Seeking Salvation through Advertising

By Fields, Suzanne | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 17, 1997 | Go to article overview

Seeking Salvation through Advertising


Fields, Suzanne, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Volvo, the chunky, reliable Swedish car that is the auto of choice for the politically correct - the liberal bean sprout, white wine and cheese crowd - is suffering a breakdown of its anti-lock brakes on bad taste.

A commercial extolling morning in America, or at least Sweden, with a kayaker shooting the rapids and then washing his face with the pure water of melted snow, closes with a sonorous voice-over, an Old Testament basso profundo, promising Biblical deliverance: "Volvo can save your soul."

Noble savage confronts civilized man in a $35,000 sport utility vehicle. This ad offends prospective customers, who have been flooding the carmaker with complaints. They like the car, but not the theology. Did someone mention air baggery?

"There certainly are graver issues that pose a more serious and relevant threat to people of faith than this Volvo commercial," says Martin Mawyer, president of Christian Action Network, a Virginia-based lobbying group. "However, if Volvo wants to get in the business of saving souls, they had better learn that the road to salvation is not paved with sport utility vehicles."

You don't need a Volvo to stay on the straight and narrow. Elysian Fields have deconstructed to Illusionary Fields.

The admakers reverse the sentiment of the popular camp song: "You can't get to heaven in a Cadillac 'cause a Cadillac ain't got the knack." Actually, the Volvo ad strikes me as silly, not sacrilegious, another example of the advertising culture's inane corruption of language and values.

"Continually in search of new ways to get attention through the shock of image recognition, advertisers are raiding religious metaphors as a way of tapping into common images of the collective conscious." (Who says we're a secular society?)

Even tackier than the Volvo ad is one for Kohler toilets, running in upscale magazines like the New Yorker, mocking Michelangelo's famous fresco from the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, of "God giving life to Man." Instead of God's finger touching the finger of Adam, the divine finger is about to flush a Kohler toilet. …

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