Skip to content

Posts from the "Ad Nauseam" Category

18 Comments

Oscar Health Insurance: “Bike Messengers Can Blindside You”

Health insurance company Oscar is banking on fear and loathing of cyclists. Photo: Danielle Kosecki/Twitter

Health insurance company Oscar is banking on fear and loathing of cyclists. Photo: Danielle Kosecki/Twitter

Here’s one for the tone-deaf PR file.

Oscar, a “startup” health insurance company helmed by real estate heir and venture capitalist Joshua Kushner (brother of Observer publisher Jared Kushner), is hoping to sign up young, tech-savvy New Yorkers in need of health coverage. To do this, the company has launched an ad campaign that features this message: “Bike messengers can blindside you. Medical bills shouldn’t.”

Bike messengers, who are less common on NYC’s streets today than they were a decade or two ago, tend to be scapegoated like this — the embodiment of all that is fearsome about city traffic.

Statewide, the economic cost of car crashes in terms of medical expenses and lost productivity is in the billions. Last year, 168 pedestrians and 10 cyclists died in NYC traffic, while more than 4,000 cyclists and 16,000 pedestrians were injured. The last time a New York City cyclist killed a pedestrian was April 2009, when Stuart Gruskin was killed by a wrong-way delivery cyclist on a Midtown street.

Fashion magazine editor Danielle Kosecki, who also rides with a NYC-based women’s cycling team, saw the insurer’s ad on a recent subway ride and was not impressed. She tweeted to the company and called the ad “fear mongering.”

Other health insurance companies have embraced cycling as a way to market themselves in a positive light and encourage their customers to stay fit. And organizations like the Centers for Disease Control, the American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics not only see traffic crashes as preventable but encourage active transportation to improve health.

Oscar didn’t have anything to say in reply to Kosecki’s tweet except, “Our customers know what they can expect to pay for doctor visits, procedures, etc. That’s all this ad is about: price. #transparency” Streetsblog asked the company if it had any other response to criticism of the campaign. We’ll let you know if we hear anything back.

No Comments

Bam! The Pakistani Safe Driving PSA That Says It All

Bd94jEEIEAA3rdx

It’s official. Safe driving PSAs made outside the U.S. are far, far better than anything you’ll find in a domestic media outlet. This latest example comes from The Frontier Post, an English language Pakistani news site.

The image, which appears to have been made by the newspaper’s advertising arm, is going viral on Twitter.

Meanwhile, the New Zealand anti-speeding commercial we featured last week is up to almost 7 million views on YouTube. So, perhaps the good news for Americans who are concerned about traffic safety is that messages as strong as these may no longer need a major media platform to reach a large audience.

26 Comments

Now Arriving on the Brooklyn-Bound Track, the Worst Ad Placement Ever

Photo: Doug Gordon/##https://twitter.com/BrooklynSpoke/status/422731147467296768/photo/1##@BrooklynSpoke##

Photo: Doug Gordon/@BrooklynSpoke

Whoever convinced Jaguar to buy this ad wrap, spotted by Doug Gordon, is earning his or her salary. I mean, what do the F train and the F-Type have in common, other than the letter F?

Yes, they’re both transportation vehicles. But one costs around $2 per trip while the other starts at $69,000 — plus taxes, license fees, insurance, parking, gas, and maintenance. Seriously, who sees this ad and thinks, “I believe I’ll trade my MetroCard for a $1,500 a month debt load”?

The F train doesn’t have a top speed of whatever, but it can get from 14th Street to Prospect Park with just 12 stops in between. And there’s no battling the horn-honking morass at the toll-free East River bridges.

“Good To Be Bad” — what’s that about? Good to be a bad driver? Good to be bad with money? Hard to tell given the context.

Jaguar can’t seem to settle on a tagline these days, but I notice they didn’t pick “Mark Your Territory” for this one. Maybe that’s because when it comes to getting around NYC — in terms of cost, convenience, and speed — the subway leaves even the most bombastic hot rod in the dust. No lame slogan can change that.

