Wednesday, 8 April 2015


Here’s something that I came across the other day while I was cooling my heels impatiently in a garage waiting room. It was at the front of a car manufacturers brochure. The type of brochure of such dazzling lustre that it leaves your figures permeated with perfumed printer’s gloss, your head reeling from the scent of hardcore, high level, in-your-face advertising, and your mind numbed by unfulfillable images of impossible places and fabulously plastic young people. This is what it said:

When Imagination Can Take You Everywhere 
The road. A simple path really. And yet it’s come to mean so much more. Perhaps the real reason roads are special is that each one leads us to some place we’re not – but could be. At Super-Car, roads are our springboards. They challenge us, taunt us and guide us to create better, more exciting, more ingenious ways to move through life. Roads drive us to places we’ve never been before. And we’ll never stop seeking out new ones.

All this and not an exclamation mark in sight; not so much as a hint of tongue in cheek! In one paragraph there are 79 words packed into 8 sentences. The longest sentence is a measly 21 words, and shortest (non)sentence a brief 2 words. To start one sentence with a conjunction is acceptably risqué, but two in the same paragraph is just sacrilegious, yet to miss the opportunity of an ellipse or two . . .

This is without doubt one of the most remarkable pieces of copywriting garbage I think that I have ever read. It is designed to persuade me to buy a small family car. Instead it persuades me to stick my head in a brown paper bag and opt for public transport.

To conflate a stretch of tarmac with ones journey through life is at best disingenuous and at worst just plain stupid. As if one sets out on a road journey – be it short, to the shops for instance; or long, to distant mountains – with a song in the heart and an existential thought – “gosh this is just like my journey through life hitherto and what an amazing metaphor this stretch of road is going to be for my life henceforth!”

I almost hesitate to unpack this rubbish and by doing so fall into the trap of the Mitchells Law – but hell it’s awfully difficult to avoid the temptation, so here goes . . .

The road. A simple path really. Short, sharp and punchy; and already confusing. What, I wonder, is a complex path?

And yet it’s come to mean so much more. More than what? Toast and Marmite? Babies tears? Beetroot sandwich spread? Low calorie shoe polish? The English Daily Mail? Yesterday's socks? Oh - but I do like the flagrant use of “and” as a sentence opener – risky and dangerous!
One of those wonderful, simple roads (in the dry season)
that go on, and on, and on, but eventually get there. 
Anywhere in Southern Africa! 
Perhaps the real reason roads are special is that each one leads us to some place we’re not – but could be. Well there’s no “perhaps” about it. If you are at point “A” you cannot be at point “B” – unless of course you are Schrödingers Cat, and if you are your very live existence is of course subject to debate, and your position (locationally speaking) may – or may not – be at “A” or “B”, or “A” and “B” at the same time, and there again, in which time continuum? But I do like use of the throw-away “could be”. It does indicate the sheer unbridled excitement of choice! I hesitate to bitch about the use of “some place” which is an irritating Americanism, but I suppose the use of “a place” or “anywhere” would upset the rhythm of this absurd roller coaster of crass words.

A road with absolutely no end in sight. A roller coaster  of
a wayfare redolent with cattle and newly released school
children just waiting to leap out in front of you - Swaziland
An urban road of surprising orderliness where two-wheeled
transport is king and jay-walking appears to be a capital
offence - not to say a stupid occupation - Kathmandu,

At Super-Car, roads are our springboards. Well unless Super-Car have also entered the sports equipment racket (pun intended) or have developed some fabulously resilient shock absorbers I hope not! But hey – it does introduce the following touch of whimsy . . .

They challenge us, taunt us and guide us to create better, more exciting, more ingenious ways to move through life. I see. You, the manufacturers of cars are somehow galvanised, taunted no less, by the very vector along which your much vaunted vehicles have to travel. You are challenged to present presumably more ingenious ways of flamboyant acceleration and deceleration along the straight bits, swooping around bends and roundabouts with birdlike flair, not to mention stopping with style and élan when needed. I see now that it’s all just like life. If I think about it I do accelerate and decelerate while walking in an exciting sort of a way and my personal and business relationships are a whole melange of swooping bends, blind corners, unexpected rises and red lights, let alone having to navigate over cross pelicans and zebras and sleeping policemen. Oddly this has never occurred to me before!

Masculine, unromantic roads full of bombast and hurried
impatient drivers rushing from one crisis to the next in the
heart of an edgy economic and political empire - Moscow

Homely and soft small urban landscape, pedestrianised
and carefully controlled and preserved with a slow
synergy between walkers and drivers  - Lichfield, England

Roads drive us to places we’ve never been before. Well actually they don’t. Cars, buses and taxi’s, and jalopies and skoro-skoro’s, and motorcycles and donkey carts and Yaks and bicycles and pedestrians all actually do the motive bit. The road just sits there. Roads are passive and utilitarian. And while we’re at it they usually also connect us to places that we do know very well and maybe even hate going to although necessity demands the journey. I very much doubt that the most vaunted small family car is going to in anyway mitigate the journey to the oncologist or the funeral of a close friend.
A road that has never seen an internal
combustion engine, and rarely (if ever) a
wheeled cart or bicycle. People, Yaks and
occasionally donkeys give a very different
feel to time and purpose and goals - Lukla,

And we’ll never stop seeking out new ones. Now I'm confused. Are you never going to stop seeking out new ones? Or are you telling me that I will never stop seeking out new ones? If it’s the former I would far rather you expended your energies on safety and economy than on daft whimsy. If it is the latter then you let me sort out my own desires for “new roads”, be they actual or fanciful and let’s both leave the state of said roads to whatever incompetent agency is responsible for their parlous state of repair and general levels of safety.
A road that should never be. The chap in the pothole is not
kneeling and is not responsible for the parlous state of this
byway - Swaziland

But back to the beginning, and here’s the real irony. The copy is tritely entitled When Imagination Can Take You Everywhere”. Self evident for anyone with a smidgeon of imagination - and that’s all the copywriter needed to have said. A stupid and meaningless sentence of absolutely no import has been expanded to a degree of senseless prattle of such magnitude that I would be embarrassed to be seen dead in the subject small mundane silver grey family car with indeterminate styling, the usual basic accoutrements and absolutely no mod cons.