You are now entering Ad Space, a realm of commercials, brought before us so we might examine how they work, and discuss why we both love and hate them so. So it is written …
Four-wheel drive makes cheating on your spouse so much more convenient.
There are commercials with far more blatant sexual content. There are commercials with far more cynical messages. There are commercials that are far more offensive or objectionable.
But there’s something about this ad that feels uniquely transgressive.
Some of that’s down to the realistic tone of the thing. Usually when commercials push against sexual taboos, it’s in an over-the-top manner. Like, when GoDaddy had a traffic cop do a striptease ontop of Danica Patrick’s car, that’s obviously not something that’s gonna happen in real life. It’s just a fantasy used to draw people’s attention.
Whereas this ad … it may be a little silly, but the subject matter and the filming style are fairly grounded. It’s the difference between seeing someone humorously blown up with dynamite, Looney Tunes style, and seeing a realistic depiction of someone bashing their finger with a hammer. The former may be more extreme, but the latter is what’ll make you wince.
But beyond that, this ad feels especially risqué because, even if it’s just on an instinctive level, we know how advertising expects us to respond.
We’re not always meant to relate to the characters in commercials. Sometimes they’re pitchpeople hawking goods at us, but aren’t meant to be us. Sometimes they’re just funny characters doing a skit that will somehow relate to the product. Sometimes they’re supposed to remind us of people we dislike, and the pitch is that buying ______ can make them go away.
But this ad … everything about it says that the cheating douchebags on display are meant to be people we relate to … nay, people we aspire to be. Everyone’s framed and lit to look appealing, high class, a little mysterious. No one’s made to look ridiculous (even the wife being wrong about “not in this weather” feels more like dramatic irony than comedic irony). They all come out of the ad satisfied, having hotter sex than you in nicer houses than yours. All the commercial shorthand is screaming, “Don’t you want to live like these people do? With Mercedes-Benz, you can!”
I dunno, maybe I’m reading too much into this. Maybe it’s just meant to be a joke to grab people’s attention. I’ll admit, it does make me laugh. It just feels a little bit … wrong.