No Comments

Is This Anti-Speeding PSA Too Real for America?

Wow. This public safety spot from New Zealand really brings home how decisions we casually make while driving can have grave consequences.

The PSA questions the whole idea that traffic violence is somehow unavoidable, the result of fate more than human error. In the United States the notion that traffic collisions are nothing but tragic “accidents” remains baked right into the language that most people use to describe these incidents.

We were alerted to this video by Erik Griswold, who asserted that the Federal Highway Administration and the Ad Council “would never allow” such a powerful public safety message about speeding to air here in the United States.

22 Comments

Nissan to Millennials: If You Really Want to Get Around, Don’t Drive

This Nissan ad, in heavy rotation during the NFL playoffs, smacks of 21st century carmaker desperation.

In “Commute,” a young motorist, stuck with colleagues in city traffic and watching cyclists pass her by, speeds onto a conveniently located ramp and launches her Nissan Rogue on top of a passing train. Now they can get where they’re going quickly and reliably.

“Fantasy, do not attempt,” reads a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer, as the driver floors it and M.I.A.’s “Y.A.L.A.” pulses in the background. “Cars can’t jump on trains.”

True to car ad convention, the millennial crew lands in an empty parking lot, having arrived early for their meeting. Says the voice-over: “Commute your way with the bold, all-new Nissan Rogue.”

This ad bears resemblance to the subject of the first-ever Streetsblog Ad Nauseam. The ground has shifted in the seven years since General Motors levitated cars and drivers above traffic-choked urban streets. While motorists still yearn to escape their own gridlock, the Nissan ad is a pretty clear-cut expression of automaker anxiety over millennials’ transportation preferences.

Cars can’t jump on trains — but people can, and increasing numbers of young Americans are opting not to drive. In 2014, “commute your way” sounds less like a car company slogan than an invitation to trade the hassles of auto ownership for a bike or metro pass.

The real fantasy, of course, is that you can drive everywhere without expecting to get stuck in traffic. Carmakers know this, and their target audience does too. Wrote one YouTube commenter: “Millennials are choosing transit and bikes over car-debt. Nissan, your strategy is showing.”

33 Comments

Ad Nauseam: “In New York, I Can’t Get Anything Done Without a Car”

Meet Erin Walsh, Manhattan fashion stylist. In a video series, Vogue follows Walsh around New York as she visits celebrity clients preparing for a gala. And because the videos are sponsored by Cadillac, they relay an important message: Walsh could not function if she weren’t being driven around the city in a large Cadillac SUV.

“I think in terms of working in a city like New York, especially in New York, I can’t get anything done without a car,” Walsh says shortly before the 30-second mark, as the video shows her typing and texting in the back seat. ”I might be in the car with my computer prepping for another job while we’re en route to the next one.”

Her SUV, which the videos miraculously never show stuck in traffic, also shields her from the hustle and bustle of the city — you know, other people. “My work demands as much and as many moments of concentration as you can allot. You need that quiet amidst the chaos,” Walsh explains.

But the chauffer-driven car offers more than just a stress-free work space. Walsh gets her inspiration by looking out her car window at pedestrians. “Even between appointments, my eyes and my ears are always open because you’ll see the way a certain woman walks down the street and the way she carries her handbag,” she says over gauzy shots out the window.

It looks like Veronica Moss has found her stylist.
67 Comments

Transit Commuters Are Stinking Low-Lifes, Subaru Tells Transit Commuters

Think transit commuters are unwashed, uncouth bums? Subaru does. And the carmaker doesn’t mind telling them so.

In recent Canadian editions of Metro — the free daily distributed at transit stops — Subaru ran a two-page spread spouting just about every negative transit, and transit rider, stereotype you can think of. The ad was brought to our attention by Sabrina Lau Texier, a transportation planner in Vancouver.

“While you’re sitting on public transit, just imagine your commute in a new Subaru Impreza,” the copy reads. “No weird smells, no overhearing awful music, and nobody asking you for spare change.” Classy.

