CarMax Ads Dramatically Stupid

March 2nd, 2010 by admin Leave a reply »

I’ve never been a fan of CarMax‘s advertising campaigns, but their current effort hits a new low. It’s so bad that no one has bothered to put it on YouTube, which means that I can’t give you a link to view any of the campaign’s ads. It’s probably just as well; asking you to view these ads is tantamount to someone handing you sour milk and saying, “Here–Does this taste funny to you?”

If you’re fortunate enough to not have been assaulted by these ads, here’s what you’ve missed: each ad features a different dog or other animal watching a CarMax commercial and turning toward the camera; when the image freezes, a harsh musical chord is struck, and the words “Dramatically smart!” are splashed across the screen.

Duh, gee, I get it; they’re telling us that becoming a CarMax customer is a dramatically smart thing to do! Why, however, is dramatically less clear. Even though I’ve probably seen at least 10 of these commercials, I honestly cannot recall a single thing that is said about CarMax or why you would want to give them your business.

There is nothing the least bit clever or engaging about any aspect of these commercials, and they were executed as poorly as they were conceived. (For example, once the image is frozen, it seemingly takes forever before the words “Dramatically smart!” appear.) It is absolutely astounding to me that the marketing powers-that-be at CarMax could have determined that these ads would interest or in any way impress prospective customers.

As I often ask whenever I see a major corporation with such ill-conceived advertising, “If they’re this clueless when it comes to advertising, what other things are they getting wrong?”

The only thing that makes sense about these ads is their use of dogs, as this campaign is a real woofer. (I know, that was a predictable joke, but thinking and writing about this campaign has apparently dulled my own creative senses. Woof!)


  1. Loulia says:

    Looks like we disagree slightly about this Carmax ad. The only reason I find it cute is because I’ve been exposed to the YouTube clip they’re clearly emulating in their commercial. I’m glad I read your post because it confirms they missed the point if they were trying to reach a broad audience that includes people who never saw the YouTube phenomenon.

    They were probably trying to emulate Quizno’s with the “we love da moon/we love da subs” critters.

  2. admin says:

    Thanks for the insight, Loulia, as I haven’t seen the YouTube clip you mention. However, I probably spend more time on YouTube than most people (at least most people older than 30), so if I’m not familiar with it, I’m guessing that most of CarMax’s audience isn’t either. BTW, beyond being entertained, did the ad tell you anything about CarMax that would motivate you to consider doing business with them?

  3. Yeah says:

    They missed the point when they tried to recreate the internet sensation.

    Besides, has anyone ever heard of a joke getting old? The original wasn’t even that funny to begin with.

  4. admin says:

    Couldn’t agree more. When it doesn’t entertain you or tell you something interesting about the brand being advertised, it’s probably time to go back to the drawing board.

  5. Jeannie says:

    Wow, John, you spend more time on YouTube than most? Really? How is it possible that you missed out on one of the most popular videos in YouTube history? (Over 20 million views, much imitated and already widely referenced by the time you wrote! I’m not alone in saying that I was already annoyed with the number of links people were sending to it over 3 years ago.) Maybe this is a clue: you say that no one had uploaded the CarMax ads to YouTube, but all the ads had already been uploaded multiple times when you wrote your “article,” and were titled so that they’d come up on about any search you could imagine for them. And remarkably, though you say you’d “probably seen at least 10 of these commercials,” CarMax’s agency produced only 8 altogether. Your attention seems more caught up in writing snark than any facts or consideration.

    Not that I disagree about the ads being terrible. I sympathize with you, since they’re almost unwatchable.

    But I think that if you’re going to snark publicly about something, you should have something more to offer than inattention and mistakes. You’re asking your “insight” to be called out here, and unfortunately, while you’ve called out the ads as bad, you seem to have no idea why.

    Your article reminds me of something I read once: “If they’re this clueless when it comes to advertising, what other things are they getting wrong?”

    Anyone can see that these ads suck. Take the time to understand what’s wrong before you get on a soapbox. Otherwise, you’re just an uninformed crank.


  6. Mickey says:

    They were hoping to ride the coattails of an internet viral video that featured a little critter that looked astonished when it looked into the camera. Unfortunately, they somehow imagined they could recreate the effect using any animal that could be coerced to look in the direction of a camera. Idiots.

  7. admin says:

    Thanks for the feedback, Jeannie. I’d like to offer a few points in rebuttal. First of all, at the time I wrote my post these commercials weren’t available on YouTube. They are now, and perhaps they were before that, but they weren’t at the time. Sorry, but they weren’t. Second, I’ll accept your assertion that I was off by 20% in my estimate of how many CarMax ads I’ve seen. You’ll note, however, that I prefaced my estimate with “probably,” so I don’t think I can be accused of falsely purporting to have used well-researched statistics on that point. Moreover, the quantity of the campaign was not the point of the post; the quality–or lack thereof–was. Still, I’ll concede that perhaps I need to be a little more careful in my future posts.

    Most important, I can assure you that I know exactly why these ads are bad, and I quote: “I honestly cannot recall a single thing that is said about CarMax or why you would want to give them your business.” The whole point of virtually any advertising is to persuade your target audience of the desirability of your product or service, and my main complaint about this campaign–and many others I critique–is that it doesn’t do this. Finally, I would also respectfully disagree that “anyone can see that these ads suck.” Clearly the powers-that-be at CarMax can’t.

    Having said all of that, I sincerely appreciate your critical feedback.

    Your favorite uninformed crank,


  8. admin says:

    Thanks, Mickey. In retrospect, I should have pointed that out in my original post.

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