‘We all fall down; you get to pick us up’

As a bit of car enthusiast, particularly older pre-1970 American cars, watching General Motors’ implosion has been particularly painful.

How the company could have squandered the name recognition and customer loyalty built up over the decades in its Oldsmobile and Pontiac brands, for example, to the point that those venerable lines would be phased out seems inconceivable even now, more than half a decade after the last Olds rolled off the assembly line in Lansing, Mich.

So Russ Roberts’ post at Cafe Hayek about a rather odd GM television ad caught my attention:

I was watching some football on Sunday and saw this moving ad, set to piano music about not giving up. At first I thought it was an Apple ad, or a Nike ad, maybe. No narration, just a set of images and film clips about people coming back from adversity: Evel Knievel, Popeye, Harry Truman, a boxer knocked to his knees and so on. Then the ending:

‘We all fall down.

‘Thank you for helping us get back up.’

Followed by the GM logo.

You can watch it here:

Thank you for helping us get back up? That’s what you say to someone who extends a helping hand. A person who cares. It’s not really the right message to someone who was forced to help you out after years of misbehavior and failure. An apology would have been more appropriate. An ending that would go something like this:

‘We messed up.

‘We’re sorry we forced you to clean up the mess.’

Or maybe this one:

‘We made lousy products.

‘Sorry that we made you pay for them anyway.’

Or this one:

‘We should have lost a lot of money.

‘Sorry that we ruined incentives for other losers in the future by flexing our political muscle.’

On the plus side, there’s a couple of clips from Animal House in the commercial, so it’s not a complete loss. That’s a lot more fitting than the folks at GM probably realize.

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