The car, the city, the conceit
The way to stop waste from building up in the street is not to enforce a litter ban. It is to change what it is that they are dropping, into something that is not waste, something that becomes productive. Of the many stirring, puzzling and fantastic things that Zeitgeist was exposed to at yesterday’s LS:N Global Trends briefing yesterday (who presented the above insight), one of the more thought-provoking things was the above commercial, played during this year’s Super Bowl extravaganza in the US. It’s a bold, powerful advertisement, and rightly pointed out as a return to the more glorious days of advertising. There is a problem with it though, one of cognitive dissonance.
As we know, the US auto industry, with its epicentre in Detroit, had to be bailed out by the Obama administration. More recently Chrysler themselves thought the problem might be a more macro one of people being unable to drive. As with the initial example, the thinking in this commercial has the wrong end of the stick. The problem was not the global recession and the short-term devastation it wrought. The Economist wrote in January that “The car industry can produce 94m cars a year, against global demand of 64m”; this clearly has to change. The long-term problem though, unfortunately, is simply that the US auto industry makes low-quality cars. In terms of quality, they are subpar relative to other countries. This is partly why the country saw such an influx of Japanese models during the 1980s. The hysteria of Japanese cultural domination (evident in films like Blade Runner) was such at the time that popular fiction author Tom Clancy dramatised the whole affair, setting the Japanese auto industry’s invasion of America as the first step to all-out war in the novel Debt of Honour.
Last year was the first time when, around the world, more people lived in cities than in towns. Ipso facto, this means there will be less need for cars, as distances travelled on a regular basis become shorter. Car manufacturers make more profit from larger models than the smaller ones that will increasingly come to dominate the marketplace. Even Aston Martin is getting into the race for convenience in the city. Making the most of this dramatic shift will be of the utmost importance if the industry is to survive. That, and not using brilliant creative to make up for a lower quality in manufacturing.