Monday, January 26, 2009

Advertising Armageddon: Ford F150 '09 vs. Grade School Mathematics

If you like to watch hockey (or any other TV program primarily geared towards a male audience) you know that there's no more annoying than the moment the action stops and the car commercials begin. Why do I hate car commercials? Well, for the most part, they're usually not very creative. Quite simply, they're boring, and they're usually about as funny as driving down the 401 with whatever they're advertising. Oh yeah, and they're frequently misleading.

The Ford F150 is a true case in point. According to one of their new commercials, the F150 is some new super-truck that has completely changed what we understand to be the truck-driving experience. But I can't call them on that – for all I know the F150 is the champagne of trucks. What I can moan about is some numbers that get thrown at me every time I see one of their ads.

According to this one commercial (see below), the F150 has a little step in its back. You might say “what do I need a little step for?” Well, you certainly need one if you're going to be loading and unloading your truck 50,000-60,000 times.

Wait a second... 50,000-60,000 times? Let's do some math.

First of all, how long is a truck going to last in Canada? It's on Canadian TV, so that's a fair question, and the last time I checked, that's not usually more than a decade. I don't know about your cars, but I'm going to be generous and give them 15 years as an upper limit, with 12 years as a more realistic estimate. Hey, maybe it's a tough car, I don't know.

Now how many times are you going to load things in and out of it? Let's say you're using the truck for work, traveling to an from a job site. Let's say you use the steps four times a day – once in the morning when you load your car up, once when you get to the site, once when you clean up and once to offload your stuff when you get back. I guess you could be going from site to site with a bunch of stuff, but give the fact that some days you won't even use the back, I think four times per day isn't such a bad estimate.

How many days a year do you work? Let's say about 240 days a year – five days a week for 48 weeks (take 4 weeks off – what the hell, you deserve it).

So, given these numbers, how many times are you going to get in and out of the back of the F150?

4 times/day*240 days/year*15 years= 14,400 times

That's about four times less than 50,000-60,000! And that's for a full-time job (recall that in Canada such work is frequently seasonal) using the truck for 15 years! Even if you assume the truck is used 365 days a year, you would need to use the back step over 9 times each day for 15 years to even crack the 50,000 mark - just over 11 times a day for to hit 60,000.

The irony of this is that after the commercial, whether by coincidence or design (I'm assuming the former), a commercial for the Advertising Standards Canada commercial comes on. Are they begging me to try to call Ford out on this one?

Something tells me that that's what the “Properly equipped." written in tiny letters on the bottom of screen during the commercial is for. I'm reminded of a question I put towards a friend of mine regarding the "There is probably no God" bus ads, wondering which interpretation of probability the advertisers were using. His answer was simple: "legal".

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