Super Bowl ads tend to start trending topics, and now it appears that the auto industry is likely to intensify its push for electric vehicles following making them the center of attention. Even Tesla hasn’t had a Super Bowl ad, managed to get their Model Y into a Popeyes commercial as Ram claimed that its latest electric pickup truck’s advanced technology had solved the problem that came with ” premature electrification” which caused consumers to be unhappy.
It was an ad that was commissioned from the Dawn Project, an advocacy group for safety which is likely to result in a series of ads this year to assure customers they are safe. EV technology is secure.
In it, Tesla’s autonomous cars slash mannequins of a child’s size. Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk was adamant about the commercial and tweeted that even negative publicity could be used to promote Tesla’s self-driving vehicles.
As a scholar of media interested in the ways that societies manage disruptive technology I can see similarities between the current concerns about electric vehicles and the beginnings of automobiles.
In the past the conversation in public was a mix of hope and trepidation. Then, automakers began using advertising to calm these concerns.
Signals of sound and safety
In reality, the idea of the idea of promoting safer technology is as old as the automobile industry.
Since cars can cause harm to the lives of people engineers have attempted to address their safety concerns. In the early 20th century alongside improved brakes, headlights and wheels researchers promised advancements in the technology of sound signaling which was the car horn made driving safer as it let drivers that a car was approaching.
In my new book, “Danger Sound Klaxon! The Horn that changed History,” I tell the tale of the early sound signals. The first time, engineers made a move to adapt the bells and gongs as well as whistles from other kinds of vehicles to automobiles. Then, they was able to settle on that squeeze bulb-like horn the type that makes an “honk honk” noise.
Then in 1909, a brand new horn manufactured by the Lovell-McConnell firm named the Klaxon was created to solve that problem by giving motorists the capability, with only the push of an electronic button, to release an ethereal “aaOOga” sound so loud that nobody could be able to miss the sound. They immediately set about to convince people that their unique noise-making technology was safer to drive with.
The ad campaign of Klaxon employed the new method of ” situational advertising” that placed readers in a scenario that gave them an option. A lot of the advertisements, which appeared in some of the most popular magazines, challenged readers to think of the best strategy to safeguard themselves from the negligence of others.
One Klaxon advertisement from the 1909 issue in the Saturday Evening Post portrays a unintentionally walking pedestrian who has stepped into the car within New York’s Herald Square with the tag the line “You Can’t Change Human Nature.”
The auto industry saw human nature as a possible issue. The Internet Archive
“The auto must have a signal that really warns,” is the text. “If all minds were always alert – if children could protect themselves – if the weak were strong, there would be no need of any auto signal.”
So the advertisement suggests that the best solution for automobile owners is to purchase an Klaxon as the distinctive sound it makes is “AUTO is COMING! LOOK OUT! NOW!”
Technology that is quieter to ensure drivers are secure
The medium was a hit and people bought the message. For more than two decades Klaxon was the dominant player in the global auto horn marketplace and also pumped its technological security message to the media.
However, relying on loud signaling technology to ensure the safety of people turned out to be a risky proposition following the horrors from World War I, when Klaxons were employed in the trenches to serve as gas alarms. After the war there was a global battle against noise was waged off.
Therefore, all societies looked to various forms technologies, like traffic lights to address the security issue that automobile horns couldn’t. The Klaxon decreased in size when engineers turned their attention towards the problem of reducing car noise using muffling technology like closed cabins as well as “silent gearwheels.”
While their focus has changed, the message was the same: The new technologies will always be able to solve problems created by the older ones.
Smart technology promises to reduce the need for thinking
Today, flash forward and you’ll see how the more things evolve in the field of technology-related advertising and marketing, the more they remain the same.
Think about the recent commercials that was aired by Volkswagen Atlas that aired throughout football games throughout the season long. It also likes the Klaxon advertisement from 1910.
The ad is titled “Those Guys,” the clever ad features an unplugged zoomer who is captivated by his phone and completely unaffected his surroundings. walking through the streets as the song of Doris Day’s ” It’s a Lovely Day Today” plays in the background. As the man from the 1910 Klaxon advertisement, this man walks right up to an moving Atlas. However, with it’s “Standard Front Assist and Pedestrian Monitoring” technology that brakes the car automatically and all passengers are safe.
Human folly, as exemplified by “those guys” is still portrayed as a challenge to be solved through technology.
The scenario described in the commercial has evolved. The latest technology for quiet protection safeguards pedestrians and drivers from harm by detecting movements and automatically braking which means it doesn’t matter if either of them is warned.
However, the underlying message is the same: Because humans aren’t able to change as there are always “those guys,” rest sure that technologies “built with safety in mind” can safeguard us.
Whatever gadget that advertisers try to promote, that fundamental technological apathy – a religious fervor that is a part of American popular culture just as important as football is a reliable source that you can be sure of.
It doesn’t matter if it’s loud auto horns, self-driving vehicles, smart speakers or cryptocurrency individuals are constantly bombarded by messages that urge to embrace new technologies and without taking the time to think whether they actually need the products that companies are offering.