In the late ’8 0s, GM’s Pontiac division was a bit like that chap at the back of your high-school homeroom with wraparound tints, a feathered mullet, and fingerless mitts. You never actually considered him go to any of his categorizes, he was just there for roll call and then reeled out to yet another one of the endless gatherings that defined his existence.
At the very least, that was the brand idol that Pontiac was trying so desperately to project with its remarkable “RIDE PONTIAC RIDE” advertising campaign. Why do we type that all in caps? Because we can’t magnetism ourselves through your screen and scream it instantly into your hearing while a phalanx of electrical guitars weep in the background. Fund symbols will have to do.
The year was 1988, and there was a pulse-pounding, white-knuckled pleasure in being simply proximate to a Pontiac vehicle–or so the marketers demanded you to believe–and the best highway to communicate that feeling was with a two-and-a-half hour music video that rammed the frightening supremacy of the arrowhead into your earholes.
It’s an intoxicating swirl of imagery. A male climbs into a Sunbird convertible because, hey, doors are for squares. A couple garmented altogether in white disagrees in an alleyway before stimulating up later before quarrelling again after that, perhaps. A maid is irritated with a patrolman as he writes her a ticket apparently for being too rad. Everyone is wearing trench coats and treading in slow motion as Trans Ams, Fieros, and Grand Prixs drift in and out of frame while driving through soggy or smoky or soak and smoky media. It’s all happening as the sickest sung ever written about structure enthusiasm suffices as the soundtrack.
And that paragraph only scratches the surface area of the visual smorgasbord assembled by D’arcy Masius Benton& Bowles, the Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, ad enterprise responsible for routing “RIDE PONTIAC RIDE” forth into the world. According to this Wentzville, Missouri UAW 2250 Facebook page( which hosts a amazingly in-depth retelling of this campaign’s history ), the chant itself was written by Mark Vieha, perhaps equally well known for his contributions to the Teen Wolf soundtrack three years previous, or his “Make a Run for the Border” Taco Bell jingle.
The mega-sweet 1988 Pontiac Grand Prix SE.
The song crafted by Vieha and his artistic marriage Jay Kennedy would be performed by Alannah Myles, who would prevail a Grammy in 1991 for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance with “Black Velvet, ” and Mark Campbell, a veteran voiceover man and bandleader who was the singing stand-in for Michael J. Fox in the Back to the Future streak ). In a peddler video featuring just the band footage–that you probably should also watch–then Pontiac promote exec Gar Smith said,” Music is the driving and unifying violence behind all our television advertising .”
Pontiac enjoyed a substantial flow in marketings that special time, eventually accounting for 20 percent of all GM vehicles sold in 1988. Whether that’s due to the undeniable awesometude of “RIDE PONTIAC RIDE” or simply because the Chevette-based 1000 was finally put out of its privation is up for debate.( Although the Le Mans showed up in 1988, and is in the video for some conclude .)
What’s certain, nonetheless, is that Pontiac would chop up and repackage the “RIDE” campaign as much as possible during the ensuing times, weaving the pulse-racing call to action with the “We Build Excitement” catchphrase over and over again until even the unlikeliest of simulates had been soaked in the backbeat Kool-Aid.
“RIDE PONTIAC RIDE” would also set the stage for Pontiac’s next effort at boiling the blood of potential purchasers, which was introduced to dealers in 1990 via a left-field ad combining the influence of Patrick Stewart’s narration with a dystopian future abounding with chrome-masked stormtroopers manning highway check objects. Also in the concoction: a hefty dosage of lasers, a thirtysomething duet throwing through gondola advertisements in their comfortably middle-class front room, a sugared yellowish blazer, and a Grand Am operating 25 feet through the breeze to its almost certain doom.
It’s a shame that “As Long as There Are Characters there Will Be Pontiac” effort didn’t go all-in on the sci-fi weirdness when its themes eventually stumbled the small screen. It’s too a shame that the tagline itself didn’t end up being true-blue, but no brand-killing bankruptcy are to be able to make the funky greatness of RIDE PONTIAC RIDE away from us.
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