Writer at Large

Writer at Large by Bob Karolevitz We were watching television the other night, and I counted 12 car commercials.

There was a time when I could tell one make from another � but not anymore.

Probably that's why they have to advertise so much!

Take Sports Utility Vehicles, for instance. Every maker has an SUV, not to mention all those vans with enough seats to take everyone for a ride. They've also got compartments galore; a picture tube for the kids; and more room than you'll ever need � unless you'd want to haul a company of soldiers somewhere.

And they always show them where I could NEVER take a car. The vehicles plow through mud, over huge rocks, up and down steep inclines and on jungle trails where the average driver never goes. At least I don't.

Account executives in Madison Avenue ivory towers dream up those outrageous scenarios that take up more time on TV than the shows we'd hoped to watch.

(Unfortunately, they never use humor like the beer commercials. I enjoyed the iguanas.)

When it comes right down to it, I guess the auto folks are competing against each other, the couch potatoes be danged. It could be that I'm the odd one, though. Maybe I just don't understand.

After all, the negative video ads in political wars generate lots of votes, the big boys tell me, while they just turn me off.

Actually, when I buy a new automobile (I'm a mechanical idiot so I don't purchase a used one), I'm mostly a tire-kicker. I go where I've been treated well, and the advertising I see on the tube doesn't mean a thing to me. But then I may be an enigma.

Other guys can talk cars like we used to talk girls. Where oh where did I go wrong?

Getting back to the commercials, each manufacturer has a deal better than the next fellow. With rebates and cash-backs you'd think you're going to get the car for nothing. Most viewers, however, don't read the small print; it goes by so fast.

And the names they think up! Every model has a monicker, and here's a litany of some of them:

Tempo, Tornado, Dakota, Explorer, Expedition, Ram, Rover, Intrepid, Pilot, Pathfinder, Tahoe, Magnum, Durango, Sierra, Viper, etc.

Dictionary-thumbers, it seems, are more important than design engineers.

Colors are another thing. You get a choice of mint green, sunset red, fuchsia, turquoise and 99 other variations. I like Henry Ford's comment best:

"You can have any color � as long as it's black!"

The advertising must work, though, as speed, horse power and ball-joint suspensions sell. The auto makers � and the pharmaceutical firms � use up most of the time between show stops, kickoffs and every excuse they have to run a spot.

Come to think of it, I wouldn't be surprised if one of the car companies named their latest models Viagra and Nexium. That way they'd kill two birds with one message. The Nexium would be purple, of course.

I suppose we'll just have to live with it, know our TV viewing will be disrupted. Anyhow, the advertising gives us time to go to the refrigerator. Or � better yet � we could just turn the television off, and read a book.

© 2004 Robert F. Karolevitz

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