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Weird Advertising: Carfax.

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a fox wearing a shirt about cars
a fox wearing a shirt about cars

Advertising is weird. There are a lot of obviously awful commercials and advertisements, of course. But there is a special segment of commercials that, the longer you think about them, the less sense they make. This is one of those commercials.

Carfax is a service wherein you can request the past ownership details on a used car you're interested in buying. It's a pretty handy service if you really think about it and/or care at all about where your car has been or whether a car dealer is attempting to scam you. Doesn't really seem like it would need a lot of gimmicks or bells and whistles, right? Carfax begs to differ!

See, Carfax must have seen the Geico Gecko and absolutely lost their minds with delight. I imagine that they took a photo of a Geico commercial on television with a point-and-shoot camera, had the film developed at the closest Rite-Aid, then barged into their ad man's office waving the blurry picture around and screaming, "THIS! THIS!"

When the ad man finally explained that he was already in a meeting -- followed by a heartfelt apology to the baffled representatives from Gorton's -- a follow-up appointment was scheduled with the Carfax people. After a three-hour attempt to explain to the Carfax CEO that no one had ever confused the word "fox" with the word "fax" went up in flames, The Carfax Fox was born.

All of the commercials in this latest campaign involve the same setup: a guy and his talking, beclothed fox wearing a CAR FOX shirt go to a car dealership looking for a Carfax on a car, are countered with a competing gimmick involving a pun, then slink away because they feel they're getting the runaround.

But let's examine this for just a moment.

First of all: Dude, you're the one interested in this car. Maybe the dealership doesn't offer Carfax. They clearly have their own thing going. You show up with an anthropomorphic fox with a wobbly head that's wearing fucking Hagar slacks, browbeat me about something that the talking fox is obviously a corporate shill for, and somehow I'm the asshole in this situation? Fuck you, man. I work on commission; I don't need this shit.

Secondly, I just can't get past the whole fax/fox thing. The Geico/Gecko thing works because it's a multi-syllable word that doesn't actually exist and looks close enough to the other semi-obscure word that the mistake is conceivable. A fax is a real thing. A fox is a real thing. No one has ever read or seen one of the words and thought about the other thing. The Carfax fox is an insult to semiotics. Ferdinand de Saussure is spinning in his [an opening in the ground into which is interred the corpse of a deceased human].

I also don't think that fox has done a really hot job of imitating our culture. Does this fox think that most human beings wear casual-fit slacks and ringer tees with their occupation and/or personal identification written on them? Was this fox born behind a Hot Topic or something? And if he was born behind a Hot Topic, there's no way he would have learned about buying a used car (and certainly would have learned nothing about sensibly buying a used car) from the denizens of Hot Topic. He must also realize that he is seriously hurting his friends' bargaining power by tagging along with them and harassing salesmen. If you brought a friend with you who wore a shirt that said RAD HUMAN who just popped up and was like "Uhhhhhhh ... I think you need to cut the bullshit, fella." I don't think that would fly. Does he get a pass because he is a fox? That's reverse racism and I won't stand for it.

Finally, I can't think of anything more dated in 2012 than to tie your company to the word "fax." I get that it's a play on the word "facts." I get that. But you're not seriously delivering this information via fax, are you? Oh shit ... are you?

Haha wow.

Okay, that's just sad.