August 16, 2006

That Hummer "Tofu" ad.

I think it's great. It's fast and funny and gets the point across. Slate is whining about it. And Metafilter's talking up a storm. I like that the manufacturer shows it thinks we have a sense of humor about the emotional dimension of buying a car and that we aren't hung up about the sexual meaning of shopping.

ADDED: By getting Slate to bitch about it, Hummer got me to watch the commercial. Practically the only way to get me to see a commercial is to get some internet controversy going. Like, remember "girthy" franks?

37 comments:

The Drill SGT said...

I think the ad doesn't hit he mark. I paricularly disike the Mom and kid who are dissed on the playground.

Jeanne said...

Why does tofu have such a bad reputation, anyway? Tofu is good stuff.

El Presidente said...

In the socialist paradise one does not need material goods to prove his manhood.

bill said...

From food writer Meg Hourihan:

Is soy the next corn? A long, detailed report from the Guardian questions the health claims of soy, looks at the broad use of soy in processed foods and its extensive planting and destruction of our natural resources, and wonders if this miracle bean is as miraculous as we've been told. I drink soy milk every day, now this article's got me wondering if I should.

BJK said...

I've always thought of the Hummer as more of a status symbol and less of a phallic one (despite the name). It's about saying "I can afford to drive the overpriced vehicle that gets 8 miles to the gallon....and you can't."

I draw the distinction between the measure of a man's net worth and the 'measure of a man.' Phallic cars are the cars they are because guys think women want to ride in those cars. I'm reminded of comedian Chris Porter's bit on Last Comic Standing - if single women would sleep with the guy driving the fuel-efficient car, the price of gas in this country would go down. Maybe it's just me, but I've never associated that sort of desirability with the Hummer. (Of course, maybe that's why I never wanted to own one.)

The new ads seem to be bridging the gap between the two conceptions: the H3 is a vehicle for the alpha-male / female. I see where they're going, but I still don't want my vehicle to go 7 miles per dollar of gas.


And, Jeanne, the reason that tofu has a bad reputation is that some of us have actually tried to eat it.

Henry said...

Isn't the ad saying that Hummers are for pathetically insecure men?

The carrot almost rescues it.

Joseph Hovsep said...

Drill Sgt: I think you're thinking of a different ad. No mom and kid in the tofu ad.

I'm a tofu-eating liberal vegan who finds Hummers aesthetically and socially unattractive, but I think the ad is funny and well-done. It doesn't make me want to buy a Hummer, but it does soften its image in my mind. Since the Hummer's market is probably mostly well-off yuppy types and not blue collar manly men, a lot of the people who actually would buy Hummers can probably relate to the search for manliness in the modern upper-middle-class, white-collar world.

tcd said...

Tofu has a bad reputation b/c it's usually associated with sanctimonius, crunchy granola types. Also, most of these granola types don't know the proper way to prepare tofu to make it delectable to the palate. Now, tofu in the hands of my Vietnamese grandmother is a culinary treat.

BJK,
Just so you know and can stop maligning the HUMMER brand, the H3 gets 16 MPG in city driving and 20 MPG highway. Compare this to 17 MPG city and 21 MPG highway for the Toyota 4Runner V6. Don't want to leave the impression that only American car companies make gas guzzlers.

tcd said...

Joseph,
Thanks for proving my point about tofu ;)

stephenb said...

I don't think the add is about hippy v. non-hippy as much as it's about macho v. what Hummer thinks most Americans think is not-to-macho. You know, masculine man v. effeminite man...red meat v. tofu. Isn't that right???

As always, Slate has it all wrong.

bill said...

joseph: different ad, same ad campaign.

The man and his tofu pokes fun at the whole "reflected insecurity" idea and is funny.

The mom and playground ad isn't as funny because it isn't about insecurity, it's about being bullied. So the mom buys a Hummer not to feel better about herself but to to better run down the bully?

I think bjk nails the original Hummer--it was about status. The H3 is just a funky looking SUV.

Tibore said...

Oh, Slate's always whining about something, the fact that it's about the epitome of SUV's is simply no surprise.

