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Not So Fast! GM Pulls Corvette Ad After Protests

A commercial flight of fancy, which showed a young boy taking the sports car airborne, turns into bad PR.

August 26, 2004|John O'Dell | By John O'Dell Times Staff Writer

Fast and sleek, the Chevy Corvette is the sports car of many a schoolboy's dreams.

And, for General Motors Corp., star of a PR nightmare.

The automaker late Tuesday yanked a prime-time television commercial for the 2005 'Vette after protests from consumer and safety groups.

The spot, aired during Olympic broadcasts, depicted the dream of a boy clearly too young to have a driver's license taking the 350-horsepower car airborne -- after driving it wildly through city streets and spiraling it through a large drainpipe -- as the Rolling Stones' "Jumpin' Jack Flash" played in the background.

"This ad is certainly among the most dangerous, anti-safety messages to be aired on national television in recent years," the groups wrote in a letter to GM Chief Executive Rick Wagoner.

"It is doubtful," they wrote, "that General Motors would condone the beer industry showing a 'dream sequence' of 10-year-old children having an after-school 'kegger.' "

The groups that signed the letter included Consumers Union, Public Citizen, the Center for Auto Safety, the Consumer Federation of America and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

The ad, "A Boy's Dream," was directed by British filmmaker Guy Ritchie, husband of pop singer Madonna. His usual fare is feature films, though he directed a popular Internet commercial for BMW several years ago.

In the Corvette spot, GM warned that drivers must have licenses and should operate vehicles safely. That didn't cut it with critics.

"We decided to pull it due to responses and feedback we received," said Noreen Pratscher, a GM spokeswoman.

Whatever else the automaker hoped to do with the ad, it steered far afield of the potential buyer demographic. The average age of a Corvette buyer is 53; most youngsters, and even a lot of oldsters, couldn't handle the $44,000 base price.

GM isn't the only automaker whose advertisements have drawn fire. Several years ago, Nissan Motor Co. was criticized for commercials showing cars skidding and swerving as they were pushed to the limit by professional drivers.

Pratscher said that the Corvette ad was meant to "show unnatural sequences, like a car flying," and that it would be unlikely to influence real-world behavior.

Still, she added: "There will be no more ads from us with flying cars, and there are no others in the works that feature underage drivers, imaginary or real."

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