In this recent blog post, I looked at the vast difference between the appearance of fast food as advertised and the actual products served to consumers. That’s a perfect example of advertisers assuming that the consumer is stupid, as if the fast food fantasy isn’t made utterly apparent the second you open your McBurger to find that it’s not at all what you expected – the fact that buyers keep falling for this lark might just speak volumes though.

Another example that comes swiftly to mind is the car industry – they’re forever showing cars doing stuff that most consumers would never contemplate in order to make their wares cool, but some recent Nissan ads have really pushed the edges of the envelope.

A couple of Nissan USA television commercials have the company’s cars pulling off the kind of improbable manoeuvres usually only found in a Hollywood blockbuster. Then again, at least the Hollywood folk usually have the decency to feature cars that might just, with a huge suspension of disbelief in the interests of entertainment, be able to pull off those high speed, leaps, jumps and moves. The two Nissan vehicles in question are the Rogue (a soft SUV) and the Juke (Lord knows what the heck you’d call a Juke). They’re pictured jumping onto trains, leaping buildings and the Juke even goes rail sliding like a giant skateboard. The kind of stuff that’s obviously totally impossible given that both vehicles are barely capable of pulling the skin off a rice pudding in terms of outright power or handling, but even then, Nissan has had to include the standard disclaimer at the bottom of the screen; you know the one about the “professional stunt driver” and “please do not attempt”.

To add insult to injury, Nissan takes it one step further by stating that “Cars can’t jump on trains”. Really? Oh gee thanks Nissan, I’m so glad you told me that, I was just about to rush off and buy a Juke (assuming I’d just gone blind) and try to hop it onto the 8:05 train from Glen Innes to Britomart – then I can also avoid the traffic like the happy actors in your commercial. I know, I know – Nissan’s agency will say that the “Cars can’t jump on trains” thing is meant to be humorous, just a little bit of fun but let’s cut to the chase here. What exactly is Nissan selling the consumer? The same old stuff over and over again and they’ve basically got no clue how to sell blancmange.

This type of advertising strikes me as a colossal failure of the imagination, caused by agencies having to advertise yet another ‘same-old, same-old’ car that’s pretty much exactly the same as all the other equivalent cars out there. Unfortunately parity products don’t exactly inspire wild flights of creativity, but they should because then you get results. In this case, you’ve got two fairly humdrum vehicles and the only way to make them even vaguely desirable (and dare I say it sexy) is to make them what they’re not by indulging in sheer fantasy. And if that’s not false advertising (and let’s be honest, it isn’t) then it sure as hell is pretty damn weak. Also, once you’ve jumped the shark, how do you follow that up?