Do These Ad People Know Something I Don’t?

To continue my popular series of posts about people mis-using cliches, I’m today going to talk about a series of commercials from the good folks at Hyundai.  They all play off the old question “Do you know something I don’t?”, and I actually think they are pretty funny, the ones I’ve seen so far.

The problem is, they use that old saw to imply that people who drive Hyundais will seem smart.  That is to say, they will appear to the casual onlooker to “know something” that the observer “doesn’t”.  On the face of it, this would seem like a reasonable interpretation of the old saying,  but you can’t go around interpreting cliches literally – it defeats the whole purpose.  Pick any old saw at random, and this becomes obvious.  You could stroll up to someone engaged in skinning a cat, for instance, and observe that there were several ways he could go about it.  But first of all, maybe you should reassess the kind of people you’re hanging around with, and second, duh (I mean, I’m assuming here, I haven’t tried doing it one way, much less multiple ways).  But my point is, that is a hopelessly banal thing to say to a cat-skinner, when you could be asking whose cat that was, or whether there was some sort of medication they’d missed taking.  The only time you would tend to talk about skinning cats is when you want to point out that there is more than one way to do something that isn’t skinning a cat.

No, the whole point of “Do you know something I don’t know?” is that it is somewhat ironical.  Which is to say, you generally ask it of someone who appears to be doing something foolish, but you are willing to believe it is possible that they have a good reason to do something that appears to be a bad idea.  In other words, you’re not quite willing to go so far as to say “you aren’t as dumb as you look”, but you are open to the possibility.  So the only way that question makes sense in the context of a car commercial is if Hyundai is asserting that their vehicles are the object of scorn and ridicule, but they hope people will be moved to wonder if maybe there is more to them that meets the eye.  I suspect that is not what the ad agency was aiming for.  Which goes to show, that not only do these agencies need more technologically savvy employees, they could apparently use a few English majors.  Then again, maybe they just know something I don’t.



~ by smwilliams on September 6, 2012.

5 Responses to “Do These Ad People Know Something I Don’t?”

  1. I’ve never heard of that saying, so not sure on the subtle bits, but that is often the case with those.

    • I like to think I provide a service in digging deep into cliches, so that loyal readers can, if they like, master well-worn tropes and never say anything original again. My way of “giving back” to the community.

  2. Is it ironical, or is the implication that, “once you buy this car; people will think you’re smart in some subtle way?”
    Perhaps it’s acknowledging that there are some people who will never be sexy no matter what car they have, but they might be thought of as smart, if they drive a Hyundai.
    Which sounds more like an insult, “not only are you not sexy, without this car no one will believe you’re smart,” than ironic.

    • So you’re saying that the ad is aimed at those people who think that smart people are unattractive and vice-versa? So the message becomes “If you’re driving a car as outwardly horrible that, you must have something else going for you, or else the universe is just unfair and uncaring?” Still not what the ad people thought they were saying, I suspect.

      Anyway, to me the saying “do you know something I don’t?” actually has the implication “no, you don’t – you’re an idiot right down to the ground and I’m just asking this question to be a smartass.” That’s a subtle shade of meaning, but what is the point of having a blog if you can’t explore subtle shades of meaning in cliches?

  3. All ads rely on the perception that without the product a person is “incomplete,” and that with the product their dreams will become manifest.
    So if an ad suggests you appear smart by having the product, – “you know something” – the reverse inference is that you don’t appear smart now.
    However by making it funny, most people don’t see the insult.

Comments are closed.