A Holiday Ad To Make Us Feel Good About America
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
It’s not often that a television commercial draws us into a story, reminds us of the best parts of ourselves and moves us deeply. If you’ve watched anything on commercial television in the past few years, you understand how rare that is. But this holiday season, one of America’s last iconic brands, Chevrolet, accomplished just that – a pitch perfect ad that comes at just the right moment in our national story.
When many Americans are having trouble simply recognizing the country they’ve known all their lives, when there is division over race, politics, leadership, the press, and even Covid we wonder who we are, even what we are. It is at this moment that Chevrolet has come forward with a decidedly non-woke message to evoke the essence of our lives and America.
It’s not the only great ad in recent years to resonate with me. There was the Budweiser Ad of the American GIs returning from Iraq. As they walk into the airport, one passenger after another stands up to give them applause, reach out, shake a hand, and tell them thanks. I’ve known veterans who have watched it a dozen times at a sitting.
In Chevrolet’s four-minute commercial called “Holiday Ride,” directed by Academy Award winner Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”), we see a widower struggling with his grief by visiting the barn where he keeps a now-beat-up 1966 Impala that belonged to his late wife. In a flashback, he remembers his pretty young wife, her radiant smile, her excitement, through an old 8-millimeter film taken when she is first given the car so many years ago.
Then, in what may be the most important scene, his daughter, now grown, goes to the local garage and explains to the guys sitting around, about her father’s sadness. Before she can even ask, the guys completely understand and jump in to help. “It’s your mother’s car … ?” One of them asks. Then he turns to the others with just one question: “Anyone up for some night work?”
They are all in. This is a sense of caring and generosity we have always seen in America and we still do — after tornados in Kentucky, floods in the Ohio Valley, fires in the West, ice storms in Texas … and after 9-11. We are the wealthiest nation on earth, the most generous, and filled with decent neighbors.
In “Holiday Ride,” we watch the old guys lovingly restore the car, we see how the father is moved by his daughter’s caring, by the community’s kindness and by the memory of his beloved wife. This hits all of us in different ways. There are 15-million widows and widowers in America who immediately understand this man’s pain.
There is also a real longing for an American reality that is not made up, as some (including members of Congress) have recently suggested. These good people really do exist. I grew up with them. I have experienced their generosity and their caring. And, of course, there is something else — the metaphor that ties it all together — the Chevy.
Almost every American has a memory attached to a car: The parent who took us out for our first time behind the wheel; the first date; that special road trip with the love of our life. A lot of firsts took place in a car. The open highway is as much a part of our national cultural heritage as the open range.
In this ad, we also see community, connection to our neighbors, generosity, caring and, especially, love. It’s amazing how this is all wrapped up in four minutes around a gorgeous 1966 blue Impala convertible. Amazing, but not at all surprising. Happy holidays, America.
Mr. Kozak, author of “LeMay: The Life and Wars of General Curtis LeMay,” is a contributing editor of the Sun.