Monday, September 14, 2009

Sloppy, lazy language.


A lot of my posts, like my previous one decrying the use of the word "love" to describe the feelings one has for Clorox liquid bleach, are about how we misuse language because we are sloppy, lazy or have given up caring or fighting.

Just now I came upon a banner ad for the Ford Flex and noticed next to the blue Ford oval the tagline: "Drive one."

As an industry we regularly imbibe in the insipid. But "Drive one" as a tagline for a struggling car company? Why not "Drive two"? How about "Park one," "Wash one," "Dent one," "Lose your shirt in one," or "Get rear-ended and immolate in one"?

Over the past few decades a couple of automakers have used the word "drive" to convey power, passion and energy.

Ammirati & Puris coined the line "The ultimate driving machine" for BMW and Arnold wrote "Drivers wanted" for Volkswagen. Since the word drive was used effectively in the past, you'd better measure up to the past if you choose to use it in the present.

You would not re-write Avis' old line "We try harder" this way "We attempt with some fervor." Not only does my re-write suck in and of itself, it sucks even worse because it makes you think of something pretty good. So it sucks by comparison.

Likewise, an athletic shoe company can't get away with "Just exercise" as a tag. It's both dumb and derivative.

Drive one.

What were they thinking?
Oh.
They weren't.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Many years ago I worked on Avis. The client wanted to improve upon the tagline 'We try harder'. Not replace it, mind you, but improve upon it. The whole agency worked on it and the result was 'Trying harder makes Avis second to none'. Just remembering that makes me want to jump out a window.

Anonymous said...

I think the Ford Flex tagline today should be 'any color you want as long as it's green'.

Teenie said...

Poor copywriter must have smacked their head into an aneurysm after submitting a million taglines, only to have some client say "Hey, why not just say Drive One" while the minions drooled in agreement and kissed his shoes.

geo said...

You know, if you took the "e" off of "one" it would be better.

peter said...

"We attempt with some vigor." My God is that funny. I haven't laughed like that in weeks, Geo. Can't resist now:

"We engage with greater earnestness."

"Our efforts evince added exertion"

"We cry. Martyrs."

Susan Ellis said...

Buy this car or we'll shoot your dog...no! wait! they'll shoot my dog!

Anonymous said...

It'd be better to say "have sex in one." and the Flex is certainly big enough.