Jaguar's foolish "gorgeous" ads.

Jaguar's foolish "gorgeous" ads.

Jaguar's foolish "gorgeous" ads.

Advertising deconstructed.
Dec. 26 2005 7:47 AM

Gorgeous, Drop Dead!

Jaguar's foolish new ad campaign.

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The Spot: An announcer repeats the word "gorgeous" over and over (sometimes using it in sentences: "Gorgeous deserves your immediate attention"), while we gaze at a series of grade-A hotties. The women frolic around in skimpy cocktail dresses. Sometimes we catch a brief glimpse of a Jaguar automobile. Always lurking in the background is a well-dressed, older man—precisely the sort of gray-haired lecher this ad campaign is targeting. (To watch the spot, click here, and then click "view the film.")

Seth Stevenson Seth Stevenson

Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.

Several readers have asked me to write about this Jaguar ad. They have all summarized their feelings as, basically: Yuck. And I agree. I was tempted to write a one-word review—"Yuuuuuuuck"—but since Ad Report Card is about going the extra mile, I'll elaborate.

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First, let's be clear on the message. The message is: Buying a Jaguar = Buying a flawlessly sexy 24-year-old woman. With lines like "Gorgeous pays for itself in the first five seconds" and "Gorgeous is worth it," the ad leaves no doubt that both these items are for sale.

Sometimes it gets a tad blurry. Is "gorgeous" the car, or is "gorgeous" the girl? Or does buying the car assign you title to the girl, like she's a factory option? Either way, have no fear, old man—the moment you're handed the keys you'll be grooving with hot chicks.

In some ways, I admire the chutzpah here. This is not just a retrograde cliché (old rich guy buys expensive sports car, feels it will give him access to forbidden world of fashion models). This is a defiant reclamation of a retrograde cliché. No subtlety. No apology. No bones about it.

And oh, how I love the consumer stand-in they've cast. An impossibly taut middle-aged dude, with aviator sunglasses and a thatch of silver hair. His crisp white shirt is unbuttoned midway down his hairless sternum. Hey, that could be you, pal! (What's funny is the guy still looks out of place amid the sexy young things. Who invited Gramps?)

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But it's the idiotic "gorgeous" monologue, read by an off-camera Willem Dafoe, that really seems to get people's goats. Here, I offer a selective refutation of the choicest lines:

"Gorgeous has no love for logic." Indeed, there is no logical reason to buy a Jaguar. Perhaps this is why Jaguar sales are down 44 percent this year. (Most other luxury auto brands have held steady or improved their numbers.)

"Everyone cares what gorgeous says. Gorgeous gets in everywhere." It is true that people pay attention to sexy 24-year-old women, and that these women get admitted to velvet-rope nightclubs. However—contrary to the ad's suggestion—owning this car in no way guarantees that you will date a sexy 24-year-old woman. (Or even a mildly attractive 36-year-old woman, because she's out of your league, too.) So, know this, paunchy old man who is all by his lonesome: You will not get into clubs if you buy a Jaguar. (And no one cares what you say. You are too old.)

"Gorgeous doesn't care at all what others are doing." Others are buying Audis and BMWs. I know you don't care at all, gorgeous, but that's how it is. I refer you again to the sales numbers.

"Gorgeous stays up late and still looks gorgeous." This clearly refers to women and not to cars. There is no way it relates to cars at all. You're ruining the double-entendre, people!

"Gorgeous pays for itself in the first five seconds." It had better. Be it a car or a playmate, five seconds is about how long an emptily gorgeous object can hold your attention. After that, it's just boring conversations and transmission linkage failures.

"Gorgeous is worth it." Even when Jaguar introduced that $29,000 X-Type model, it was still totally not worth it. (I know that's a Ford Mondeo platform underneath, you chumps—you can't fool me!)

Grade: D. For dinosaur. Incidentally, no commercial should use the same adjective 16 times. Repeated words lose all meaning. (This happened to me with the word "much" when I was 9 years old—one day I kept saying it again and again, for no reason I can remember, until suddenly I wasn't sure anymore if it was real or if I'd made it up. It sounded absurd to my ears. I freaked out and went running to the dictionary for solace.) In any case, by the time Dafoe intones, "Gorgeous was born that way," I start to wonder if he's talking about an actual person. Like an Eastern European fellow named Boris Gohrjuss, or something. "Gohrjuss was born that way." Anything can sound silly if you say it enough. Like the phrase "wrongheaded marketing plan"—try repeating that over and over.