Ad Report Card: CarMax gets dramatic

Sunday night CarMax decided to play the big game.

The Super Bowl advertising game that is.

The locally-based chain of used car dealerships ran four 15-second advertisements during the Super Bowl on CBS. And they got a good deal on it too.

Because the ad only ran in the 48 U.S. markets where Carmax has stores, they got a huge discount. More than 50 percent off, according to a story in CNBC. The regular amount for that much air time is $10 million.

The new ads were produced by Charlotte-based advertising agency BooneOakley. (The company’s website is worth checking out as it is actually an interactive Youtube video. )

The ad shows a television in someone’s home. Displayed on the screen is a CarMax employee who says something about why the car company is so great. In each of the ads, an animal of some kind is watching the television.

After hearing statements like “Carmax will buy your car even if you don’t buy any of ours” and “We offer a 5-day money back guarantee for every used car we sell,” the stunned animal turns to the screen and strikes a dramatic pose with soap opera music playing in the back ground. The slogan “Dramatically Smart” pops onto the screen.

Not too dramatically original. The ads are a spin off of the most famous 5-second clip in the history of viral video, a YouTube clip called “Dramatic Chipmunk” that has gotten more than 18 million hits since 2007. It is taken from a Japanese morning show and actually features a prairie dog despite the title.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1Y73sPHKxw[/youtube]

So does one of the new 15-second CarMax spots. The other three feature a capuchin monkey, a Boston terrier, and a cockatiel.

While the ad is a blatant rip off on a popular internet meme, it was still one of the better commercials I saw during the Super Bowl. The majority of the commercials featured mindless violence, or were just shockingly bad such as Charles Barkley rapping about TacoBell. (The Betty White Snickers commercial was one of the better ads of the evening.)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqGEeGsS_ek[/youtube]

Carmax played it safe by going with something people were familiar with, especially first-time car buyers who grew up with the Internet. You can watch the Dramatic Chipmunk clip a million times and not get tired of it and the ad comes close to recreating the magic.

And for those millions who watched the Super Bowl and never saw the original YouTube video, CarMax may have a chance of getting their attention with a proven media sensation. No need for a focus group on this one, Internet users have proved that people love fuzzy animals doing cute things.

CarMax was not the first and won’t be the last company to copy cat a viral video in their ads. Regardless of what you think of that tactic, the folks at BooneOakley I would say executed it successfully. It stays true to the original video with out losing any of its appeal. It is also a good compliment to CarMax’s in-house produced Smart/Not Smart ads that have been running for some time now.

But the commercial loses points for its lack of originality.

Final Grade: C+

Sunday night CarMax decided to play the big game.

The Super Bowl advertising game that is.

The locally-based chain of used car dealerships ran four 15-second advertisements during the Super Bowl on CBS. And they got a good deal on it too.

Because the ad only ran in the 48 U.S. markets where Carmax has stores, they got a huge discount. More than 50 percent off, according to a story in CNBC. The regular amount for that much air time is $10 million.

The new ads were produced by Charlotte-based advertising agency BooneOakley. (The company’s website is worth checking out as it is actually an interactive Youtube video. )

The ad shows a television in someone’s home. Displayed on the screen is a CarMax employee who says something about why the car company is so great. In each of the ads, an animal of some kind is watching the television.

After hearing statements like “Carmax will buy your car even if you don’t buy any of ours” and “We offer a 5-day money back guarantee for every used car we sell,” the stunned animal turns to the screen and strikes a dramatic pose with soap opera music playing in the back ground. The slogan “Dramatically Smart” pops onto the screen.

Not too dramatically original. The ads are a spin off of the most famous 5-second clip in the history of viral video, a YouTube clip called “Dramatic Chipmunk” that has gotten more than 18 million hits since 2007. It is taken from a Japanese morning show and actually features a prairie dog despite the title.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1Y73sPHKxw[/youtube]

So does one of the new 15-second CarMax spots. The other three feature a capuchin monkey, a Boston terrier, and a cockatiel.

While the ad is a blatant rip off on a popular internet meme, it was still one of the better commercials I saw during the Super Bowl. The majority of the commercials featured mindless violence, or were just shockingly bad such as Charles Barkley rapping about TacoBell. (The Betty White Snickers commercial was one of the better ads of the evening.)

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GqGEeGsS_ek[/youtube]

Carmax played it safe by going with something people were familiar with, especially first-time car buyers who grew up with the Internet. You can watch the Dramatic Chipmunk clip a million times and not get tired of it and the ad comes close to recreating the magic.

And for those millions who watched the Super Bowl and never saw the original YouTube video, CarMax may have a chance of getting their attention with a proven media sensation. No need for a focus group on this one, Internet users have proved that people love fuzzy animals doing cute things.

CarMax was not the first and won’t be the last company to copy cat a viral video in their ads. Regardless of what you think of that tactic, the folks at BooneOakley I would say executed it successfully. It stays true to the original video with out losing any of its appeal. It is also a good compliment to CarMax’s in-house produced Smart/Not Smart ads that have been running for some time now.

But the commercial loses points for its lack of originality.

Final Grade: C+

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Ryan Charles
Ryan Charles
12 years ago

Higher than a C+… B or B+ if you ask me — c’mon, did you see that monkey’s face?

ScottB
ScottB
12 years ago

Go back and watch them all without sound. The monkey is the only one to come close to matching the wide-eyed intensity of the prairie dog in the original. I think C+ is appropriate.