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If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing a Chevy commercial recently, you’ve hardly been missing out. Chevy’s “real people” ad campaign is pretty much universally disliked, with every advertisement starting with a screen that says, “Real people. Not actors.”

These ads continue, according to Jalopnik, “with a cringe-worthy dumbing down of the human race that makes you question everything.” The real people (not actors!) sound like they’ve been seriously coached by Chevy on what to say and how to act when being shown various arrangements of Chevy vehicles in a showroom. By the end of the ad, the real people have ultimately decided they want to buy a Chevy, but the whole performance doesn’t come off as very convincing or genuine. 

Chevy, somehow, hasn’t realized that this entire commercial ad campaign is a bust, instead publicly stating that two years into the real-people concept, they’ve decided it’s here to stay. Paul Edwards, the U.S. vice president of marketing at Chevrolet, told Automotive News that, “there’s no sign it’s losing steam…for the foreseeable future, we don’t have a change in mind.” Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll be seeing a lot more real people commercials in the coming years. 

Finally, however, one of these ‘real people’ who starred in a Chevy commercial has come forward and talked to the press, so we’ve finally had the opportunity to see if the whole experience was as awkward and weird as we’ve imagined it being. 

What was it like being a “real person” in one of Chevrolet’s commercials? 

Though Chevy made the interviewee sign a non-disclosure agreement, they spoke to the A.V. Club on a condition of anonymity. They described being recruited off the street to do “market research” at the Los Angeles Convention Center, after being told they would be paid $200 and the “research” would take roughly two hours. The real person had no idea that they were headed to film a Chevy advertisement. 

When they arrived, the real person said that’s when something began to feel off. Jalopnik writes,

“The convention center was empty except for two people sitting at a table in the middle of a huge room. After signing in, Anonymous sat and waited with other recruits, where they realized that everyone in the group was seemingly just another normal person.”

So it seems that the “real people” in Chevrolet’s advertisements really are real people, recruited off the street to participate in mysterious market research. 

An awkward experience to say the least

Eventually, the group was ushered into another room, where they finally all realized that this was going to be one of Chevy’s stunt advertisements. Once they realized this, the mood in the room started to change.

The real person that the A.V. Club spoke to said that none of the participants were ever told to say or do anything, but that once they got in the showroom, all of the other ‘real people’ started acting like Chevrolet was the best thing in the world.

The whole experience sounds bewildering and awkward. For example, the real person relayed a story about how all the other non-actors “suddenly became these perfect spokespeople when this guy started asking questions.”

The spokesman asked, “what’s the first word that comes to your mind when you think about Chevy?” and one guy replied, “Freedom. American-made cars. Quality.” Those don’t seem like the first words that would come to your mind when you think about Chevy, unless you’re trying really hard to impress the person who is asking you the question. 

“He was suddenly so patriotic,” said the real person who spoke to the A.V. Club, “All of these people were spewing out these buzzwords.” Sometimes when people get in a group, they can start acting and speaking similarly, because of the pressure of group dynamics. Maybe that’s what inspired these folks to start speaking in buzzwords and idolizing Chevy. 

Was there anything good about these Chevy commercials? 

For the anonymous real person, the best part happened after the spokesman asked, “What if I told you last year we won more awards than the other car brands?” Then the showroom wall opened, and “it was the loudest, most awkward and slow-moving thing I’ve ever experienced in my life,” said the real person.

“It just sounded like loud mechanical noise. You could hear the camera panning slowly in front of us or behind us and this guy just stood there through the awkward silence and smiled at us, completely unfazed.”

Everyone just had to sit there waiting, listening to this unbelievably awkward silence backed by mechanical sounds while the showroom wall was opening. 

The whole ordeal sounds like an incredibly painful and uncomfortable experience. It is completely bizarre how the other people went into the experience acting unenthusiastic about everything, and how once they were in front of the cameras and spokespeople, they transformed into perfect Chevrolet super-fans.

Maybe it’s understandable, given the pressure they probably felt. Or maybe it was just the effect of being behind so many cameras and feeling as though they had to put on a good show.  

Perhaps the only good thing to come out of this reveal is the confirmation that the real people in those ads are feeling just as awkward as they look on screen. Hopefully, someday soon Chevy will get a clue and realize that this ad campaign is better left behind.