By now you’ve probably heard about GM’s new “Stop pedaling… start driving” campaign, showing an embarrassed cyclist hiding his face from a car full of girls who are laughing at his chosen mode of transportation. Here’s the ad:
Now, I’m not going to spend the next however many words (I’ll count at the end, edit: 475) talking about how much this campaign sucks. Enough other websites are already covering it, and I’m sure that more sites/news organizations will take it and run with it in the future. What I’d like to try to figure out is *why* I have such a visceral reaction to this…
Part of it is obviously the “you’re not cool” message that it’s sending to cyclists, and part of it is that GM is advocating college students to go VASTLY into debt just to avoid looking uncool. It’s the idea that people (students) can be shamed into doing something completely antithetical to their financial interests, just to avoid the peer pressure. It’s the corporate version “oh come on, just try it, everybody’s doing it!!” (For the record, GM isn’t unique in this approach. Toyota did it just recently with that annoying tow-headed little shit who kept going on and on about how lame his parents or his friends’ parents were.)
But that doesn’t explain all of it. I’m almost wondering whether GM is trying to appeal, not to people like the cyclist (who probably don’t have the cash to drop on a brand new car anyway) but to people like the girls in the car… It’s trying to captivate the types of people who would scoff at a person on a cyclist, or the people driving whatever GM POS is in the flash homepage on the GM college site (Buick Enclave maybe?):
It’s trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator of consumers by ridiculing the people who choose to walk, or choose to ride a bike, or choose to take public transportation. It’s “Hey, let’s not be like that dork riding a bike”, or “Whew, thank god we’re in a car today instead of that woman we just soaked in dirty streetwater.” It’s appealing to one group by deliberately ostracizing the other.
What’s interesting (disturbing) is that GM is completely oblivious to what’s *actually* going on in America today. Consumers are shedding debt as fast as they can, going from a negative savings rate in 2007 to between 5-7% today. We’re ditching expensive, inefficient SUVs and turning towards bicycles, public transportation and carpooling to get around. We’re leaving ticky-tacky suburbia behind, and moving towards cities and areas where we can get around more easily. So to try to combat this they…. insult the people who are willing to make changes to their lives and ridicule those who have found faster and more efficient means to get around.
Way to prove you’re still relevant, GM.