On Second Glance, Goodby’s Saturn Work Is Overrated

It pains me to write this because I am such a fan of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, but this deafening chorus of worshipful blather about the “Sheet Metal” Saturn spot featuring people instead of cars, now joined by Barbara Lippert [Critique, Nov. 11], is making me itch.

I recognize all that is good about the spot: It has an idea. It is a rich expression of the idea. Production-value-wise, you can’t fault it. And it had me riveted the first time I watched it. Unfortunately, that’s about it. After that first time, it all starts coming apart.

First of all, the idea of people as cars is not new. Yes, it’s a very nicely executed take on the idea. But the joke gets old very quickly.

Second, to argue that it’s different for the category is the definition of damning with faint praise.

The soundtrack goes from fresh to unlistenable in four or five listenings. I find myself flipping the channel the instant I hear those first simple notes—just the opposite reaction that I have to the track for the Joe Boxer-underpants-guy-dancing-around spot, for example.

There is irony in the fact that the spot, touting the idea of making cars for humans, is curiously devoid of humanity itself. Visually, the people-as-cars device gives us not humans but something more like zombies: faceless, mechanical, sluggish, almost funereal.

Last, there is that tagline, which is not specific to this spot, but nevertheless contributes to the spot’s (and, ultimately, the campaign’s) failure: “It’s different in a Saturn.”

The driving experience is different? Of all the aspects of a Saturn to single out and glorify, they picked the absolute wrong one. The process of designing the Saturn was different. The union/management relationship is (or, at least, was) different. The assembly-line process is different. The buying process is wonderfully different.

So I could accept, “A different kind of company. A different kind of car.” But, though it may be different with a Saturn, it is decidedly not different in a Saturn. As a former Saturn owner, I ought to know.

Just to end on a positive note, I’ll say this about the spot. It’s pure genius compared to Publicis & Hal Riney’s previous “toy-car-driving-through-the-land-of-giant-lizards” Saturn campaign.

Jim Morris

Freelance copywriter

Evanston, Ill.

The Right Words Aren’t Always the Fanciest Ones

Lois Wyse’s column “Word Up” [A&C, Nov. 11] strikes a chord. High literacy doesn’t seem to be a job requirement of today’s writers, especially those speaking to the younger demographic that so much of today’s advertising is targeting. Imagine how that younger demographic might see Wyse’s column:

“Some ad lady just wrote about how today’s ads are really lame and, like, don’t use big words and stuff, and, like, really suck. I’m not sure who she is, but I think she’s, like, really old and, like, wrote a book about grandmothers or something.

“Well, I think a lot of ads today are totally cool. I mean, totally, ’cause I just saw one and it had this totally awesome guy and—ohmigod—it was, like, the best commercial! So, I just wanted to say it because a lot of old people just don’t get it. They say that ads on, like, MTV suck. And I say, no way!


John Follis

President/creative director

Follis Advertising

New York

I take exception to Lois Wyse’s assessment of copywriting today. Good writing isn’t the art of stringing a bunch of big words together. It’s the art of conveying a big idea. It’s finding words that make people feel, think, remember, act.

“Just do it.” That’s good writing.

Mike Hudock

Associate creative director