You know Robert De Niro, right? Wildly famous actor likely best known for playing Harry Tuttle, renegade heating engineer from the 1985 movie Brazil? Sure you do. Well, at the very beginning of his career, when he was still playing parts with names like “Cecil – A Groomsman,” DeNiro also made a commercial for America’s favorite underdog, AMC. And not just any AMC: the commercial was for AMC’s top of the line car, the Ambassador, and, true to much of DeNiro’s future career roles, relies heavily on a lot of stereotypes of Italian Americans. Here, take a little journey back to 1969, to a New York City neighborhood where everyone talks at the same volume as a Boeing 747 taking off!
Don’t turn your speakers up too high:
Holy crap is everyone loud. I bet you have to use a bullhorn to whisper to somebody. The lungs on that kid Richie who has his sneakers on the seat, holy crap is that kid loud! Anyway, DeNiro plays Joey, who shows up back at his old neighborhood in a 1970 AMC Ambassador, wowing everyone with how expensive they perceive the car to be.
Joey’s a CPA, so he knows how to handle his money, though, and the truth is the Ambassador isn’t that expensive, you see! That’s the hook! All those people, with classic TV commercial-level skills of worth assessment, think the AMC is a fortune, when in fact it started at about $2,090, or around $17,000 or so in today’s money. I mean, that’s dirt cheap today!
The truth is the Ambassador was kind of outdated at this time, and AMC didn’t really have the resources to update it significantly. One easy tell was the external windshield wipers, when competing cars like the Chevy Impala would have hidden them under the cowl, as was becoming the style. I mean, to modern eyes, it doesn’t seem all that different than the competition, but it was, which is why AMC had to take such measures as becoming one of the first non-luxury cars to offer air conditioning as standard, which they made sure to play up, as in ads like this:
Also, if your test drive of a new car involves someone who isn’t you driving, be suspicious.
I suppose since we’re talking about famous actors who did car ads before they got big, someone in the comments will likely bring up Dustin Hoffman and the commercial he did for the VW Type 3 Fastback, so here, may as well watch that, too:
It’s a clever ad, wildly different from the DeNiro AMC ad; where DeNiro’s ad is essentially a tiny character study complete with multiple characters and a richly detailed environment, VW places its car and actor into a featureless void, where they use a novel technical trait of their car – the two trunks, thanks to a flat-profile engine placed under the trunk floor at the rear – as the primary hook for the ad.
Also, Hoffman really climbs all over that thing, doesn’t he?
I think DeNiro is in a new movie we just wrote about for the cars featured in it, too! Who knew we had so much DeNiro content here?