned into an uninhabitable hellscape in your lifetime. Ask your conscience if cars are right for you.]

Aaron: That’s so good.

Doug: That’s the car ad I’d like to see.

Sarah: Yeah. That is truth in advertising right there.

Doug: Yeah.

Aaron: Do you think we could get, like, legislation passed where that disclaimer has to run on every car ad?

Doug: You know, we got cigarette ads and certain alcohol ads banned from TV, so we should move in that direction for cars.

Sarah: But I don’t want it just on the ads. I want it, like, when you turn the ignition on that, that it says—that it’s piped into the—that it’s piped into the cabin.

Aaron: Along with the fake car sounds coming out?

Doug: You can see how often Sarah drives. “The cabin.”

Sarah: Like, I just got off an airplane, like, 12 hours ago.

Doug: “When you turn the metal thing with the sharp edges into the thing, and then it makes a vroom vroom sound.”

Sarah: [laughs] I know. It sounds like I’ve never driven a car before.

Doug: You’ve heard of cars.

Sarah: Yes, I’ve heard of them. They’re a strange artifact from a—from an alien culture.

Doug: But I mean, I think that is kind of the thing is that, like, most of these ads that you’re seeing, they don’t talk about mileage or crash performance or any sort of safety, or any thing that you would actually want to know if you were really making an informed choice. It’s all a straight-up emotional appeal.

Sarah: I mean, the exception to that is Subaru has made a big deal out of advertising safety, and it’s like this incredibly emotional thing about your kid, they’re gonna start driving, or—they play on a lot of things about fears about your children in cars. That’s actually something they do exploit. And actually, some of these ads really do get pretty emotional. Like, that’s—like, they play on your emotions.

Aaron: I mean, there was a Audi ad which is called “Cashew,” which I thought really hit the emotional—you know, tugging on the heartstrings.

Sarah: All right, let’s hear it.

Aaron: It starts off, and we’re in a field of tall grass. And there’s a middle aged white man, and he’s walking toward this blue house that stands alone atop a plateau.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: Grandpa?]

Aaron: There’s an older man sitting on the front steps to greet him.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: Welcome home.]

Aaron: They hug.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: Come on. I’ve got something for you.]

Aaron: Now Grandpa takes him into the barn, pulls off a sheet off of a sports car.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: What are you waiting for?]

Aaron: Gets in the car.

Doug: The thing lights up like a spaceship. He’s getting ready to drive off.

Sarah: Into the light.

Aaron: He’s jerking, he’s choking!

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: [choking sounds]]

Doug: Oh, it was all a dream and he’s back in this terrible office.

Sarah: You see that it was a cashew that flew out of his mouth as his coworker gave him the Heimlich maneuver.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, “Spirit in the Sky” – Norman Greenbaum]

Sarah: Yeah. This fluorescent-lit hell of American work wage slavery.

Doug: Yeah. Fluorescent lit. Just with, like, poorly-dressed, bad-skinned coworkers.

Aaron: Right. And so it’s all just a near-death experience. But during that near-death experience, he was fantasizing he’s with his grandfather, and his grandfather was giving him an Audi e-tron.

Sarah: Which would allow him to drive into the light of …

Doug: Pleasure forever.

Sarah: … eternal nirvana.

Doug: Yeah.

Sarah: Oh, and the tagline is, “A thrilling future awaits.”

Aaron: “One third of all new Audi models will be electrified by 2025.”

Doug: That’s great, because one third of all coastal cities will be drowned by the same year.

Sarah: [laughs]

Doug: I mean, that’s a really slow rollout. But yeah.

Aaron: Yeah, speed it up, guys. So what’s our analysis? What do we think?

Doug: To me, what I think was really interesting about it was that he’s in the job that he would have to pay for the car if he were to buy it. So you buy this amazing car. It’s like what we were talking about the fantasy of driving versus the reality. You buy this amazing spaceship-looking, electric-powered Audi, and you drive it to work to sit at your fluorescent-lit cubicle office, to pay for the car that you need to get to work.

