Quite Contrary Marys.

You go, girls.

I’ve never been a huge Mary J. Blige fan. But I’m utterly moved by, and can’t stop watching, her new Chevy Traverse commercial, above.

The piece poetically captures the mournful sense of triumph that’s authentically and autobiographically part of MJB’s history and persona, particularly for those of us who feel like we’ve lived it with her. Mass marketing will go near a negative aspect of an endorser’s history if it’s not controversial and can be played for comedic effect; see John McEnroe. However, I’ve never seen a company embrace something delicate as a spokesperson’s history of naked, self-abnegation without crushing it. I’m not just referring to that closing piece of script: “The space to take everything with you / The wisdom to leave the baggage behind.”

Mary’s erasThat would be a cheap shot, of course, but what redeems it is the video. There, Blige roams New York City’s highways and byways, collecting versions of herself from across time. In Brooklyn, she picks up the Mary from 1992’s “Real Love” video—the track, of which, beds the spot—who excitedly kicks it with 2002’s No More Drama Mary, above right. Meanwhile, 2005’s The Breakthrough Mary serenely gazes from her side window, her placid expression, detached silence, and golden crown braids rendering her regal, her survival proving her victorious.

Of course, this being advertising, 2007’s Growing Pains Mary—the most fulfilled, self-developed, at-peace-with-herself one yet—is in the driver’s seat…and dumps the expensive, green, alligator skin luggage set. “Our female target audiences—especially African American females—connect emotionally with Mary’s authenticity,” says Chevrolet general director for advertising and sales promotion Kim Kosak, using my word, ” which is why she is such a great ambassador for Chevy. This new TV spot really leverages the many phases of Mary’s life to illustrate a key differentiator of the Traverse—its eight-passenger seating.”

How wonderfully crass. Isn’t that just like advertisers: Every so often, to make something nearing beauty, only to ruin it with the sales pitch? Kosak: Leave a tender moment alone. Mary: We love you, girl. Keep living!



#1 Reginald Hudlin on 12.02.08 at 8:03 pm

Commericals featuring hip hop artists are usually BAD…but this might be the best since Coca-Cola’s use of the original and the Mary/Meth duet of “You’re All I Need To Get By”.

#2 Dr. Goddess on 12.03.08 at 4:27 am

Harry, this post is sublime and I can totally relate. I was never a major Mary fan either but I, too, love this commercial but greatly appreciate you writing about it.

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