Lexus takes aim at social media as a perceived deterrent to driving.

It’s that time again – the season for fairy-tale car ads in which American families with glossy hair and dazzling teeth present each other with fancy automobiles as Christmas gifts. These impossibly prosperous and good-looking folks coo with delight at the luxury vehicles that show up in their driveways on Christmas morn, topped with enormous red ribbons and the faintest dusting of crystalline snow. You know the routine.

Lexus has long been a leader in this type of holiday-auto-fantasy-peddling, its jingle one of the season's most numbing refrains. This year, though, there is a hint of anxiety in the company’s ad campaign, a seeming reflection of the auto industry's new reality: that Millennials are not driving, and by extension not purchasing or even expecting as gifts, new cars anywhere near as much as their parents did.

In the new ads, we see well-heeled young folks sitting at home by the light of their tablet or laptop, Christmas lights twinkling in the background. Then, just as they are about to click on a dreary “like” or “share” button, they get a better idea: Let me jump in my car and go out into the real world!

"This December, remember," says the voiceover in one of the spots, which features a fashionably scruffy guy whose loft apartment is festooned with Edison bulbs and what looks like a fixed-gear bike hanging in the corner. "You can stay in and 'share' something, or you can get out there with your friends and actually share something."

Our young hero leaps up from the couch, loads his friends into a candy-apple-red Lexus, and goes on to "share" a night of clubbing, while the slightly amped-up Lexus Xmas theme thumps in the background.

As Sree Sreenivasan writes on CNET, this isn’t the first auto ad campaign to take aim at social media. Carmakers are clearly worried that the charms of a life lived on Pinterest and Facebook are a threat to a recreational existence driven by four wheels and gasoline. They should worry: not only are young people in the United States are buying fewer cars than ever before, but on a global level some researchers have found that the rise of Internet connectedness is correlated to a decline in car ownership.

Generation Y might well be in search of more human connection. But if young people are looking for real-world experiences, will they really be turning to hugely pricey automobiles to get them out the door? Or will they be more inclined to stroll out of their walkable downtown apartments on foot? To use their smartphones to check when the next bus is coming, or to reserve a Zipcar for short-term use? Or maybe even to take the fixie down from the wall and ride to the club?

The folks at Lexus may be packaging their ads a little differently this year. But they’re still playing the same old tune.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Design

    The Curious Politics of a Montreal Mega-Mall

    The car-dependent suburb it’ll be built in wants to greenlight Royalmount against the city government’s wishes but it needs them to pay for the public infrastructure.

  2. Design

    There’s a Tile Theft Epidemic in Lisbon

    With a single azulejo fetching hundreds of euros at the city’s more reputable antique stores, these tiles, sitting there out in the open, are easy pickings.

  3. Multicolored maps of Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Tampa, denoting neighborhood fragmentation
    Equity

    Urban Neighborhoods, Once Distinct by Race and Class, Are Blurring

    Yet in cities, affluent white neighborhoods and high-poverty black ones are outliers, resisting the fragmentation shown with other types of neighborhoods.

  4. Design

    A History of the American Public Library

    A visual exploration of how a critical piece of social infrastructure came to be.

  5. A photo of a new car dealership
    Transportation

    If the Economy Is So Great, Why Are Car Loan Defaults at a Record High?

    For low-income buyers, new predatory lending techniques may make it easier to get behind the wheel, and harder to escape a debt trap.