Sarah: It’s actually similar to the first ad, the elevator ad, in that it sort of acknowledges the absolute crappiness of all of the things that surround cars: the buying of them, and also just the crappiness of the lives that we live in the spaces that we get to with cars. There’s this undercurrent that, like, hey, American capitalism is kind of depressing. [laughs]

Aaron: Right. And there’s a very sort of like Calvinist or Puritan kind of message there. Like, if you work hard enough in this life, you know, you will someday make it to heaven and own one of these.

Doug: But the tagline is, you know, “A better future awaits on Earth.” So it’s kind of like you can have this experience of pure heaven here on Earth.

Aaron: It’s available.

Doug: Your life may suck. You know, you may go to this terrible job where you’re just pushing a pencil around a desk, but if you get this Audi …

Aaron: See, but that’s the text. I’m still—you know, I come away with the emotion and the visual, and in the visual, it’s just a guy, like he’s dead.

Doug: [laughs] Yeah.

Aaron: He’s dead, and when he dies, he gets this car. And even in the car, he’s choking to death and dying. I just can’t get around that.

Doug: Yeah.

Aaron: The car is, like, choking him to death to me.

Doug: That was very Freudian. It really—yeah.

Sarah: [laughs]

Doug: He’s riding a giant hot dog.

Sarah: Okay. Okay.

Aaron: Let’s hear another one.

Doug: Okay, so talking about kind of depressing, did you see the ad for the Kia Telluride?

Aaron: Oh, my God, that one was intense!

Doug: Yeah, this one is really weird. It’s called “Give It Everything,” And how it opens up is with a close-up shot of, like, this 11- or 12-year-old boy. He’s wearing a cowboy hat, plaid shirt, denim jacket, and he’s looking straight at the camera. And then we hear his voice.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: We’re not famous. There are no stars in this sidewalk for us.]

Doug: And we see shots of, like, a small town.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: No statues in our honor.]

Doug: Horses.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: We’re just a small Georgia town of complete unknowns.]

Doug: Kids at a high school.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: The closest thing to a world stage is 81 miles away in Atlanta tonight. Our movie stardom, our football careers, they never took off because we are not known for who we are.]

Aaron: Car mechanic.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: We hope to be known for what we do.]

Sarah: Covered with motor oil.

Doug: Every now and then we see, like …

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: What we build.]

Doug: … huge shots of the Kia Telluride.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: This thing we’ve assembled.]

Sarah: Yeah, it’s building now.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: It has a chance to be remembered.]

Doug: Now we’re in the factory.

Aaron: There’s a car shot.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: No, we are not famous. But we are incredible.]

Aaron: Just faces staring at you, flatly.

Sarah: Incredible, incredible—a little smile.

Doug: Right. And then we see this thing, this Kia Telluride, fording a river, like, literally water washing over the hood, up over the windshield in a way that no human being would ever drive.

Sarah: With a disclaimer, of course, on the bottom saying, “Don’t try to do this because …

Doug: You’ll die. You’ll drown.

Sarah: … you’ll die.” [laughs]

Aaron: And the ad ends with text that just says “Telluride: Give it. Everything.”

Doug: “Give it—” period. “Everything.”

Aaron: “Give it. Everything.”

Doug: Yeah. What does that even mean?

Sarah: It means that you will have to give up your life slaving away in a factory, building this car out of foreign parts. That’s actually another disclaimer on the bottom of this ad.

Doug: I think it’s kind of like you were saying that capitalism is terrible, absolutely terrible.

Sarah: [laughs]

Doug: And this ad, on the one hand, could be seen as, like, real red state America, the kind of place where, like, the New York Times sends a hundred reporters to do yet another story on Trump voters as, like, look, diners and football, this is where the real America exists. But it’s also so depressing. Like, this is literally—I think they show horses, this is like a one-horse town where they build cars.

Aaron: Well, the kid is literally saying, like, we are complete unknowns. There is nothing—we’re not—and also, like, notice, like, you know, there are no stars in the sidewalk for us. We’re not Hollywood liberals. We’re not—you know, we’re not famous movie stars or something. We’re just—we’re total unknowns. And he says, you know, we are what we build. We are this thing that we assembled. So our individual and communal identity comes from what Kia has bestowed upon our Georgia town.

