Luxury Ads for the Recession

I’m hoping, hoping, hoping that one of the benefits of the recession is that I won’t have to watch one of those awful Lexus holiday ads on TV.  You know the one: The college-age daughter or middleaged wife looks out the window and is — stunned, stunned! — to see a brand-new Lexus on the front driveway.  For some reason, the car is always white, wrapped with a perky red holiday ribbon around it.

Oh, gag.  Like nothing says love like a Japanese luxury vehicle.

The recipient is always tastefully overcome with gratitude and feelings of unworthiness, emoting and bubbling with enthusiasm and hugging the present-giver, the genial Sugar Daddy.   (What did those women have to do to earn those cars? I always wonder.) 

Year after year, I watched those ads, feeling like one of Dickens’ crotchety characters and getting heartburn.  This is because: 1) nobody ever gave me a gift like that; 2) we never gave our kids gifts like that and never will, so they shouldn’t get any ideas about it; and 3) doesn’t the ad just reek of materialism and elitism?

Naturally, #3 is the most important objection, showing that I’m high-minded and above it all, as opposed to possessing the very unattractive qualities of envy and resentment.  No, certainly not.  I just have a strong philosophical objection to the excesses of capitalism.

This holiday season, though, we’re all admitting to philosophical objections to the excesses of capitalism, ready to lynch CEOs and their million-dollar escape hatches.  It’s no longer fashionable to flaunt money and status, fly private planes when you’re asking for government bailouts, flee to Gstaad for some quality family time, drink designer water, bathe in Cristal.  Hell, it’s no longer fashionable to be fashionable, which is a great relief to me.

With car-company moguls now traveling by hybrids when they want to impress, I’m thinking that Lexus might want to update its holiday ads.  The wife or the daughter opens the curtains and stares outside at an empty driveway, openmouthed and aghast.  “But what happened to my car?” she sobs.  “You know, the car you gave me last year!”

At this point, the Sugar Daddy will be shamefaced and forced to admit the car has been repossessed since he’s gotten a little, well, overextended recently.  “But we still have each other!” he’ll assure her.  “Isn’t that more important than anything during the holiday season?”

Well, yes — in theory.  But, face it: This is a luxury car commercial, buddy.  It warms your heart by appealing to greed and status, not emotions.  You wouldn’t be shelling out the big bucks for a Lexus if your wife didn’t look 20 years younger than she is (unless she is 20 years younger, in which case, you’ve got a real problem on your hands).  Do you really think that she — after all the hard time she spends doing aerobics and Botox — is going to stick around for some loser who can’t keep up with his car payments?

You hear the door slam.  You see her running onto the driveway, cavorting through the snow — just like she did last year.  Since there’s no holiday bow and no new Lexus, she’ll just keep on running this year.  Hasta la vista, sucker.

(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)

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