Chevy Corvette: An Analysis of the Manipulative Subtleties in a car ad.
Embedded deep in the fibers of our capitalistic society, seeking to exploit man’s deepest, darkest desires, lies the manipulative world of advertising. Advertisers do not attempt to appeal to one’s sense of reason by rationally extolling the virtues of their product. Instead, they aim directly for the subconscious dark desires that permeate every living being, desires whose public expression would violate every unwritten rule of society. Jib Fowles, with a gigantic assist from Henry A. Murray, has created a list of fifteen desires that advertisers, by way of their ads, seek to exploit (551). What follows is a thorough analysis of the methods, assumptions, and tactics utilized in a print ad for a Chevrolet Corvette, circa 1966.
This ad makes two closely related and equally emphasized appeals. In terms of Fowles’ categories, these are the “need for autonomy” and the “need to escape.” The woman, who has found a location that is known only to her, demonstrates the “need for autonomy.” She does not follow the herd. Her Corvette enables her to run free like a wild stallion. The “need to escape” is satisfied by the beautiful scenery: the mountain stream, the trees, and the woman wading in the creek while eating a peach, unencumbered by the hustle and bustle of modern society (Fowles 562-3).
However, even an ad making the most tempting appeals in the world would be useless if it went unseen. While this statement is not earth-shattering, it is, nonetheless, true. To prevent this tragedy, advertisers must include something in their ads to grab the consumer’s attention. This ad is no exception. The chief attention-getting device in this ad is the strategically placed attractive woman who is wearing a lovely dress. To be completely candid, that is how I was caught (Chevrolet 592).
Every ad reveals something about the culture in which it exists; it provides a window into the values and assumptions present in society at that time (Behrens 549). This ad’s sponsors make some assumptions regarding gender roles. In what appears to be the middle of the day, the female has the time to drive herself to a scenic mountain stream. The assumption is that she is not employed. In 1966, when this ad was published, this would be a reasonable assumption.
On the other hand, it states in the body of the ad that her husband is “at work right now” (592). There are conflicting messages sent regarding the relationships among the sexes. On many occasions, the ad references that “she and her husband own the Chevrolet Corvette” (592), or “they’d had the car a whole week” (592), implying an egalitarian relationship regarding the ownership of the car. However, later in the body of the ad, he tells her that this is a “big, hairy sports car and too much for a woman to handle” (592), implying that the car is not equally shared. Additionally, it is stated that she had to hide the keys and wait for him to leave for work to drive it (592). Thus, at least regarding certain things, the relationship among the sexes was shifted more toward the male, and not wholly equitable. The assumptions regarding the priorities of the genders were not very pronounced. The woman had the same desire to drive the car as did the man, was as knowledgeable as he was regarding the “4-speed transmission and the 425-hp engine” (592), and demonstrated herself to be very capable of driving the automobile when given a chance.
As exemplified by this ad, advertisers need their ad’s headline and body to be capable conveyors of the ad’s appeals. In this ad, the headline is a play on words reading, “The day she flew the coupe” (592). “Coupe,” relating to the Corvette, replaces “coop,” the word that usually would be present in such a sentence. If one can “fly the coupe,” merely coming and going as one pleases, this demonstrates autonomy. In addition, when she “flies the coupe,” she escapes to a solitary, serene, scenic mountain spring utterly devoid of any worry or responsibility. The photo does its job in visually representing the scene, while the body indicates just how relaxed she truly is by asking, “What manner of woman is this, you ask, who stands in the midst of a mountain stream eating a peach” (572)? These elements combine to indicate just how relaxed she is, while also demonstrating how much of an escape she has found (Behrens 571-3).
Every aspect of the picture also conveys this ad’s message. The woman’s sexy sleeveless dress, slightly bent left knee, relaxed facial expression, posture, and the half-eaten peach all help communicate the ad’s message. In addition, a clear view of her dipping her feet in a beautiful mountain spring, the abundance of natural, healthy foliage, and a centered view of a heavenly brand-new corvette aid in communicating this message.
In summation, this ad satisfied all criteria that characterize a good ad. It grabbed my attention, was aesthetically pleasing, appealed to two of Fowles’s categories, and had a cute headline that made me chuckle. Nevertheless, I have no intention of purchasing this vehicle.
Behrens, Laurence and Leonard J. Rosen. Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum. 12th ed.. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2013. 548-51. Print.
Bovee, Courtland L., et al. “Making The Pitch in Print Advertising.” Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum. 12th ed. Behrens, Laurence and Leonard J. Rosen. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2013. 570-74. Print.
Chevrolet Corvette. “The Day She Flew The Coupe.” Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum. 12th ed. Behrens, Laurence and Leonard J. Rosen. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2013. 592. Print.
Fowles, Jib. “Advertising’s Fifteen Basic Appeals.” Writing and Reading Across the Curriculum. 12th ed. Behrens, Laurence and Leonard J. Rosen. New York: Pearson/Longman, 2013. 551-68. Print.