Sarah: Right. Which happens to be—which happens to be named after a place in Colorado.

Doug: [laughs] Yeah. By the way. By the way.

Aaron: Which is a very expensive ski resort.

Sarah: Yeah.

Aaron: Where the Hollywood liberals go to ski.

Doug: I watched this ad. It’s like, it is everything wrong with America and American capitalism that, like, this town’s entire identity rests on the Kia assembly plant that they have, that is at the mercy of, like, business people in another country that could easily just pick up the whole thing and move it to wherever they can get people to work for less.

Sarah: Okay, so in terms of what the ad is doing right and how it’s appealing, it makes you feel for those people, and it makes you feel like God, I hope—I mean, I came away feeling like I hope Kia doesn’t close the Telluride factory, because what’s gonna happen to these poor people? Like, I want them to have a source of income. I guess that’s the best they can do.

Aaron: Well, and fundamentally, this message that, like, you know, I believe, you know, your identity is tied to what you produce with your hands and your labor. And, you know, that’s an important part of who you are as an individual and as a community is, like, what—you know, what you guys make together. And that’s—you know, so I’m down with that message. It’s just it’s too bad it always has to be an SUV that we’re making in America.

Doug: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.

Aaron: Okay. Let’s—let’s move on. Let’s listen to another one.

Sarah: Okay. Yeah, this one is completely different. Guy at a bar, watching golf on TV.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: Make the putt.]

Sarah: The putt goes in.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: [crowd cheers]]

Sarah: Now he strides out into the street.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: Change color.]

Sarah: Changes the walk signal. Parking ticket gone.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: Tear up ticket.]

Sarah: Yeah. He’s gonna help find the little cat.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: Find the cat.]

Aaron: Cat is found.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: Make it rain.]

Aaron: Money falls from the sky.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: [operatic singing]]

Sarah: He’s in the opera now.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: Change the music.]

Sarah: Oh, yeah. But that’s not cool enough for him because he’s down. Okay. He’s, like, saving people from an elevator now.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: Use the rocket.]

Sarah: He’s advising Wile E. Coyote.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: Free Willy.]

Sarah: He’s freeing the whales.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: If only everything in life listened to you like your new A-Class.]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: Hey, Mercedes.]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: How can I help you?]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: Change color. Make it cooler. Play my music.]

Sarah: He’s driving down the street in his Mercedes A-Class, and the whole world is moving out of his way because he’s the coolest guy.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: Because when he moves, you move.]

Doug: [laughs]

Sarah: I mean, it’s like the most narcissistic dudebro fantasy of all time.

Aaron: Absolutely.

Doug: My favorite, favorite part of that ad is he gets in the car and says, “Make it cooler.” And the interior lights in the car switch color from blue to red. Make it cooler. Literally a thing that nobody else is going to see but you. Make it cooler!

Aaron: But also, like, the sneer in his voice where he goes, like, “Play my music.”

Doug: “Play my music, woman!”

Aaron: Like, “Car slave!”

Doug: Yeah, exactly.

Sarah: Right. Like, his whole—he’s smirking the entire time. Like, “I’m so cool that the whole world has to, like, conform to my coolness.”

Aaron: Right. But so it’s like—it’s like they’re ostensibly advertising that you can give your car commands like it’s an Alexa device or something.

Doug: Right.

Aaron: But the ad, the entire premise of the ad is that as this guy moves through the city, the entire city conforms to his personal needs and desires. And when he wants to move, you have to move.

Doug: Yeah, and you can make other people do stuff. It is a horrifying male fantasy, driver fantasy, sociopathic fantasy.

Aaron: It’s the ultimate …

Doug: That the world doesn’t exist except as you see it.

Sarah: That’s right. That you would actually, like, go to the opera but, like, that people wouldn’t want to be listening to opera. If you’re not wanting to listen to opera, nobody wants it.

Doug: Right. Never mind the 2,000 other people sitting there. They’d rather …

Aaron: You all have to listen to this terrible rapper.

Doug: That’s Ludacris. Hey, watch what you’re saying there.

