It can’t be… It is!

“Take a fresh look at Buick,” the voiceover tells us in the carmaker’s new anthem. The commercial features vignettes of people in disbelief that the lovely new car they are gazing upon and/or riding in is in fact a Buick. An old woman insists the regal beauty in her son’s driveway is not a Buick. She grew up with Buicks and knows her Buicks. A valet keeps running past a new Buick in the parking lot searching for what we surmise must be an old-fashioned car. Later we see him behind the wheel. “Nice,” he says. A desperately envious housewife ogles her neighbor’s new SUV, unaware it is a Buick, as her cuckold husband mopes beside her.

In the print ad a hip millennial with blue streaks in her hair smiles behind the wheel mocking the notion of Buick being only for blue-haired ladies.

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We get the idea. Buick has been transformed into a luxury car made for today. In other words, this is not your father’s Buick. Obviously, we’ve been down this road before…

In the late 80’s I was on the team that introduced America to a truly new Oldsmobile. Barely into my first job at Leo Burnett, I wrote and produced the opening commercial in the now infamous “Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile” campaign, featuring William Shatner and his daughter. For that, I wrote the line, “New Generation of Olds” but America really only remembers the step-up line, which became part of the pop culture lexicon. Even so, within a few years Oldsmobile would go out of business, retiring the brand forever. For more on all that, including some great insider controversy, start here.

The point is Buick is trying to do the exact same thing. My guess is that it won’t end well for them either. I say this not because the strategy is necessarily wrong but as Oldsmobile learned the hard way it might very well be a dooming one. No matter how clever the executions –and these are decent- Buick is still telling folks that it is not an old-fashioned car (anymore), which, alas, has the unfortunate side effect of reminding people that Buick is totally known for being old-fashioned. It is a paradox. A bit like saying your cool ultimately means you’re not cool. We see these commercials and we cannot help but think Buick doth protest too much.

I mean no ill will for Buick or their ad agency. But I have spent decades wondering what went wrong with Oldsmobile, especially given how much America loved our silly campaign. There are but two reasons: The new generation of Olds was not as good as our father’s. And that the marketing released a deadly worm into the world dooming Oldsmobile to the scrap heap of history.

Anything can happen. After all, these new Buicks may well be damn fine cars. But perception is reality and this campaign inevitably ignites a very dangerous perception.

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Even I was fooled by the front cover of Adweek magazine. Maybe you saw it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t upload the image. This week’s edition read: “Agency of the year, Rothman, Greene & Mohr.” Who are these guys? I wondered. And wasn’t Crispin Porter & Bogusky Adweek’s agency of the year?

Turns out the whole thing is a promotion for my friend’s new TV show, “Trust Me,” about advertising and relationships in the Windy City. Unlike Mad Men, the series takes place here and now. RG&M is the fictional Chicago ad agency depicted in the series. The two 30-something white guys on the cover are its stars, Eric McCormack and Tom Cavanagh. (Speaks well of the casting, seeing as the two actors look like every creative director I’ve ever known, though perhaps a bit more photogenic!)

You’d think I’d have seen this coming, given how I helped creators’ Hunt Baldwin and John Coveny with some prepping and propping. (That’s my Cannes Gold Lion in Mason’s office. Don’t lose it!)

Yet, I was totally fooled. The artistry of this faux campaign goes pretty deep. Read the “interview” with Mason and Connor in Adweek. And check out the agency website: rgmagency.com

the agency website, complete with real clients!

On it you’ll even find a client roster, some of them real, some not. Among the actual clients are Dove and Buick. Madison avenue and Hollywood are truly merged. Not featured are the two pieces of Euro RSCG business in the show as well: Effen Vodka and Potbelly. (I’m not sore for the omission…but good luck selling those Buicks.)

It’s an impressive campaign, obvious yet original. Here’s hoping the show is too! The early reviews have been very good. Now, finally, it’s your turn. “Trust Me” premiers next week on January 26th at 10 p.m. ET.

