Entry 762: I’m Not a Real Person; I Just Play One on TV

I’ve waited long enough. It’s time I used this platform to address one of the scourges of our society, something almost every American can agree on even in these devisive times, something nearly everyone hates, regardless of political affiliation, ethnicity, religion, or status.

Supporters of the #metoo movement hate them. Male chauvinists hate them. Neo-Nazis hate them. Jews and Arabs hate them equally. Baby boomers hate them, Generation X hates them. Millennials hate them and parody them. Even Donald Trump probably hates them, although he hasn’t mentioned them in tweets (to my knowledge).

I speak, of course, about those damn Chevy commercials.

You know the ones. With the real people instead of unreal actors reacting with undue enthusiasm as the bearded host extols the features of a Chevy vehicle or lists all the awards Chevy has won.

“Really?” “Go, Chevy!” “Where can I get me one of these?” “That’s amazing!” “Awesome!”

Most sane people agree that these sorts of responses seem out of proportion to the revelation that the Chevy Cruze has Bluetooth.

These commercials are so ubiquitous and so annoying, I decided to take action on behalf of my fellow Americans and do some actual research in order to answer some of the questions all of us have about these inane spots. After a grueling five minutes, here’s what I found out:

Question: Are the real people really real people?
Answer: Yes. Obviously they are not androids running on artificial intelligence unless there’s something seriously wrong with their programming. And, as promised, they are not actors, except that the commercials are filmed in Los Angeles, so I’m sure some “actors” slip in there in the guise of waiters and office temps.

Question: Do real actors get offended at the implication that they are not real people?
Answer: Only someone who has not personally known an actor would ask that question.

Question: How many people are actually filmed in order to make one commercial?
Answer: I don’t know exactly. Everyone involved in these things has to sign a non-disclosure agreement, so it’s difficult to get inside info. But enough information has leaked out so that we know the people are recruited off the street and gathered in some large venue like the Los Angeles Convention Center. This is not, in itself, indicative of how many people are filmed, because they also need the space to set up their ridiculous reveals, like cars popping out from the wall or SUVs stacked on top of one another. However, if you watch just one commercial carefully, you’ll usually see at least a dozen different people. They make it difficult to count, though, because you see groups of four or more in wide shots, and often from behind. My guess is that if they actually use a dozen, they must film about fifty and then sit in an editing room going “I don’t like her mole.” “What is that between his teeth? Spinach?” “She looks too much like Jan from the Toyota commercials” and so on.

Question: Do the commercials work?
Answer: One thing I learned from my ad agency days is that advertising executives are able to describe any campaign as “working.” It’s just a matter of finding and bending the right statistics. (“Oh, yes, since the inception of this campaign, in-store trial among the coveted 25-27 year old audience is up 12 percent, taking into account the snow storm in the midwest and the flu epidemic in the northeast.”) I would assume the Chevy spots are “working” according to whatever metrics they’re looking at, otherwise we would no longer be looking at the spots.

Question: How much money do these people get to make fools of themselves over and over on national TV?
Answer: That’s the big question, isn’t it? It’s what we ask ourselves every time we see one of these commercials. After all, we can’t imagine ourselves saying such ludicrous things about any automobile, much less a Chevy, unless there was a lot of money involved.

It’s kind of like being in porn. You know you’re going to be seen prostituting yourself for a buck. You’ll be out there in all your glory, probably forever, thanks to internet immortality. And you’re at risk of future employers and future mates finding out about your past errors of judgment and wondering how you could possibly have done such a thing.

According to leaked information, the participants in the Chevy commercials get a $150 Visa gift card for participating, another $50 later on by mail, and an undisclosed amount of money if they are actually used in the commercials. For comparison, a porn actress gets about $500-$2000, depending on what she does and how many vehicles she does it with.

But here’s the thing: the porn actress knows what she’s signing up for. The poor Chevy people don’t know how ridiculous they’re going to sound until they find themselves saying “It looks kinda dope” about a Chevy Malibu and then it’s too late, because they’ve already signed over the rights to use whatever stupid things come out of their mouths.

The most interesting thing I turned up about these spots is a description of the sort of mass hypnosis that overcomes the participants:

“It was weird because, once we got in there, he didn’t tell us where to stand or anything. He didn’t point at anything. We just magically got in that line of four people horizontally right in front of him. It was like they had this weird power. When I was talking to people in the lobby, no one seemed that enthusiastic about anything. The second we got in there, it was like magically everyone was the world’s biggest Chevrolet fan.”

In other words, the possibility of being in a TV commercial was instantly and universally more important to people than what they had to do or say to be in it. Money wasn’t the factor; it was perceived celebrity, even if that celebrity was in the form of folks saying, “Oh, you’re the moron in that car commercial who found the back-up camera so exciting.”

See you soon.

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