Aaron: I’m sorry.

Doug: No, they make the connection. He is—he’s at the opera. That’s Ludacris who becomes—who turns from the opera singer into the hip hop artist. And then at the end, when he says, “Play my music,” it’s another Ludacris song.

Sarah: Yeah. Yeah.

Aaron: But to me, this one is like, it’s the purest expression of car culture, you know? And that, like, when you are in your car, the whole world, the whole city around you, every other person must move for you.

Doug: Well, who hasn’t been in their car, stuck in traffic and just yelled, “Move!”

Sarah: Yeah.

Doug: “Why don’t you move?”

Aaron: That’s what a car horn is for.

Doug: No, but even if you don’t honk your horn, you literally—like, I’ve done it. “Come on! Why aren’t people moving?”

Sarah: Yeah, “Get out of my way!”

Doug: As if that’s gonna make a difference, right? This is that fantasy come to life. I just say “Move,” I say “Do this,” and people move.

Sarah: But I think what’s interesting about it is that they sort of try to put this gloss on it like he’s also kind of altruistic. Like, he wants to find the cat and free the whale. Like, it’s like he’s not a total douchebag, although he clearly is.

Doug: Although, I mean, his apartment—seriously ladies, do not go to this man’s apartment alone because I think he’s like the character in American Psycho. It’s like a little too neat.

Sarah: And of course, this is the most American fantasy ever. It’s like the complete individualistic fantasy. And that brings us to another one of our ads, which is, you know, it’s just about America. It’s just about pure mainlining America.

Doug: I’m gonna ask you both to stand up during this ad and take your hats off.

Aaron: Take our hats off? I’m gonna be kneeling during this ad, Doug.

Doug: [laughs]

Sarah: I’m afraid that we might have to blacklist you.

Aaron: Oh.

Doug: Yeah, we’re gonna lose our sponsorship.

Aaron: Damn! I’m not gonna—I’m not gonna get picked up by any other podcast.

Sarah: [laughs]

Doug: I think this means our only choice for our halftime show is Maroon 5.

Sarah: [laughs]

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: [singing] Oh, say, can you see?]

Aaron: So this is a Jeep ad. It’s called “More Than Just Words.”

Doug: But you don’t know it’s a Jeep ad yet because you’ve not seen a car.

Aaron: No. But you do see a man with his baby and a barn and a woman in a New York City street. Oh, and there’s a Joshua tree and a cookie.

Sarah: Chocolate chip cookie.

Aaron: There’s a Jeep. There’s Broadway and a football referee and an ampersand and a man and Marilyn Monroe. Another jeep. Pillow fight. Troops practicing. Drive-In movie. An astronaut spacewalking. A firefighter climbing a ladder. Another baby and dad. Rockets. Skateboards. Kids on bikes. Baseball players. Girls on a sofa. More war. Driver’s license. A tunnel. Beautiful vista, starry—oh, there’s an American flag, finally. Brooklyn Bridge. Another barn. Iwo Jima memorial. Scrabble.

Doug: [laughs]

Sarah: That’s where they start throwing it out.

Doug: This is like lyrics to “We Didn’t Start the Fire” that don’t rhyme.

Aaron: [laughs] Exactly. Here we go. Climax.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: [singing] O’er the land of the free …]

Sarah: Skydiving.

Aaron: Baseball.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: [singing] And the home of the brave.]

Aaron: Cops. Veteran saluting. Beautiful. Country music star.

Sarah: He’s so moved. He’s so moved.

Doug: And the tagline of that is “More than just words. Jeep.”

Aaron: Yeah.

Sarah: Yeah.

Aaron: And you actually don’t see a Jeep in that ad very much. Where you do, it’s quick little cuts, vintage archive footage. You know, a Jeep being tossed out of a plane during World War II or, you know, on a beach somewhere.

Aaron: I just couldn’t help coming away from that one feeling like if you had, like, a software program, CarAdCreator.com, and all it did was …

Doug: Yeah. Artificial intelligence creates an ad.

Aaron: Yeah, artificial intelligence. And all it did was, like, go through YouTube clips to piece together a car ad, they would have come up with this.

