Oh how the times have changed. I was raised in a Toyota Hiace; I mean this almost literally. From the ages of 5 years to 18 years, my family’s chief vehicle was the Hiace van, Bertie the Bus. Before Bertie came to us, he had been a plumber’s van. Even as a primary school kid I knew that most families’ cars hadn’t had a former career in the trades.
Bertie was uncool; we all knew it. By the time I was at high school, my sisters and I encouraged Mum to park about a block away from the school so that the chances of being seen entering such a beast of a people-mover were low. The Hiace was a practical choice for our family. Mum and Dad were gamely trying to raise and wrangle four kids. The whole family wouldn’t have fitted in a normal car, let alone all our sports gear/ carseats / friends and pets. I should note here that Bertie did make possible my insistence on raising lambs in our suburban back garden. All those collapsible backseats made the annual transportation of a fully grown sheep, back to its farm, possible if a little stressful for all.
So it was with wry amusement that I came across this article on the ‘Rise of the Minivan’and the changing way in which minivans are being pitched at buyers. It seems that most parents don’t actually long to take to the roads as would-be bus drivers. The arrival of kids may have robbed them of wild nights and many freedoms, but modern parents want a little bit of street cred from their vehicle, as well as all those child-friendly safely features.
I absolutely love this ad, promoting Toyota’s Sienna Minivan. Rollin’ in my ‘swagger wagon.’ What parent doesn’t want that! The ad works well because it is self-consciously silly. A pair of white, middle class parents, rapping about their minivan, in a video shot in a format synonymous with rap videos; black and white, direct address to the video, close-up shots, and even dancing girls. Although the girls here are still children. Their adorable dance moves are the best bit of this ad which will make you cringe, and then start singing along. The awkward mix of supremely ungangsta people (usually the white middle class) and rapping can also be seen in this UK ad for the telecommunications company Orange. When I studied for a while in the UK, this ad played before seemingly every film I went to see at the cinema. Watching Snoopy Dog being outrapped by a pair of Brit suits (‘You can razzle dazzle my fantasmagizzle’) was sometimes the highlight of my film-going experience.
Most parents wouldn’t wish away their children, and all the kid-gear that comes with them. The parents just want a little nod that they’re still people, not just taxi-drivers. That’s why Toyota’s ‘SwaggerWagon’ pitch is so great. It says to the parents: Yeah you’re parents now, but we know you can still get down (as awkwardly ungangstas) as you did in your youth. So let’s razzle dazzle your fanstasmagizzle and take them kids crusin’ in da ‘burbs.