Grand Caravan’s Sharp Turn

Minivans copped a bad rap earlier this decade. As SUVs became the industry’s darling growth segment, giving owners the feeling of cool, active, outdoorsy hipsters, the family hauler was maligned as mom-mobiles driven by soccer moms. Sales plummeted and GM and Ford exited the category.
Now here comes Dodge with a new twist on minivan advertising, usually depicted by young families with smiling kiddies, in three TV commercials from Dodge’s new creative shop Wieden + Kennedy in Portland.
To say Wieden’s new work is different is an understatement. (By the way- remember when the Dodge brand actually used “Different” as ad ad tag in 1999? It didn’t last long).
The minivan is black, driving across a desert in two spots. One spot has all men in it; another all men with a female driver. The music and overall look are in the spy genre.

This one, called “Kittens” is downright creepy:

This one, dubbed “Turncoats,” is mystifying:

This is the best of the bunch :

That one’s called “Why.”

Why, Indeed?

Well, Dodge is repeating something Pontiac (remember Pontiac?) tried in the late ’90s for its minivan in a move to attract more men or at least more male approval. First called the Trans Sport, Pontiac changed the model name to Montana, formerly just a trim level, for the ’97 model year.  D’Arcy, Masius, Benton & Bowles’ Detroit office created ads for the minivan with cowboys, themed “Life’s More Exciting in Montana.” Voiceover by late actor Robert Mitchum.

The strategy worked.

In a survey of families shopping for minivans in June 1999 by CNW Marketing Research, Montana was far and away the top choice by men, topping Detroit’s rivals’ top three models.

We wish Dodge the same results.

3 responses to “Grand Caravan’s Sharp Turn

  1. It looks like they are trying to drive rental business. People don’t buy minivans to drive their friends around – but they do rent them. Have they given up on the core customer?
    It is a shame that such a fantastic shop would miss the market so weidly.

  2. Billy Joe McAlester

    I agree with the puzzlement about the bad rap minivans get…how many times have you heard someone with small children say something like “I would never drive a minivan”?

    I’m an empty-nester proud owner of a Dodge GC, love the thing.

    To me the perfect minivan ad would mock an SUV or crossover (Accord Crosstour, anyone?) for its lack of useful space and flexibility. Just try to get a washing machine in the back of each vehicle, then reconfigure and fit in 7 people. See who wins.

    But as bad as the Dodge ads might be, the Sienna ads are infinitely worse. “Daddy like”? Am I supposed to want to be like that skeevy looking guy and his goofy family? Jeebus, at least make them attractive.

  3. I consider myself a fairly sophisticated consumer, and I just don’t get it. I also don’t understand why minivans get such bad press.

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