Corporate America Finally Gets It, Except When It Doesn’t

In case you hadn’t heard, the economy’s in the toilet. As such, this year’s holiday ads have taken quite a different tack than usual. Rather than pressure you to SPEND SPEND SPEND, most commercials emphasize the relative affordability of their product/service/store. Companies realize that many Americans are one paycheck away from wearing barrels with suspenders.

Even Lexus seems to understand this, which is amazing, since they could always be counted on to construct the most hateful Christmas ads every year. After all, any wealthy man can piss away money, but it takes a special kind of clueless plutocrat to spend an extra 30 grand on a Toyota because it has an L on the hood.

This year, their ads still feature The Red Bow. But rather than show entitled jerks surprising their spouses, they’ve decided to tap into The Childhood Wonder of Christmas. Their commercials show little kids, filmed in grainy old home movies style, explaining how nothing could ever top their best Christmas gift: Atari, Big Wheel, etc. And then it cuts to the kid, grown up, seeing his brand new Lexus in the driveway, his face lit up with a childlike glow.

Manipulative? Yeah. Exploitative? Definitely. Still, infinitely less douche-tastic than their usual holiday ads.

Plus, it features some classic toys that many viewers remember treasuring as children. They’re toys that lots of kids, regardless of background, spent thousands of hours with in their formative years.

In other words, these commercials do a much better job of tapping into universal holiday experiences. Few of us will wake up to a new car in the driveway on Christmas morning, but most of us know what it’s like to get one of these toys under the tree.

Of course, Lexus does tip their elitist hand in one of their commercials. Unfortunately, it’s the only one that features a girl/woman as gift recipient, which gives it an uncomfortably misogynistic feel. What is the little girl’s treasured childhood Christmas gift–a Barbie doll? An Easy-Bake Oven? A Light Brite? Nope, it’s a pony.

I wonder if the commercial is supposed to be an over-the-top joke. Because it shows a normal suburban living room–exactly the kind where you would never see a pony. I mean, the Lexus people couldn’t possibly be this clueless in this economic environment, could they?

Dad sits in his easy chair, with his back to the camera, his head in a newspaper and his feet up on an ottoman. The pony is about six feet from his face, but he seems neither concerned nor amazed by this. I imagine most normal dads’ reactions to such a thing would be something like, “Holy crap, there’s a pony in the living room!” or “That thing better not take a dump on the carpet, or so help me…”

One of the “best” things about this gift, according to the little girl, is that her friend came over and became immediately jealous. The pouty friend is shown dropping her toy pony to the ground in disgust. The friend has already lost this Class War, and she didn’t even know it was being waged.

So thank you, Lexus, for reminding us that even during the holidays, there are Haves and Have Nots. The Haves get ponies for Christmas, and grow up to get luxury sedans. The Have Nots are invited to their rich friends’ houses to have their poverty rubbed in their faces.