Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Truth in Advertising

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It's a sad state of affairs when Tintin, an animated character still seen from time to time on TV, drives better than just about everyone portrayed in automobile advertising.

Tintin is based on the works of Belgian cartoonist George Remi, who wrote under the pen name Herg©.

Tintin is old-school in that he holds the wheel at 10 and 2, versus the 9 and 3 that we teach in advanced driving today. But he keeps both hands on the wheel, and is obviously concentrating on the task. You don't see Tintin turning to make eye contact with his passengers, either.

It's unfortunate that advertisers miss the opportunity to highlight some basic driving skills.

Like it or not, we are manipulated and influenced by what we see on television, and it would be a contribution to public safety if drivers in the ads showed a reasonable degree of competence.

There's a Dodge ad which shows the driver steering with one hand on top of the steering wheel, something that will make any advanced-driving professional cringe. A while back, Acura had a fellow, with obligatory stubble, turning to look at the camera as he drove along. Just keep your eyes on the road, Bucky, and try a proper seating position as well.

Another ad stresses some sort of adrenaline buzz, when we know that skilled drivers keep adrenaline levels under control. In bigger doses, it's is the enemy of performance, leading to muscle tension and what we call the red mist, basically yielding to excitement and losing skill.

Some ads are either goofy, inane or offensive, occasionally managing all three in a fantastic triple crown. STP's current effort hits two out of three. The product is by all accounts good, and it does what it claims on the bottle. But "The left lane is a club..."?

Give me a break. Unless you want to be one of those self-righteous, obnoxious people who hog that part of the road, you understand the left lane is for overtaking. Keep right except to pass. Kick out of cruise control, get the overtaking done, then move out of the left lane.

I'd love to meet the people who decided the voice-over needed to be done in such gravelly male tones. Must be from the same school as the people who script ads for pickup trucks. You want to really catch our attention, borrow the cheerful ladies from certain other adverts, and then have Mr. Gravel Voice promoting pregnancy tests.

Jeep's ad showing a vehicle driving through an avalanche didn't play well here in the mountains. Most of us have first-hand experience with, or have lost friends to, snow slides. Creativity can backfire badly.

I was doing a national ride-and-drive program with Subaru around the time they hired the same advertising folks who had become famous for Nike's "Just Do It" slogan. What resulted for Subaru, though, was the tag line "What to Drive," at once insipid and forgettable. The company was likely saved when Paul Hogan, aka Crocodile Dundee, began doing ads for the Outback.

Why don't we see better driving in car, truck and automotive product ads? Largely because most of the people involved don't know any better. It should be a requirement for any producer or director of such material to first attend an advanced-driving school, a proper one with solid international credentials. At the very least, have a professional driver around to make things a bit more credible.

Alan Sidorov is an experienced automobile racer, product tester and freelance writer. You can reach him at www.spdt.ca.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 26, 2013 E4

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