On those Zipcar ads in the subway

Your humble author in his dream Halloween costume, c. 1990.

Your humble author in his dream Halloween costume, c. 1990.

Many years ago, a girl I liked told me I should be proud of my nerdiness. “You’re a nerd. That’s cool. I’m a nerd, too, and I’m proud. Embrace it.”

Being a typical nerd, I failed to realize this was her way of hitting on me. She has since been lost to history.

Fast forward to the present day, and to another girl – this one fond of saying that I’m a curmudgeon about certain things. Salmoning cyclists. Cars in the crosswalk. Tourists walking too slowly. (Don’t worry, I’ve already realized she likes me.)

So I’m going to grab the bull by the horns and harness my inner crank. Welcome to a new, possibly irregular feature: Curmudgeonly Keith.

For my first topic, I have a bone to pick with the advertisements for Zipcar plastered all over the subway.

In case you are unfamiliar with the concept, Zipcar is a car-sharing system for short-term trips – a few hours, for example, when you don’t need a costlier full-day rental. It’s very simple and convenient: you join the program, reserve a car, find your assigned vehicle (thanks to embedded GPS), and head on your merry way.

Zipcar does a great job of conveying the ease of this process in its ads. But that’s about all this campaign does right.

Zipcar instructions

This option is great in certain circumstances: you want to drive to a park outside the city, and there is no other way to get there. You need to get between one podunk and another (Middlebury, my alma mater, has a few on hand). You are moving your life to your new apartment and don’t have enough stuff to fill a U-Haul.

But this campaign attempts to persuade the viewer that driving in the city is the optimal way to get around. Perhaps now that Avis has acquired Zipcar, it’s trying to use the former start-up for markets it doesn’t already control.

Zipcar ad - sucky parts

This is true – no registration, no insurance, no looking for parking. The only downsides are you’re not immune to traffic, and you might have to stop texting for a while. (I certainly hope you will, anyway.)

And look where these two ladies are: somewhere not in New York City. Go figure.

A few of the ads are reasonable, but then quickly dip into the absurd.

Zipcar ad - kicked out

You’ve got to feel bad for this poor guy. He just got dumped! His life is on the curb! Zipvan to the rescue! OK, not such a bad use.

Before we dig deeper, let’s take a moment to appreciate how crappy the graphic design is here. In just eleven words they’ve managed to use two different fonts and three different sizes. At least in the first ad the cursive made sense for highlighting “sucky parts”. (But then, who says “sucky”?)

Zipcar ad - free lunch

Based on this dude’s outfit, and the “I’m a baller” hand gesture of his associate to the right, I’d say he’s putting this meal on his corporate card.

Any college freshman in Econ 101 can tell you this ad warps the concept of TANSTAAFL. I can get a lunch without paying for it, but somewhere down the line, someone has to pick up the tab.

So how exactly can Zipcar afford to provide free gas? Perhaps because the tax on gasoline is far too low to maintain our infrastructure? If you don’t believe that, I have a bridge in Minneapolis to sell you.

Zipcar ad - toilet paper

Here we have a girl with a twelve pack of toilet paper. I wish we could see her smile: “I just spent $35 to bring these home!”

I buy rolls in this quantity, and I’ve never had a problem carrying them from Duane Reade. (We’re talking 10 pounds, tops.) If you’re really in need, a cab is a better option, unless you’re the type who likes to get cappuccinos in Manhattan when you live on Staten Island. In which case, you are beyond my ability to help you.

Zipcar ad - cheating

“Hey, guys! Let’s rent a car so we can get lattes somewhere else!” Brilliant idea, dude. At least you didn’t get a convertible so your fedora won’t fly off.

I’ve visited every corner of Brooklyn multiple times and only once have I used a car – and that was last Wednesday with Harley, because he had driven in from Wantagh. I’m good evidence that surviving without a car is doable – and perhaps a bit fun.

That ad was going to be the closer to this post for obvious reasons; however, I’m so awestruck by another that I have to put it last. Completely unsurprising: using sex to sell.

Zipcar ad - booty call

Speaking of unanswered, three questions immediately spring to mind.

1. Who makes booty calls in the middle of the day?
2. How often do people get booty calls when they’re sober?
3. Who cleaned up this backseat?

Maybe it was the girl with the toilet paper.

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