Joe Isuzu Takes Aim at Car Ads

Joe Isuzu is a truth teller of sorts in a new campaign from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, uncovering and satirizing the clichés of car ads. Spending on the effort is $25 million, sources said.

In two new spots, Joe hawks Isuzu’s sport utility vehicles. Both ads look like any generic car ads—until Joe’s familiar smile appears onscreen.

One shows the Isuzu Rodeo SUV tearing down a mountain pass, covered with mud, music blaring—a scene reminiscent of Nissan Xterra and Toyota 4Runner ads. Suddenly, Joe appears, holding a large boom box. He turns off the music and jokes about how so many SUV ads show cars drenched in mud. “We can give you more mud,” he quips, and spinning car wheels cover him in it.

The second spot, for the Axiom, spoofs luxury-car ads. Joe appears on a sound stage in a black turtleneck, hair slicked back. He boasts about the SUV’s “sexy” attributes and “styling,” and runs his hands over the seats.

The spots outline Isuzu’s product attributes, such as cargo space and a better warranty. Both end with the tag: “Go farther.”

“Joe has always been a reflection of car advertising, and I think that’s what he’s doing here. Joe is good at pointing out the silliness in car ads,” said Jeff Goodby, partner and creative director at the San Francisco shop. “This just came out of watching other ads and seeing what the competition was doing. They use vast, inhuman, unearthly amounts of mud and loud rock music as the basis of campaigns.”

“The intent was twofold,” said Rick Balsiger, Isuzu’s vice president of marketing. “To get us the same awareness as other SUV brands, and to let people know that our vehicles offer more. Plus, Joe allows us to do it in an entertaining way.”

Goodby said the idea was not to be too over the top. “There isn’t a single line in there that’s funny, but it’s funny because Joe is saying it,” he said of the Axiom ad. “He’s a force of nature.”

The ads are breaking now on ESPN and other cable networks. Isuzu spent $60 million last year on advertising, per CMR.

The copywriter on the campaign was Mike McKay; the art director was Christopher Giorgi.

Goodby brought Joe Isuzu back in February 2001 after he had been off the air for 11 years.

The agency also recently won another General Motors brand—the $300 million Saturn account.