Ad Nauseum: Portugese Car Commercial Goes Metro to Slam Transit Riders

Last week, Streetsblog NYC’s Brad Aaron reported on an advertisement in Metro Newpaper by Subaru calling transit riders “stinking low lifes.” The irony of course is that Metro is given out for free in many transit stations across North America.

Via Copenhagenize, comes a television commercial from Portugal that’s also  something of an insult. In the commercial for Mercedes Smart Cars, we see a lot of the tropes that the car industry is desperately trying to sell to people who don’t want to chain themselves to the costs of owning a car. There’s a woman pressed up against a Red Line door as she just missed her connection. There’s a mariachi band desperately trying to entertain a woman who wants to be left alone. There’s a hipster gazing longingly out the window of his bus at a Smart Car while a suited man is loudly eating a hamburger next to him.

Wait a second, did I say “Red Line door?” I did. The makers of this commercial clearly decided to Go Metro! to make their transit hating screed. Reader Erik Griswold, who tipped Streetsblog to the video, fumed rhetorically, “Who approved this self-loathing (manure?)”

But don’t worry Angelenos, we don’t have to bear the burden of having our beloved Metro system to attack the people who use it. That bus in the second half of the advertisement is from North San Diego County’s NCTD.

  • james

    Apparently Metro doesn’t mind being used to denigrate public transportation and the people who use it. I imagine the people who are responsible for Metro’s film liaison – whether they work for Metro or not – don’t actually use Metro.

    The Smart car is definitely a car for people who should be using transit/bicycle/walking in European central cities. It was my experience that smart car owners were always people who lived in central Munich, thought Munich’s transit was not good enough and used their smart to make all their trips in those neighborhoods where cars probably should not be allowed. Smart cars seemed to be popular with people who had princess personalities and lacked the basic driving skill needed for parallel parking. I used to see those things parked on the sidewalk and even in bike lanes. Cultivating anti-transit stereotypes are probably central to smart’s marketing.

  • To play devil’s advocate. . . while the commercial exaggerates for effect, the examples it presents ARE representative of the downsides of using public transit. IE: they’re not off-the-rails on this one.

    It’s typically not THAT bad. But it would be just as disingenuous to portray transit riding as a more pleasant experience than riding in a personal car.

  • Erik Griswold

    To his credit, Steve Hymon posted a link to this blog entry by Damien complete with the Portuguese version of the SmartCar advertisement on Metro’s TheSource blog. He then wrote this as a comment:

    “Hmmm. How shall I spin this? I know–I’ll change the topic and use the video to
    remind everyone that eating ginormous hamburgers is prohibited on Metro trains and buses! Thank you for your cooperation and helping to keep our local transit system clean and tidy!”

    To which I have replied and am posting here because Hymon and his overlords at Metro HQ surely will not post it there:


    Your response is juvenile.

    Please name the shameless self-hating twit in your employ who approved the filming of the SmartCar ad on Metro Los Angeles property?

    Because someone at One Gateway Plaza did.

    And they sure don’t deserve to be on the public payroll anymore.

    The Source, and perhaps Art Leahy himself, needs to explain to us why there is any sort of promotion of public transportation being done by Metro and its “Communications departments”, when images as shown above, are then produced using Metro’s permission on Metro’s facilities and rolling stock; the same ones that were built and paid for in the idea that citizens who were taxed to do so, ought to be using them.

    That Metro operate primarily based on funds generated on the regressive sales tax which impacts the transit-dependent at a much higher rate seems to be lost on many of you there.

    But hey, look at the fat guy with the hamburger! He’s breaking the rulz! Lulz!


  • Erik Griswold

    This did not have to be filmed on Los Angeles Metro (or NCTD) property. There are plenty of places called “soundstages” in greater Los Angeles.

  • Erik Griswold

    Are those friends of green bicycle lanes, “Film L.A.” involved in this one too?

  • marcotico

    One thing that is important to note, is that this is a Portugese commercial. I do know that when it comes to advertise on Metro property, or via any Metro owned websites, ads cannot be offensive, or denigrate public transportation. At least that was their board approved policy 7 years ago when I did some work on the So Vall 511 site.

  • calwatch

    If you believe Metro’s own filming policy they have script approval over the section showing Metro vehicles. Who dropped the ball?

  • Erik Griswold

    The version above is the Portugese-language version. So it may only be running in Portugal and perhaps Brazil.

    Then there is the German version:

    (For Germany and Austria, since the Swiss have wisely not adopted the euro)

    And the generic pan-European version in the language of English:

    I suspect I will find versions of this made for other markets. And this will have been spelled out in a contract made with Metro.

  • anonymous

    Automobile commercials should be banned by the FCC (and its Portuguese equivalent), just as cigarette ads are.

  • Anonymous

    Now moving to the real underlying issue: how to crack down on antisocial behavior on transit? Some cities do better than others, outlawing AND enforcing eating, drinking, listening music, carrying large packages etc. Others don’t.


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