The commercial has been a public relations nightmare for DaimlerChrysler, drawing criticism far and wide. Here's another story from AdWeek.com on the negative press it has received:
Jeep has been the American original since World War II, with a brand identity that embraces the idea of nature and the frontier, even if it's your own driveway. You'd think that with an image so in sync with the current freedom/safety/homeland-security zeitgeist, Jeep would ride that trend and pander to all that's patriotic and self-protective.
But Jeep, characteristically, is choosing the road not taken. Not only does the latest spot, "Deer Hunter," buck the whole guns-and-great-outdoors clichˇ, it actually seems to delight in pissing off millions of serious hunters who might otherwise be stereotypical SUV owners. Indeed, hunters haven't been made to look quite this dumb since Elmer Fudd first pulled down his hat flaps in pursuit of that "wascally wabbit."
Goons freezing in scary chairs tied to the trees, these guys wear camo and feathers and silly hats. Or they're shown as crazy long-haired, short-fused types crawling in the dirt, seemingly straight out of Deliverance.
Deep inside their enclave in the woods, a Jeep crosses their path. The driver has bagged two doe-eyed prizes, one tied to the hood of the car and another on the roof. "I don't believe it," one of the hunters says to his fellow gawker as he looks through his field glasses. "They got two deer."
The Jeep climbs the mountain and finally arrives at a "No Hunting" area. We see a close-up of Bambi's ear, so delicate and tender. The driver, a guy in a flannel shirt, is visually a milder John Malkovich type but spiritually more like Mother Teresa. He cuts the animal free. "You're safe now," he says gently, and the deer runs off. (No deer were hurt during filming. The Bambis-'n-the-hood are mechanical.)
"With all of our patented safety systems, no wonder our Jeep 4x4 is the safest way to cross treacherous terrain," the announcer says.
The spot's ending falls curiously flat-our hero isn't half as funny to watch as the beastly hunters-and feels a bit sanctimonious. But the commercial sets new standards for PC SUV ownership. Jeep owners are not mild-mannered suburban guys but liberators and protectors, ready to take on the NRA and Tom Selleck anytime. The spot is one small step for Jeep, one big leap for deerkind.
Not surprisingly, the president of the pro-hunting Wildlife Legislative Fund of America, Bud Pidgeon (actual name), is not amused by this. He told the New York Post that "in reality, the good guys are American sportsmen. They are our nation's No. 1 conservationists, and they are the reason America's wildlife is flourishing." (It sounds like some kind of "We destroyed the village to save it" logic, but, in fact, fees from hunting and fishing licenses support wildlife refugees.)