I was actually annoyed by the commercial - if I hear one more vehicle-as-penis reference, I'm gonna jump the guy saying it and start screaming "Do you (bleep) your car??!! DO YOU (bleep) YOUR CAR??!!" - and while this commercial didn't quite come out and openly cite the dongus-personal vehicle link, it implied it. And I hate that. If I ever have need to drive a big, four wheeler through snow or off road, I'm not going to say "Wow! I have an erection!" I'm going to say "Wow! I'm glad I have something with 4 wheel drive!". And every reference to genitalia vis-a-vis transportation may seem sly to the jokester leaning on it, but it's really lazy comedy: "Oh. Let's laugh at the dumb, worn out canard; that'll save me from having to work for the laugh".

Anyway, rant over. Back to Slate: I may have missed it, but why would they moan about one dumb cliche (the manhood-car you drive link) and not say a thing about another equally annoying, and far more stuck-up, self congratulatory campaign: The Volkswagon "Ego" spots? Both are annoying, but only one chases that cliche of a target: The SUV. Could that be why?

Tibore said...

Just so it's clear, I was talking about the subtext of the commercial. I know it didn't come right out and say stuff about (ahem) package size, but the subtext was all there, and that was the chord they were attempting to strike.

bill said...

ABout Slate rants. It's more accurate to say Seth Stevenson is whining, not Slate. Seth writes the "Ad Report Card" column and it's usually an interesting and entertaining look at television ads. I think he's hyperventilating a bit on this on.

Slate has always had a crappy search feature, but this link grabs most of them. Looks like this column started in June, 2000 with Rob Walker.

Joseph Hovsep said...

tcd: I may be crunchy granola and admit the occassional sanctimonious lapse, but I can make tofu taste good. The problem with hippies and tofu is that most were not raised in families or cultures where they learned how to prepare tofu dishes and its not obvious how to make a block of tofu into a tasty meal.

Joseph Hovsep said...

I think people are taking the ad too seriously/literally. Unlike other "manly" car commercials, the Hummer ad is actually a little toungue-in-cheek, sort of making fun of its own hyper-manly image and the insecurity that leads people to buy manly-man cars but sort of reinforcing the image as well. Its kind of camp, which is why I like it.

altoids1306 said...

I hate how, simply because tofu is considered a "health food", supermarkets feel free to mark-up the price by 50-100%.

Only in the US is tofu more expensive than ground pork.

Simon said...

People actually eat tofu? I thought that was just a stereotype we perpetuated of liberal vegans and other such weirdos. Never realized anyone actually did so. You weird coastal blue-state types can be conned into anything.

I'm going to go home and munch on some dead cow.

Palladian said...

It's well known that soy isoflavones can act as weak estrogen in the body, and can both reduce testosterone levels in men and even encourage breast development. This H2 buying fellow was just trying to counteract the inevitable consequences of a surfeit of tofu.

And I wish people would drop the pseudo-Freudian (as if the real Freud wasn't "pseudo" enough) analysis of everything that they don't like as "phallic vehicles" and such. It's a boring cliche at this point.

I also want to note that I see a lot of Hummer vehicles in New York City and the majority of them are driven by young black and Hispanic guys, not white collar white guys. This may reflect the urban Hummer demographic, your mileage may vary (but won't rise above 20 highway, guaranteed).

Personally, I think Hummers are unappealing toys. If you want to be a real manly man, get an F350. Hot.

Joseph Hovsep said...

Palladian... interesting. I don't know what the actual demographics are for Hummer ownership, but I assumed the pricetag would limit access to people who have fairly substantial discretionary income.

Tibore said...

The H1 is a totally awesome off road vehicle, but I wouldn't be caught dead trying to drive one around a city. Could you imaging trying to parallel park that sucker?

Can't comment on the H2 and 3; dunno jack about 'em. But, aren't those just Chevy 1500 frames with different bodies stuck on them? If so, why not get a Suburban? Same difference, lower price tag, I'd think.

J said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
J said...

I thought it was funny, but then, I don't eat tofu. Does anybody have a link to the "dissed mom" ad?

"Phallic cars are the cars they are because guys think women want to ride in those cars"

Actually, they're phallic because they cost a lot of money and make the person driving them look like that's what he has. It's a time tested method whose record speaks for itself.

The curious thing about the Hummer is that the H1 never seemed to acquire that status, while the H2 - basically a fancy suburban and much, much less expensive - did.

AJ Lynch said...

I thought the commercial had a good message.....and that is that buying a cool car can make you feel good and "cool car" is in the mind of the buyer.

I am surprised to learn that Slate is still around- thought they went broke a while ago.

ray_g said...

