In our society nowadays, commercials seem to be treated as pesky annoyances and are fast-forwarded through. Whether they are bothersome or not, analyzing them helps us better understand the product and company, the media, our society, and ourselves. I will be analyzing the entertaining commercial for Carmax that aired at the recent Super Bowl. This commercial really centers around the customer(s) and tries to show how, with Carmax, they can feel like a kid in a candy store (and many other creative things).
The opening shot shows a big lot with cars in every spot. The cars are black, grey, white, silver, red and blue, and they look like they are alright quality (in comparison to most car commercials. This commercial does not draw your eye’s attention to the cars, but more to the customer. This commercial is stereotypically aimed at men. The customer at Carmax is a guy wearing a wrinkled plaid button up shirt and jeans, unkempt hair. The commercial seems to show him as “plain” sort of person, so we are not distracted by any sort of stereotype. He begins with a pretty dumbfounded look on his face – showing how he needs to be enlightened about this product. There also happens to be only grey and silver colored cars behind the customer when there is a shot of only him, possibly as a metaphor for how dull his understanding of cars is at the moment. The salesman confidently says, “Yep, great selection, no hidden fees, and a five day money back guarantee.”
In response, our customer guy dumbfoundedly says, “Wow, I feel like a kid in a candy store”. This idea instantly materializes before our eyes. There is a kid (about nine or so years old) in a vibrantly colored candy store, with bright sweets and treats lining every wall, and the name “Sandy’s Candies” in the window. The color blue is also very accented in this picture, just like the blue cars in the parking lot. The boys shirt is blue, the candy bowl directly in front of him is blue, and the blue jars of candy on the wall are darker that all the others. The kid’s mother is taking candy in the background, probably for her son. This could almost subliminally be giving the viewer a feeling of a stressful life style, and also the stereotype of a busy mom. Also, there is a toy airplane hanging from the ceiling, subtly implying that this product is aimed at men (or at least the stereotype). The commercial wants you to buy their car to feel like a kid in a candy store.
Creatively, the kid in the candy store says he feels like a “geek at a robot convention”. The next screen is precisely that. There is a stereotypically “nerdy” looking guy – glasses, hair gelled back, shirt tucked in, belt, pens and notebook in pocket, and his robot convention badge around his neck. This is also aimed at a male stereotype. This scene has various people dressed up as robots, a helicopter flying around, various robots and posters on display, and many interested spectators. The color red seems to be accented in this scene, just like the red cars. He says that he feels “like a mermaid at a swim meet,” which may mean as a metaphor that he feels like he has advantages that are beyond everyone around him.
The next scene is with the mermaid at the swim meet, who looks disoriented with her tail sitting on the block, about to dive in. She fits the feminine stereotype undoubtedly, and also tries to advertise Carmax to women too. Almost all the people in the audience are men with the exception of a some women and a couple of children. Blue and silver also happen to be prominent colors in this scene, much like the cars in the lot from the first scene. With a frustrated voice, she says that she feels like a “wrestler in a folding chair factory”.
The next scene undoubtedly involves a wrestler in a folding chair factory. The wrestler is wearing bright blue singlet (wrestling uniform) with yellow and red flames on it, a bulky chain around his neck, a headband, elbow guards and wrist guards, and a belt with a picture of a diamond on it. It looks almost cartoon-like and could be an extremely subtle metaphor for the cars. The guy is somewhat buff and stereotypically macho. The place is filled with blue, beige, and grey folding chairs on display and in stacks – showing variety. Suddenly another wrestler, who is dressed in a red singlet with a gold eagle on it, rowdily slams a folding chair into the other wrestler’s back. That could also be a metaphor for the competition in the car industry. He boisterously yells that he feels like “a hippie in a drum circle”.
The hippie in the drum circle is smiling and tapping on his drum. The location looks a lot like a college campus. The hippie is wearing various trinkets, necklaces, a headband, and an ethnic looking vest. There are about twenty or so people in the drum circle behind him, all fitting the “hippie” stereotype. There are people from many ethnicities with thrift store looking clothes and seemingly happy dispositions. This scene has many colors, possibly trying to display how Carmax can serve to many colors of people. The hippie blissfully says that he feels “like an acrobat in a mattress store”.
The acrobat is wearing a yellow leotard and doing back flips on a mattress while the salesman is standing behind the bed impatiently watching her and checking his watch. The metaphor in this could be that they will do back flips to take care of you, or that Carmax will make you feel so happy that you’ll want to do back flips. In the mattress store, the beds have blue pillows on them and are lined up much like the cars in the parking lot. Completing the cycle, she says that she feels “like a customer at Carmax”.
The shot automatically cuts back to the customer at the lot, with the Carmax sign showing behind him. The scene briefly shows him with a look of astonishment on his face while he sighs. This shot is zoomed in closer to the subject, and the color of his shirt and facial features seem to be slightly brighter, now that he has been enlightened (definitely not digitally enhanced though).
The last shot shows the words: “Carmax; The way car buying should be,” and tells you to find them online.
Completing the cycle, this commercial attempts to prove a point that anyone at all can feel great about Carmax, in their own special way. Not only does it do that, but it also allows us to lightheartedly laugh at the metaphors, paradoxes, and exaggerations that try to explain how this customer feels. When advertising, you want the viewers to not only learn what your product does, but enjoy learning it. This commercial seems to do this well.
I’ll bet you never thought this much about a 32 second add. I hadn’t either until this writing assignment (in my blogging class). Analyzing all the details in a commercial can not only help you understand the advertisers message, but also help realize how they are trying to deceive you, understand what sort of stereotypes they expect you to take for granted, and sharpen your commercial watching detective skills.
Want to see more interesting analysis of ads? Check out these great sites:
(no particular order) :)