On the first page are “coupons” for an “odour free ride to work” (nothing but that carcinogenic new car smell), “less chance of being asked for money” (except by Subaru and Exxon), savings on “obligatory transit conversations with coworkers” (down with human interaction!), “free confidence” (for $19,995), and our favorite: “half off arbitrary and inexplicable transit delays.” As opposed to the gridlock-free ride we can expect if we all ditch transit to drive a Subaru to the office — alone, of course, to avoid those unpleasant conversations with co-workers.

The ad implies that the Impreza has a better safety rating than transit. Canada had 6.5 traffic fatalities and 500 injuries per 100,000 people in 2010, according to the latest available figures.

Think the folks at Subaru don’t know transit ridership is booming, and not because commuters just need to be sold on “symmetrical full-time All-Wheel Drive”? Ads like this one, as Lau Texier puts it, are “a desperate attempt to stay relevant for an industry with declining sales.”

Maybe a campaign based on the premise that your target audience is a bunch of losers is not the most winning strategy.

Read more…

13 Comments

Acura: Santa Is Real, and You Better Watch Out

If you tuned in to the news earlier this week, you likely heard that in 2011 U.S. road fatalities dropped to their lowest level since 1949. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the media practically consider it cause for celebration that *just* 32,000 or so people were killed in motor vehicle crashes last year. Maybe that’s understandable. In the last six decades, since the time before seat belts and padded dashboards were standard equipment, it’s the best we’ve been able to manage.

While everyone wants to get that 32,000 closer to zero, for some time it’s been socially acceptable to market American passenger vehicles as race cars. Though on one hand auto companies tout safety features that have helped reduce driver and passenger deaths, many if not most ads emphasize horsepower and high-speed handling. As if every family sedan doubled as a rally racer, and every motorist, possessing the keys to that sedan, could pass for a highly-skilled stunt driver.

A new seasonal campaign from Acura is a particularly egregious example. In these ads, celebrities including Dr. Phil and Santa Claus tear through urban streets, their eyes barely on the road as they zig-zag between lanes and speed around corners while lecturing passengers, whom they have plucked from shopping for Christmas decorations, on the finer points of decking the halls. “Listen to the voice of reason,” goes the tagline.

These commercials go a step further than the “need for speed” fantasies conveyed in much auto advertising. The hook here is that the celebs are driving fast, heedless of their environment. Watch the relieved couple hug when Dr. Phil drops them off at the Christmas tree stand. Hear the tires chirp when Santa backs across a sidewalk. Acura is promoting reckless driving. That’s the joke.

Read more…

14 Comments

Honda to Sleeping, Distracted and Aggressive Drivers: Don’t Sweat It.


Honda’s new “We Know You” campaign includes a series of 16-second spots, presented as a medley of sorts in the ad above, which touts the safety features of the new Accord.

The Accord comes with a “drift warning” that alerts the driver when the car has entered another lane, a “forward collision warning” light that flashes and beeps when a sudden stop is required, and a “blind spot display” screen that, per Honda, facilitates quick lane changes. The gist of the ads is that attentive driving is no longer necessary — Honda has got your back.

The most egregious, and telling, commercial of the campaign has to be “Tired You,” which depicts a white collar type chugging coffee as he tries in vain to stay awake while driving on a flat, straight deserted road. When his Accord crosses the center line, the alarm sounds, the man jerks awake — and keeps driving.

Read more…

StreetFilms 17 Comments

Is This the First U.S. Car Ad to Feature a Protected Bike Lane?

Since I’ve been doing lots of research, analysis and interviews for a future Streetfilm looking at car commercials, this Lexus ES ad, in heavy rotation on football Sundays, caught my eye. It just might be a first (at least in the United States): a major car company showcasing a car on a complete street!

Yes, “Infinite Glances” is your typically slick, highly-manipulated production, but it’s kind of exciting to see the protected bike lane representin’ on the right hand side of the screen. From the look of the city, I knew it was likely Dunsmuir Street, which does indeed have a wonderful protected bike facility.

However, delve a little deeper into the photoshopping and effects and you’ll find that the advertising world just can’t leave well enough alone.

Read more…