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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Subaru Outback Campaign Spoofs Late Night Infomercials


Subaru America is trying something new for its latest Outback campaign. The team from Carmichael Lynch, Subaru’s agency of record, has developed a playful way to have fun with the Subaru consumer’s rugged lifestyle, that apparently involves too much time in the mud.

The Outback Detergent website features a cartoon skunk called “Stinky” and includes a dealer giveaway of a free detergent bottle for test-driving the 2010 Outback. The “Stinky” cartoon character is reminiscent of Pepe Le Pew, minus the French accent and instead of chasing female skunks Stinky is all about helping Subaru drivers remove the stains from their cars and clothing after a hard day of off-roading.

Of course this begs the question, do Outback drivers really go off-road? For some reason I doubt it, but it really doesn’t matter. Owning an all-wheel drive vehicle is all about the “image” of taking it through mud pits, dirt trails, and climbing rock formations. I doubt anyone at Subaru really thinks its customers are buying an Outback to test the rugged wilderness. What’s funny about the Outback Detergent site is that it mocks the whole ridiculousness of it all.

The site includes a TV Infomercial spoof of ads like OxiClean, which makes you wonder if the plan for this launch maybe had some reconsideration after the OxiClean spokesman Billy Mays unexpectedly died last June. Regardless of May’s early death, the Outback Detergent video features all the elements of late night infomercials: overly excited spokesperson, absurd demonstrations, exaggerated situations, paid studio audience, and loud signage.

An Outback Detergent YouTube channel was created to house the videos. I’m personally not a big fan of campaign channels, unless there is a contest where users can upload videos to the channel or the campaign has enough content and an editorial calendar of additional content being released over a long enough time frame. Perhaps, the Subaru team will also release additional videos, but if this all of the content a channel is pointless.

Channels are more about relationships and continuing the conversation through future, additional videos. Campaigns are usually too brief to bother with creating a channel, besides people take the time to subscribe to your channel and then you add nothing to it, which frustrates those who took the time. It’s often just better to upload the videos to a Brand (ie Subaru) or Product (Outback) channel, not something solely created for a campaign.

The website features the Infomercial and a couple additional videos showing how people use their Outbacks and use them in dirt-covered ways. “Stinky” even has a page offering to help with stain removing tips. Unfortunately, he’s not as helpful as Tide’s website but this is parody.

The one concern with the website I have is while the whole cleaning dirt spoof is fun it does detract from what the new vehicle is about. After using the site, there isn’t much communicated about what is new in the 2010 Outback model and very few images showing the car. Vehicle strengths seem secondary and even non-existent in the Outback Detergent site. Leaving me to wonder if someone will really take the time to move to the standard Subaru shopping experience after being directed to the Detergent sell.
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