Monday, February 2, 2009

Champagne Glasses are So 1989

Lexus made its iconic debut in 1989 with a commercial called Balance that demonstrated luxury and quality by balancing a pyramid of champagne glasses on the hood of a Lexus LS 400. This time around Lexus has dramatically increased the challenge with their Cards spot for the Lexus ES.

The web address,, features the spot and a behind the scenes video where we learn about the challenges faced by the professional cardstacker, Bryan Berg. First of all, who knew you could make a living stacking cards? Second, is the Cards spot right for Lexus ES?

The ES is probably the least defined vehicle in Lexus's lineup. It is sandwiched between their 3-series challenging Lexus IS sports sedan and the bigger mid-size luxury fighter the GS. The Card spot dips into Lexus' successful marketing past (once named a Best Ad by Ad Age magazine) and communicates the quality of it's sound dampening and smooth engine sound. I'm not sure the feature of a quiet cabin is as effective now as it was in 1989.

It was Lexus that brought the idea of the quiet cabin as a distinct attribute of a quality car. Before Lexus, wind noise and sound dampening never really had the importance it does after the Lexus Balance spot. The "owned" the feature. Today sound dampening can be found in a Toyota Corolla. It's not so unique any more and some journalists and drivers have even poked fun at the sadness of not being able to hear the sound of your car's engine, as if the driver is missing some of the fun a car gives its owner. So, as a feature it just doesn't have the cache it did in the 80s.

Where the ad works is in some of the PR coverage it may get due to it's obvious extension from famous the Balance ad. Unfortunately, it does little else. Stacking cards on the hood isn't going to change many minds to buy an ES and you could probably do the same thing on an Acura, Mercedes, BMW or Infiniti with the same result. The parity is too close these days when it comes to quiet cabins and smooth engine idling that I doubt many consumers really care about Lexus' card trick. more.

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