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And so we come to the end. Last Friday Circuit City stopped breathing, bellied up. Everyone saw it coming but still. They’re one of our clients. Correction. They were one of our clients. Short-circuited now. Finished. And just weeks before the demise of analog TV. Ironic, huh? My agency more or less planned for this. We will make out. But what about the 40.000 Circuit City employees?

I know. We’re in a Recession. Maybe only the beginning of one. In the immortal words of Cheech and Chong, things are tough all over. Maybe so but if my foul mood needs a reason the “R” word about covers it. That and below zero temperatures.

Obama’s inauguration should cheer but right now I need to shed some hate. It’s my blog and I’ll cry if I want to. First up, Rod Blagojevich. And not just because he’s a cheat and a liar. We’ve seen those before. It’s his childish defiance and denial. When he quoted Rudyard Kipling in his defense I wanted to punch him in front of his children. Other reasons to loathe him are that bad, football-coach hair and his jerk-ass name. Who names their kid Rod? And here’s a tip. Given the whole world perceives you as a felon do you think it’s wise wearing all black all the time, and a tracksuit no less? You look like the cartoon criminal you undoubtedly are. Stand down, jerk!

Pop music sucks. I can’t think of an effen song younger than my daughter that’s worth 99 cents on I-tunes. Beyonce. Britney. Justin. Every single American Idle contestant. Who are these people? Sex pots with a good shower voice, that’s who. And that’s it. I guarantee no one will ever listen to any of this music five years from now, let alone remember its practitioners. Rock acts like the Fray, Maroon Five and Fallout Boy are so boring I can’t even drum up hatred. Must we rely on warhorses like U2 and REM for quality music?

And can we give the harmonic synthesizers a rest? You know what I’m talking about: that cheesy special effect singer’s use on their vocals. It’s not that I don’t understand the words it’s that the words sound awful. It was lame when Peter Frampton did it a million years ago. Enough. You sound like you’re singing through a kazoo.

There is nothing “real” about reality TV. Hello! There are cameras in the room. It is pro wrestling for girls, gay men and bored housewives. How anyone can relate to assorted booby housewives and has-beens is beyond me. This sort of programming has a slimy My Space veneer. I get why people like it. I just don’t like that people get it. And the shows that pretend a moral conscience? Whether rehabbing houses or junkies, the mock sincerity grates. I suppose some reality programming has conceptual value. Following around crab fisherman in the North Atlantic teaches us about hardship. Thankfully, there are no booty calls. Least liked of the lot: The Bachelor. How can any of these women (and men) look into the camera and claim they are looking for true love? Have any of them no shame? They want fame. Unfortunately, admitting it would diminish the program’s already paltry veneer.

The American auto industry deserves its miserable fate. The combustible fuel engine is so hopelessly last century. It was invented at the turn of the 19th! In less than 20 years we went from calculators and typewriters to computing. In the same span, we evolved music from vinyl to digital. What are cars doing burning fossil fuel? Not only does it pollute the air and cost a fortune; it’s running out! This view has nothing to do with my politics and everything to do with evolving technology and world reality. Besides, there are too many carmakers and too many car lines. If Chrysler went away, other than the loss of jobs, would anybody miss it? The same can be said for Buick. Maybe even Ford.

Finally, I’d like to return serve on all the haters hating big advertising agencies for being…big advertising agencies. Listen. When I started out I wanted to work only for a big advertising agency. I wanted to work on big brands and work with big people. I had big ideas. And I wanted to come up with many more. Of course I wanted the big office one day. That’s the American Dream, isn’t it? Those who don’t make it don’t for many reasons, some fair and some not. Blaming a big agency for personal failure is a cop out. Hating successful people for their success (in good times and bad) is hypocritical.
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Okay, I’m better now. In honor of Martin Luther King’s birthday I’m ready to practice acceptance and tolerance. But first lets put Blago in a Buick and push him off a cliff!