Jeepers Creepers

By now, you’ve probably seen the decidedly unwoodsy new ads for Jeep. I’ll give the campaign credit for being different, but with its psychographically focused faux poetry and deep thinking, it gets a solid “Huh?” from me.

The campaign is from GlobalHue, which replaced Cutwater, which replaced BBDO Detroit. I think it’s important that multicultural agencies get mainstream accounts. And I understand that the shop set out to introduce the work in stages to re-establish a brand that’s been all over the place in the last few years.

But I’m not loving the early work, starting with the oddly punctuated, four-sentence, seven-syllable tagline: “i live. i ride. i am. Jeep.”

Most annoying are the lowercase i’s (which my word processor has a hard time reproducing). Are they meant to evoke e.e. cummings? He’s probably too ancient a reference. Perhaps it refers to the way people go all lowercase (out of laziness, mostly) in e-mails and texts.

Whatever, it comes off as pretentious, messy and way too precious to be the next “Just do it.” Plus, the rhythm and the meter are off. Why not really go for it with “i live. i ride. i Jeep”? Jeep could become the new verb, as in, “I really Jeeped out on that decision.” Maybe not. But “i live. i ride. i am” could pave the way for any vehicle. “i Jeep” would at least bring the brand name into the action.

In the first spot, “Clocks,” the logo appears right up front, but feels oddly placed there, like at the beginning of an agency presentation. We don’t see a vehicle in action until the final few seconds. I’m all for conceptual thinking, and not hitting people over the head with the product, but “Clocks” is just too darn teaser-y.

Certainly, the art direction and cinematography are first-rate. We get beautifully composed, nicely cut shots of all kinds of timepieces — old and new, big and small, indoor and outdoor — all ticking away. It’s an unexpected visual, and we get a visceral, claustrophobic sense of time passing. But the setup could sell everything from an afternoon snack to life insurance. (It did make me want to buy one of the Euro-ish train-station clocks for my kitchen, though. And I also wondered if Flavor Flav would show up.)

The male voiceover says: “Knowing that every day I have a choice to make between watching the clock and occasionally my back, or I can greedily, rightfully seize every ticking moment and never give one of them back.” Which is a bit high-handed, ungrammatical and florid.

Then we get a glimmer of a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon driving through what looks like a white chasm.

The second spot, “Reality,” is similar, but focuses on televisions rather than timepieces. We get snippets of dumb content from a variety of fake reality shows — bridezillas, models, fat people, chefs and so on. Again, the visuals are great, but the philosophy falls flat. Who doesn’t know reality TV is evil and stupid?

“Knowing reality isn’t captured by a hidden camera,” the announcer says, leaving the sentence fragment at that. “It doesn’t come in episodes either. … So, while everyone waits to see the next best this or unbelievable that, here’s the reality: There’s no rerun when you are living in the now. So, while you tune in, I’ll be somewhere, getting out.” Huh? That makes no sense. Also, it uses TV to tell you that you are so superior that you never watch TV.

Thankfully, the third TV spot, “It’s Only Hair,” breaks out of the teaser phase, and is by far the most successful, because it actually connects would-be buyers with the fantasy version of driving a Jeep. The concept, though, could come off as sexist. (In Mad Men, the creative team came up with something similar to sell hair spray.)

We see women getting their hair straightened and blown dry in salons. The voiceover, female this time, says: “Even after waiting a month to get an appointment and spending two hours in the chair, there’s nothing like feeling the open-air freedom of my Jeep Wrangler to make vanity fly right out the window.” And then we get shots of Angelina Jolie-like women, with long, straight hair and sunglasses, driving red Jeeps with the top down or the moon roof open.

It’s like a more literal version of the great Volkswagen “Pink Moon” spot. There is something deeply subliminal about how liberating it seems to drive in the open air with your hair flying. It will definitely appeal to women with a rebellious streak who still pay $200 and up for highlights. This is “I am Jeep, hear me roar.”

Now, excuse me while I go watch the clock and the TV in my car.