Doug: It is kind of remarkable because a lot of the ads that were on the Super Bowl, and some of the ones that we talked about earlier were very conceptual. Like, let’s get Jason Bateman in an elevator going through floors where you experience terrible things. This one is just straight up, like, America, patriotism, Jeep.

Aaron: You can’t help but think—I mean, at least I couldn’t help but think about the fact that, like, this is the year that the NFL is having this huge controversy around, you know, the national anthem.

Doug: Right.

Aaron: And do you stand during the national anthem? Do you take a knee during the national anthem like Colin Kaepernick the quarterback did to protest African Americans being shot by police officers? And Jeep is just like leaning into the national anthem here.

Sarah: Yeah, but they made a point of a lot of the people that they show are African American, including, I think they have an African-American referee, NFL referee.

Aaron: African-American dad with a baby.

Sarah: African-American dad with a baby. But cars are the thing that unites everyone, right? I mean, almost all Americans do have to deal with cars, so it makes sense that in this great cultural coming together moment, that cars are the thing they’re pitching to you because they know that all of you are, you know, tied to cars, you have to deal with cars.

Doug: Yeah.

Aaron: Well, and so we are The War on Cars. And so we’ve just been blasted by, you know, a half a billion dollars worth of car propaganda during the Super Bowl. A take away from me, from this whole thing is kind of a reminder that there is an industry out there, and it is really big and it is really powerful and has a ton of money and influence over our culture and politics. And it is the automobile industry. And I think we need to focus on it more as—and really overtly as an industry that is fundamentally wrecking our cities, that the more of their products that they pour into our cities, the more influence they use to lobby for sprawl and highways, the more they are wrecking America. And all this messaging is about patriotism and freedom, and in fact, like, this industry is making us less free. This industry is making America, you know, less great.

Sarah: And if you feel discouraged by the idea that there’s this huge leviathan that you have to battle, well, remember that guerrilla warfare is actually—can be really effective against empire, and that it is, you know …

Aaron: That’s how we won the revolution.

Sarah: That’s how we won the American Revolution. That’s how we got our asses kicked in Vietnam. And as much as it can be painful to watch these ads sometimes, I think we need to look at them closely because you need to know your enemy.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, advertisement: When I move you move.]

Doug: So help us produce multimillion-dollar bicycle ads. You can donate at Patreon. If we get that up a little bit, you know, we might be able to put one of these …

Aaron: Next year’s Super Bowl, we could be there.

Doug: We could be—that’s our goal for 2019 is $30 million so we can run a three-minute ad on the Super Bowl. Help us out.

Sarah: Okay. [laughs]

Doug: Yes. Go to The War on Cars.

Sarah: Only with you.

Doug: Click on “Donate“, and $2 at a time we’re gonna get there.

Sarah: Also, if you could go to Apple Podcasts and rate and review us, that’s very helpful. Although, of course, you can listen wherever you get your podcasts.

Doug: And remember to go to Cotton Bureau. We have War on Cars t-shirts that you can buy there. So just go to CottonBureau.com and search for The War on Cars, and you can get a great t-shirt for yourself.

Aaron: This episode was recorded and produced by Curtis Fox. Our theme music is by Nathaniel Goodyear. Our ad music was by Blue Dot Sessions. Dani Finkel of Crucial D did our logo. I’m Aaron Naparstek.

Doug: I’m Doug Gordon.

Sarah: I’m Sarah Goodyear, and this is The War on Cars.

[Sean: Hi, this is Sean from Copenhagen. You know, I’ve been thinking about you and your life in America, your long commutes on traffic-choked freeways, your slow buses and broken subways. That’s no way to live. I invite you to escape. Come to Denmark for a little visit. From the airport, I will take you by light rail into the gorgeous center of Copenhagen. Yes, I did say light rail. Then because I know you love to bike, I will take you everywhere you want to go in real protected bike lanes, not those funny little strips of white paint that you call bike lanes in America. Bring your children. They too will enjoy a holiday from the noise and pollution and all that crazy horn honking and death. Escape with your life to Denmark. Our transit is better, safer and we are taller.]