Holden’s new spot for the Acadia (car namers, please try harder) is a little bit of fun, which, if you’ve ever worked on auto campaigns, you’ll know is a fair feat. The line “Don’t just turn up. Arrive.” is meaningless yet cute, and I’m sure it got lots of gaffaws and vigorous nods of approval in the creative presentation. The execution shows everyday blokes turning up to everyday places with serious swagger in their stride, all thanks to the confidence and satisfaction of their ride to said location in their Acadia. The problem is, in every scene women and girls are reduced to roles in the background or as beautiful trophies whose orbits revolve around the gravitational pull of the male protagonists in the story.
A podgy young white boy bops his head in the foreground of the car as his sisters appear in the distance (showing off all the car’s seats, check!) like silent props. But to be fair, they probably chose to sit in the back seat because of their brother’s shameless manspreading across the seats in the row in front of them. They later walk through a water park, a posse of devoted followers, mum and dad included, hypnotised by the boy’s sheer alpha magnetism.
In a classic demonstration of “punching above your weight”, the next scene showcases the supposed pulling power of the Acadia. A nerdy young kid and his Wolfpack exit their Acadia at the entrance of their formal venue. Beautiful young teenage girls exit shortly thereafter, linking arms with their nerd beaus, beginning their journey to trophy-wifedom depressingly young.
And, in taking metaphors to a new level, a dog walker swaggers through a dog park with a handful of leashed bitches before him. I’m sure this slip was purely Freudian, but there’s not doubting the perfect symbolism of this scene for the generally problematic representations of women in this spot.
The music track does nothing to negate the undercurrent of misogyny in this ad. The overall vibe is brassy, dick-dangling swagger, and combined with a male vocalist laying down choice lyrics about letting the “champagne pop”, the whole exercise comes across as a thinly-veiled metaphor about male ejaculation. Don’t worry, we getcha. Loud and clear.
Not a single woman exists in the Acadia universe with a narrative independent to that of a man. Strangely, this depiction of a male-centric universe is strategically at odds with the sales objectives for the vehicle itself: given it is a 7-seater, this is the kind of car built specially for and purchased by mums of three kids or more, so she can to taxi her kids about on the daily school and sports run. (Having worked on three global car brands in my time, I’ve been in enough meetings to know what the thinking is behind this product’s creative brief.) The strategy and creative execution are completely tone deaf in consideration to this audience, as though women were completely absent in the extensive processes that preceded the production of this ad. All of which leaves us with an entertaining yet empty thirty seconds of advertising that runs foul of the Bechdel test, and entirely absent of a compelling reason to connect to and desire the car that it is trying so hard to sell.