I'm shocked, shocked that ads might try to appeal to emotion rather than reason! /sarcasm off

The ones I hate are the Michelin tire ads with the babies that imply you are a bad parent if you don't use them.

I'm also tired of people claiming that someone who buys something they don't approve of (big cars, fast motorcycles, loud stereos etc.) are doing it because it is a phallic symbol.

k said...

Hilarious commercial, but I still think the funniest part is that Hummer had to change the tagline from "Restore your Manhood" to "Restore the Balance." Hysterical. Oh, and as to tofu - the hippies appropriated it from my people, who actually invented it. As to the health claims - eh. There is no magic food. Only different foods. Shunning one food or advocating steady consumption of another is nothing more than good old fashioned faddism. Moderation, people!

Freeman Hunt said...

Hilarious commercial, but I still think the funniest part is that Hummer had to change the tagline from "Restore your Manhood" to "Restore the Balance."

I agree. Just imagine the men who actually called to complain about the original tag line. Slight, usually smug but currently distressed, and clad in an expensive shirt containing some percentage of hemp fibers, "Excuse me, but I am calling to say that I found your ad EXTREMELY offensive! I eat organic vegetables, and I drive a sensible hybrid, and I can tell you right now that I don't have any problems with MY manhood!" Heh.

Nels said...

I eat a lot of tofu, but the ad is pretty funny.

A couple of years ago this email went out to everyone at my work:


Subject: Please move your vehicle
Importance: High

Will the owner of the '04 Black Hummer please move your car. You are parked across two handicap spots.

Thank you

El Mas Chingón said...

When the old commercial said "Restore Your Manhood", I just rolled my eyes and laughed. If you need a car to express your manhood, you probably don't have one.

As for me, I hope when the Camaro comes back there's a Z28 or an SS in the lineup. I miss racing.

mcg said...

Add me to the list of folks that things it's hilarious. And people getting uptight about it, on this thread and elsewhere, just adds to the hilarity.

It's also rather shocking, really, how clueless Seth at Slate is about it. Isn't this ad analysis thing a regular deal for him? I mean, has he ever watched a beer commercial?

First, he wonders if it will turn off existing Hummer owners. Get real! Existing Hummer owners have H1s or H2s. To them the H3 is just a wimpy toy version of their pride and joy. Besides, a Hummer is so over-the-top that it would take some serious denial to think that there is any utility at all in owning it over a more traditional SUV. (Not to mention whether or not an SUV itself has any utility over a normal automobile.) Translation: they bought it for the image, and they know it. So what do they care if that's pointed out in a humorous way?

Then he suggests that it won't win the "wussy tofu hippy" crowd either. (His words, not mine.) Well, DUH. But to do that, Hummer would have to make a commercial that somehow credibly argues that driving one closes the ozone hole or saves endangered baby seals or something like that.

There are plenty of people in the squishy center, though---people who are in the market for an SUV---who will get a good laugh out of the ad, and raise their eyebrows when they learn the H3 gets 20MPG highway. They'll say, "You know, I always thought they looked cool but they've never struck me as even remotely practical. I'll settle for minimally practical..."

Not my cup of tea, but whaddya know. My Subaru will suit me well for awhile longer.

quietnorth said...

I suspect the ad will backfire a bit. People may buy something because they think it will give them balls, but they don't want to be SEEN as "that guy" or "that woman" who buys a thing to show he/she has balls.

quietnorth said...

By the way, tibor, there are a set of videos on Utube of people "humping" other people's hummers.

Tibore said...

Yeeeooooow...! People posted that stuff?

I may never go to UTube again.

class-factotum said...

Tofu -- the silken kind -- can be very good if put in a blender with honey, a little bit of lemon juice, and melted chocolate chips....

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lindsey said...

Hi Ann,
Have you seen Hummer's new ad?
If you want to survive the apocalypse, buy a HUMMER! It looks like they hired either Tom Tancredo or Ari Fleisher’s Freedom Watch group to produce this ad. It has all the fear factor elements and major disasters that have defined Bush and the GOP. Now HUMMER is using them on the American people to sell their product. It’s just wonderful darling.
Luckily, they suggest only off-highway vehicles. Can you imagine if they began to advert Hummer limo?
HUMMER OWNERS PREPARED FOR EMERGENCIES. This is followed by a view of the planet from space. Eff you, Hummer and eff you, Meet The Press, for airing the worst commercial ever.