Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Honda: Be careful with those superlatives

In Honda's television commercial for its Pilot sport-utility vehicle, the company calls itself "The Greenest Automaker in America."  Obviously, the word "greenest" is open to many interpretations.  Some years ago, you might have thought that it meant Honda manufactured the most cars that were painted green.  But these days, the word conveys a different meaning: ecological, friendly to the environment, using less energy or built for alternative fuels.

Now, I couldn't read the fine print on my television - it was too small, and, even if the commercial was in high definition, I don't have it yet.  Yet the claim of "greenest" doesn't pass the fresh-cut grass smell test.  Is Honda aware, for example, of an American automaker called Tesla Motors?  All its cars are completely electric and can outperform most models in the Honda line-up.  They cost more, but they charge up quickly and have a range of over 200 miles.  Meanwhile, even the most efficient Pilot (the two-wheel-drive model) gets an average of only 19 miles per gallon.  That's not bad for a 3.5-liter behemoth, but, given the selection of hybrid SUVs on the market, it's not exactly green, either.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Chrysler: Isn't word choice wonderful?

A television commercial for Chrysler's 2010 Town and Country minivan currently advertises "unsurpassed fuel economy in its class."  Well, it's easy enough to go to and see just how efficient the Town and Country really is.  Turns out its most efficient engine gets 17 miles per gallon in the city (town?) and 25 on the highway (country?), for an average of 20.  But guess what: the Honda Odyssey and the Volkswagen Routan have exactly the same fuel economy ratings.  That's why the Chrysler is "unsurpassed" and not "uniquely the best."  Watch out for Honda and Volkswagen commercials advertising the same thing....

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Expo Markers: Stingy or selfless?

Expo Markers has a new television ad starring actor Kyle Chandler.  He begins by telling viewers that teachers spend as much as $500 annually on classroom supplies that their schools don't provide.  He also says that Expo markers are near the top of their shopping list, a vague claim that would be tough to prove or disprove.  He then encourages viewers to nominate inspiring teachers for a competition sponsored by the brand, adding that ten winning teachers will receive help with their expenses.

Expo likely wants viewers to think of their brand as altruistic and socially conscious, generating goodwill for the brand and more sales.  But how much are they really doing for teachers?  It sounds like they are willing to pay out a maximum of $5,000 (that's $500 each for ten teachers) to help our inspiring educators.  That sum almost certainly pales in comparison to the cost of hiring Mr. Chandler, and it seems even tinier relative to the cost of purchasing time on network television.  If anything, Expo seems pretty stingy - the opposite of the image they're probably hoping to create among consumers.

Allstate: Your statistics are not in good hands

Allstate is running a television ad in which its spokesman, the actor Dennis Haysbert, states that drivers who switched from Geico to Allstate for their car insurance saved an average of $473 a year.

What Haysbert doesn't say is that you probably wouldn't switch from one insurance company to another if you weren't going to save some money.  In fact, even if you were going to save a small amount, say $50, then you might not bother to switch.  So it's not surprising that the customers who switched saved a good deal of money.  It would be more interesting to know how big the average savings would be if all Geico customers switched to Allstate.  In fact, we have no idea how many Geico customers switched.  For all we know, the vast majority of them were happy with the insurance they had.  Some argument for switching, eh?