Carmichael Lynch takes the Subaru Outback on a hipster honeymoon.

April 13, 2011

“We could have gone a more traditional route but it wouldn’t have been nearly as memorable.” That’s the sole line of copy in this commercial, “Honeymoon” for the Subaru Outback from Carmichael Lynch. Part of their “Love” campaign, which, according the agency website, has doubled the automaker’s market share in the last three years.

That’s a good result, especially for a carmaker that has long struggled for relevance, let alone sales. But not for lack of trying. If you’ve read Randall Rothenberg’s chronicle, Where the Suckers Moon then you know something about these efforts as well as advertising history. If you haven’t read this fine book, do so. Few, if any, advertising books are as entertaining and revealing. Suffice it to say, Subaru has a notorious creative past.

Back to the commercial at hand, about a young couple using the vehicle to go on an exotic camping trip for their honeymoon. They encounter rugged obstacles, including an ox in the road. When they set up camp, a lovely white tent, a rainstorm forces them back into their trusty Outback. They laugh and smile throughout. Awwww!

The AVO (from the husband’s POV) deftly refers to their unusual choice for honeymoon as well as vehicle. A simple concept, if I saw the storyboard I’d get it immediately. The execution is lovely as well, capturing the young couple in all their joy. I must say I grow weary of soulful crooning in commercials (Do people really listen to this pap?) but I suppose it’s appropriate here.

So it’s a good fim but is it an appropriate way to sell an SUV? For years, carmakers have tried to convince Mr. and Mrs. Smith that rugged SUV’s actually make great vehicles for shopping malls and soccer pick-ups. Mission accomplished. SUV’s are ubiquitous. Annoyingly so.

Here Subaru is going back to the future, taking a pair of upper-middle class kids into the outback. Your marriage isn’t about malls and soccer practice, it’s telling them. Not yet, anyway. Whether we believe this shaggy hipster and his ‘Zoe’ of a bride would actually take such a honeymoon is immaterial. This is Hollywood romance, a la Out of Africa or, more plausibly, visiting Australia your senior year of college. I believe the word is “yearning.” If young people end up yearning for a Subaru Outback, I’m sure the agency and client would be giddy as newlyweds.

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5 Responses to “Carmichael Lynch takes the Subaru Outback on a hipster honeymoon.”

  1. Y’know, I’ve seen the new Subaru spots for awhile and my takeaway continues to be “Nope, I’m not buyin’ it.”

    And until just a few years ago I was a big proponent of the Subaru – from the old early 70′s models that needed oil in the gas and moved though snow better than 4×4′s to the one’s in the eighties and early nineties that just wouldn’t die, no matter what you did to them. They were like the bastard offspring of a jeep CJ and a station wagon – practical, tough and kinda genuinely cool because they were out of the mainstream. And they didn’t care.

    Recently I test drove one along with my wife and was mortified to find that while they sort of looked like a Subaru, they’d been gutted and homogenized – cookie cutter interiors hidden inside a somewhat different exterior. A soulless tin can.

    No, they’re not the abomination that the new ‘Americanized’ VW Jetta is – that’s about as white bread as humanly possible without being forced to turn in your fatherland citizenship papers and made to move to Springfield (any of them), but it does a disservice to a company,history, car and driving experience that was cool and fun without having to buy into the porsche club.

    Sorry, the original VW bug (Pre-’69) is my favorite car of all time, so I get a little testy when I see what they’ve done.

    Anyway, back to the Subaru spot: as I said, not buyin’ it.

    Why?

    Well, it’s contrived for starters. Completely and utterly fanciful. And while that’s ok, I suppose, on occasion, it’s nothing more than a pure branding spot. And by branding spot, I mean that it is merely hoping to sell the veneer of a concept, as opposed to a vehicle. I say that’s bullshit. Mostly, because while I love solid branding, I am firmly in the camp of Ogilvy when it comes to our Job One: selling a product.

    There’s no call to action here, just a sing-songy bit of fluffery that, I suppose, somebody – either agency or client – is hoping that a chunk of demographic will identify with in a wishful sort of way, but which is also strong enough to get them to truly consider making an actual purchase of a 30K plus product. And unless I see some sort of feature or claim to capability in conjunction with the branding, I don’t think that this spot’s going to ultimately contribute to Subaru’s bottom line, except as a piece of a larger puzzle. Which poses it’s own problem, as every spot should – like figuring out how much each square foot of retail space needs to produce in monetary terms – carry credible, tangible and measurable selling power along with the (important) brand trappings.

    Plus, seriously, another f’in hipster? And don’t these people even bathe, shave or comb their hair on their wedding day at least? Really, it’s as if that rain storm gave that guy his first shower in weeks. Then again, I admittedly hate blatant hipster-accesorizing for ads (see this blog post I wrote last year about that: http://lawrencemannino.com/?p=15 ).

    Worst of all, it’s lazy, safe creative: this whole scene is a bad cliche of cobbled together concepts that borrow from faux sixties nostalgia and faux 21st century ‘individualism’ to celebrate a faux Subaru that is the echo of a once great vehicle.

    Also, I’m done with Adweek too ;) Bring back Creativity in print!

    Best,
    L-

    • SRP said

      Well, there you have it.
      Larry you make a strong case.
      I still think the film is “lovely” but is lovely a good thing?
      Anyone else have a take on it?

  2. jim schmidt said

    the target is smug urbanites who listen to Ray Lamontagne and argue over who’s funnier: david sedaris or amy sedaris. they eat this shit up like it’s fresh arugula.

    • Agreed – and hopefully the spot makes them feel good about some wishful projection of themselves. I just wonder if it’s compelling enough to make them pull the ‘buy’ trigger – not sure if there’s enough there. For me, I think they’d be better served bullet-pointing facts about exactly what kind of arugula-cargo capacity the vehicle can boast, and how many Ray Lamontagne tracks the sound system can store ;)

    • SRP said

      There is a chick flick vibe to all this, which is smug and precious. Can it generate yearning for the Outback? If the target “eats this shit up” the answer is yes…probably!

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