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Jukes of hazard

Is there a worse car spot on TV right now than the “Donut Action” commercial for the Nissan Juke? Take a look:

Here’s the script:

[A young businessman named Kowalczyk drives a Nissan Juke through the city, humming Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.” A cell phone rings. On screen: “Bluetooth compatible device is needed for Bluetooth phone.”]
Kowalczyk: Kowalczyk.
Voice on phone: Emergency Kowalczyk!
Kowalczyk: What is your emergency?
Voice on phone: The intern forgot the donuts for the status meeting!
[Kowalczyk hits a button on the dashboard and begins racing through city traffic as an orchestral version of “Ride of the Valkyries” fades up. Kowalczyk uses his in-dash GPS to locate a donut shop called Big House Donuts.]
Kowalczyk: Bingo.
[Kowalczyk arrives at donut shop and leaps through a plate glass window. On screen: “Do not attempt.”]
Kowalczyk: It’s OK, I’m on a mission.
[Nissan Juke seen skidding across a parking lot. On screen: “Dramatization. Do not attempt. Always obey traffic laws.” We cut to a closeup of Kowalczyk driving. On screen: “Professional Driver. Closed course. Do not attempt.”]
Kowalczyk, looking into camera: Professional driver, closed course.
[Nissan Juke continues zipping through traffic, narrowly skidding around a large truck that pulls dangerously into the street. Kowalczyk parks the Juke in a garage, races to an elevator, runs across his office, leaping over a desk and scattering papers while holding a donut box. He arrives in a conference room and sends the box of donuts sliding across the table, into a manager’s hands. His coworkers look at him with awe.]
Kowalczyk: Bang.
[On screen: Car hero shot, pricing, pricing disclaimer, Nissan logo.]
Announcer: That’s right. We put a turbo in a sportcross. The all new Nissan Juke. Innovation for success. Innovation for all.

Are you kidding me, Nissan? In just 60 seconds, the viewer has to read not 1 but 4 disclaimers warning that the behavior in the commercial is dangerous. And it is! Driving while distracted, passing city traffic using your turbocharger, leaping through a freakin’ window, skidding through a parking structure, and far more showboating than the situation calls for.

If the ad were a masterpiece of slapstick comedy—if the humor overpowered the disturbing shot of large truck about to plow into a young driver—it might be deserving of a pass. There’s almost a tragic, Office/Office Space-style mood to it. There’s something funny about having a job so lame that you’re a hero for providing donuts. But it’s not funny enough.

This ad is uncomfortably close to the kind of real behavior that sends young drivers—likely Juke owners—to the emergency room. You can easily imagine an alternate ending: Kowalczyk speeds to run some trivial errand in his freshly waxed sportcross, clips the curb, mows down a cyclist, and rolls over in a ditch, blood oozing down his forehead. (Announcer: “The all-new Nissan Juke. With dual-stage front airbags!”)

Cars are dangerous. And while it’s common to see dangerous driving in commercials, it’s usually for beauty shots—a truck bounding over rocks, or a sporty car taking a tight corner on a mountain road. Here it’s used as part of a story that echoes a real-world situation. I doubt any kid is going to smash a Juke into a truck because of this commercial, but it sends a message that aggressive driving is fun and sexy. This ad shouldn’t have aired.

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Who wrote this ad? TBWA/Chiat/Day Los Angeles, under chief creative officer Rob Schwartz. (Full list of credits here.)
Who signed off on it? Most likely Nissan North America VP marketing Jon Brancheau.

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Advertising, Copywriting