May 1997
s m u g
target audience
by Leslie Harpold


Love in the Wrong Places

Ashamed of your last girlfriend? Not getting any? Having a hard time finding the one? Paseo can help. At least that's what this ad seems to be saying. Every time I look at this ad, I imagine a different interpretation, and I guess that is what makes it beautiful. This vague turn of phrase "Makes a Better Impression Than Your Last Date" seems to carry with it the weight of whatever is pressing down on your shame spot, and leaves a lot of room to appeal to all the viewers insecurities.

This ad appeared in WIRED, Esquire, and GQ so let's start with the assumption that this is geared at men. A straw poll of current issues of Vogue, Glamour, Mademoiselle and Allure showed this ad didn't appear in the female equivalent of those men's fashion mags, and it is now known that the average WIRED reader is a 37 year old white male. Is the car more impressive than the way your last date turned out? If your date didn't put out, or had little interest in hearing about your childhood, this car can fix that. If she - and I imagine it's a she, since so little advertising is aimed at the gay community at large, had bad table manners, was not a snappy dresser or had a little too much ass on her, this car will rectify that horror and humiliation.

Maybe you introduced her to your friends and they gave you, you know, the look. The one that says, "No, not this one, not one of us." Buy this car, and reassure your friends and loved ones that you understand what the standards are, and you can meet them. Paying a woman to go out with you to make you look more handsome and desirable is taboo, but buying a fancy car is AOK! Show them all you've got juice!


So, after you get sucked in, and read the fine print, the love rap kicks in. The woo Toyota pitches here is cleverly worded, let's look at it one sentence at a time.


Finding the "right" one isn't always easy.

Putting the word "right" in quotes is a clear reference to dating and the hunt for Ms. Right. Ah, I see the copywriter fancied themselves a master of the metaphor, and by trying to remind the viewer how lonely and simultaneously hard to please they are, they are trying to instill that the Paseo, a car, will appeal to their increasingly discriminating tastes. It isn't always easy, which means that if he really needs to, he can scare up some booty now and then, but overall, he's still looking.


You want to be comfortable, have similar tastes, and at the same time, find it easy to be yourself.

She has to understand how great you are. She also has to understand that you're the kind of guy that thinks a car would be an acceptable symbol of your attractiveness, but not be upset that you chose, as the symbol of your sexiness and virility a mid-priced sedan instead of a hot little sports car or a fancy European vehicle.


Choosing the right car isn't much different.

Oh, just in case we missed the point, they're gonna spell it out for us. That's so kind of them. It makes you wonder if Toyota is following in the footsteps of Subura, the company who brought you what may have been the least effective advertising metaphor of the late 20th century: "It's like punk rock, but it's a car." Instead of seeking a more effective way to push the hunks of motorized steel, they just keep looking for a more effective metaphor. This is starting to get old.

Wait, choosing the right car is like choosing the right woman. Kick her tires, take her for a spin around the block and make sure the odometer hasn't been reset? (I'm guessing that would mean see her without her makeup before you make any sort of commitment? Haggle for price, get some insurance and drive the baby home? I see the similarities.)


This is where I went from vaguely amused to a little hot under the collar.

You want a sporty performance car that suits your style, that's fun to drive around in and is a true reflection of your individualistic personality, and can come in a convertible.

Right on the heels of the revelation that the car you want bears numerous similarities to the woman you seek - we learn that Toyota is trying to assert that other top virtues include being fun, which I have no problem with, but a reflection of the reader's individualistic personality? Like a good woman?

Girls, I hope if you have your eye on a Paseo owner, you don't get bogged down trying to express your personalities, after all, like all good girls, you know, you're just there to reflect his individualism, look good and of course, put out, but while you're putting out, make sure you pull out all the stops and give him the ride of his life, because a guy like that, well, he demands a sporty performance.

You also have to come in a convertible, which I assume means you have to be willing to die your hair, or be a stripper, or make any minor adjustments to better fit his individual preferences. And girls, I know you'll be happy to do this, because this winner drives a Paseo. He's not like the other boys, he's special!


So we'd like to introduce you to the stylish Paseo

Here's where they pull back, I wish they'd have had the guts to say what they were thinking "We'd like to introduce you to the lady in the parlor hot little whore in the bedroom, Paseo."


After all, great first impressions often lead to lasting relationships

Mmm, yeah, I want this guy. I'm going to be hanging out at Toyota dealerships in my best shoes, and something low cut and racy, waiting for just the right guy, the one who walks in with the ad in his hand saying "this is what I want." I'll throw myself at his feet promising to give the sporty performance he needs so badly and swear to only reflect his individuality. I'll exist for him, and never, ever make fun of his vulnerability to falling for lame attempts to sell him love and status. That way, when I snuggle up to my new Paseo owning snookums, he can feel secure that the car is working, and as long as he has it, he'll never be alone.



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