29th April 2010

Great Commercials–Steve Wozniak’s Datsun 280ZX

posted in Car News Articles |

Yesterday we deconstructed a disco-era Datsun 280ZX 10th Anniversary Edition commercial. Today I’d like to discuss another commercial that features¬†essentially the same car but a completely different tone. The video follows here, with my comments after the jump.

This commercial does have a completely different feel than yesterday’s–instead of a gold-fog-filled moonscape and an anonymous but amorous disco couple, we have¬†a much more low-key real-world environment and Apple Computer co-founder Steve Wozniak. Rather than the bombast used in yesterday’s commercial, this ad relies on the quasi-humorous, announcer-driven banter so common in mid-to-late 1980s car ads, and as a result it feels much more modern. Let’s get started, shall we?

0:01–We see Steve Wozniak jogging up the stairs, ostensibly on his way home after a busy day making the tough decisions at Apple. Meanwhile, the on-screen text describes who he is and what he’s accomplished. Inventor, yes. Apple Computer creator, yes. “US” Festival? First of all, I’m not really sure what the “US” Festival is; and since there’s no verb attached, we’re left wondering whether he created it, founded it, gave a keynote speech there, or drove through it at high speed¬†in his Datsun 280ZX while cackling maniacally.

0:03–”Steve Wozniak owns two of the world’s most impressive sports cars.” This is the ad’s first real misstep.The mystery presented by this ambiguous statement is incredibly distracting. At this point, I’ve forgotten all about the 280ZX and I’m busy trying to guess the identity of his second sports car. Or, if I’m feeling snarky and unfair, I’m wondering what his two impressive sports cars are, because the 280ZX certainly wasn’t one of them.

That’s less of a slap at the 280ZX, by the way, and more an indictment of the way he question was written. I could very easily imagine Woz responding, “Well, the Ferrari is more fun on the track, but I prefer the Porsche as an all-around sports car … oh, the Datsun? That’s the beater I drive to work.”

0:05–I like Woz’s jaunty wave here–he comes off as very likable throughout the whole commercial, and his mix of everyman casual attitude and corporate cool makes him seem like a pretty decent fellow.

0:07–”I prefer the Z.” Well, that’s great, Steve, but since nobody explained to us what your other sports car is, it’s hard to know exactly how seriously we should take this statement. Do you prefer the Z to a Porsche 928, or a Ford EXP?

0:11–Maybe it’s just me, but Woz looks a little annoyed with the announcer’s line of questioning here.

0:13–Wait, did he park his 280ZX with the T-tops open? Given the fact that almost all T-tops leaked when closed, this doesn’t sound like a good idea.

0:19–At this point, the announcer has been peppering¬†Wozniak with questions about why he prefers the Z. The interesting thing here is that Woz is giving reluctant, non-commital, almost evasive answers.¬†”It’s more than that … That’s part of it. … Yeah. …” It’s as if he’s treating the announcer like an unwanted guest–he’s being civil and polite, but he’s moving quickly, giving minimal answers, and hoping the interloper gets the hint.

0:21–After spending the first 20 seconds of the commercial avoiding eye contact and giving the kind of monosyllabic answers you’d expect from a reticent teenager, Woz’s entire body language transforms and he provides the funniest moment of the ad. He awkwardly places his right hand on the top of the door, dons a wide, pie-eating grin, and over-enunciates, “It is AWESOME.” I’m not kidding–watch that sequence a few times, and you’ll be amazed by the contortions his face makes as he very earnestly pronounces (or lip-syncs) his lines.

0:23–Steve’s broad but slightly sheepish grin after delivering the final line is very likeable and winning. Go get ‘em, Woz.

0:24–”Hey, Steve, you sell the Apples, I’ll sell the Zs.” I get that this is meant to be just another line of joking banter, but it doesn’t even make sense in the context of the ad. If he’s not supposed to be selling Datsuns, why is Wozniak even in the ad? Why pepper him with questions about the car and then admonish him¬†when he finally explains why he likes it?

I would have loved to have seen Wozniak snap his head back to the camera and growl, “Oh, really? So you have the nerve to¬†waste my time, bring me¬†out here to film your commercial, only to disrespect me like that? Do you know who I am? I’m Steve Flippin’ Wozniak, and I could crush you like an insect. Oh, and for the record, I really prefer my other sports car.”

–Chris H.

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