A Word From Our Sponsors… Steve McQueen Drives A Puma

It’s not often that TV advertising raises interesting philosophical and metaphysical questions about the value of life and death… and the afterlife – but this week’s classic advert does just that.

What price your good name and reputation after you are gone, but not forgotten, when you can be bought and sold to the highest bidder?

And just where is the morality in securing an celebrity endorsement from a celebrity that has been dead for decades?

The use of Steve McQueen by Ford in TV adverts to launch their new coupe, the Puma, in Europe (the car was never released in the USA) in 1997 still makes me uneasy.

They took footage of him from the classic 1968 movie Bullitt, in which his character – police Lieutenant Frank Bullitt – drives a Ford Mustang, (about which more later) and blended it seamlessly with new-shot footage, in the style of the film, to put McQueen behind the wheel of a Puma.

Sure the advert was – and still is, 12 years later – a technical triumph that looks absolutely stunning. And yes, there’s no denying it brilliantly transposed at least a little of McQueen’s trademark cool image onto the car (the Choob must confess, he came very close to buying one eight or nine years ago).

But, to paraphrase Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic Park, just because you can do something, does it mean you should? In this case at least, I’m not so sure. Advertising is, by its very nature manipulative and cynical, with no room for sentiment – but I can’t help thinking using (exploiting?) the dead in this way is a step too far.

Or maybe I’m just taking it all far too seriously. What do you think?

Here is a short (five-minute) but interesting “making of” video for the advert:

Whatever the moral rights and wrongs of the campaign, it was a great success and the Puma was a huge hit (and not just because of the advert – it was Top Gear‘s Car Of The Year in 1997).

The advert was so appreciated by Ford that they decided to revisit the concept a few years later when they were launching the 2005 Mustang onto the US market. Once again, they used footage of McQueen from Bullitt.

Rather than repeat the Puma advert trick of replacing the 1968 Mustang, this time with its 2005 counterpart (since the Puma was only sold in Europe, few Americans would have seen the Puma advert, so they could possibly have gotten away with it), they opted to instead play on McQueen’s love of motor racing, within a Field Of Dreams-type scenario:

Again, a great-looking and very clever ad. But…

Anyway, to round off this week’s A Word From Our Sponsors, let’s remind ourselves of what exactly it was that inspired that Puma ad in the first place – the original car chase from Bullitt, considered by many to be the best car chase of all time:


Filed under A Word From our Sponsors

5 responses to “A Word From Our Sponsors… Steve McQueen Drives A Puma

  1. checkwon

    Great piece, choob. I’d never seen the European commercial. I agree that they are great works, but they bother me. I haven’t seen Bullitt in years, so thanks for the great clip!

  2. Thanks Check. Feedback always appreciated. The US commercial was new to me when I was researching the post – as works of digital art and entertainment, they are great but morally dubious indeed.

    As for Bullitt, one of the coolest movies of all time. Like you, I last saw it years ago – I have a VHS copy and the clip of the car chase reminded me I really should get it on DVD.

    Cheers mate!

  3. It makes no real difference what shape any of the metal is at any time. ,

  4. Pingback: The Monday Movie – What’s up, Doc? « The Cathode Ray Choob

  5. Awesome..! Thanks for this video…

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