How could one brand have all that J.D. Power?
That’s essentially the question Chevrolet has been asking America for quite some time now, with their ubiquitous commercial series that features “Real People. Not Actors.” The recurring conceit of these ads involves a Chevy spokesman, Potsch Boyd, bragging to normal people (just like you) about how many J.D. Power awards Chevy has won.
The very regular “not actors” then jump and scream and laugh and express how cool the Chevy brand is these days. It’s very uncomfortable to watch.
You’ve seen these ads. You’ve hated these ads. You’ve wished these ads would go away.
But you’ve probably also wondered how “real” these “not actors” are, especially since their emotions and reactions often seem highly strange and unbelievable.
Thankfully, one of the “real people” just broke their NDA and spoke to The A.V. Club about the whole experience. The person did the interview on the condition of anonymity, but The A.V. Club claimed they did a “a thorough background check.”
The whole Q&A is worth a read, as there are many funny moments that came out of creating this commercial, but here’s the basic rundown.
“Everyone was just really confused. I felt nervous. It was weird.”
A nondescript agency recruited this man on the street and asked if he was interested in participating in paid market research. He agreed, and for a promised $200 went to the Los Angeles Convention Center having no idea he was about to be in a Chevy commercial. The same day as filming, a porn awards show was taking place at the center and so he thought that’s what he was going to be a part of when he arrived.
He then waited around in a big, dark room with the other future “real people,” still having no idea what his task was. With all the confusion, he had the thought, “Oh, I might get murdered.”
Eventually, doors opened to reveal the brightly lit room seen in the commercial. Spokesman Boyd was already there, just silently smiling. Apparently, he didn’t really ever stop smiling.
Here’s the person’s explanation of the first few moments:
[The spokesperson] just said, “Hey, guys!” as we walked in, and it was another long walk to get over to where he was standing in complete silence. Everyone was just really confused. I felt nervous. It was weird.
Then, a cameraperson showed up and it was evident that this was for a commercial. Later, the “real people” would realize there were many other hidden cameras on set. In any case, once the NDA-breaker’s group realized they were going to be on TV, a magical spell seemed to be cast over them.
Here’s a hilarious explanation of the effect:
It was weird because, once we got in there, he didn’t tell us where to stand or anything. He didn’t point at anything. We just magically got in that line of four people horizontally right in front of him. It was like they had this weird power.
When I was talking to people in the lobby, no one seemed that enthusiastic about anything. The second we got in there, it was like magically everyone was the world’s biggest Chevrolet fan. I can’t stress enough that I’m a real person and not an actor. None of these people were actors, because I asked them what they all did for a living. They suddenly became these perfect spokespeople when this guy started asking questions, like, “What’s the first word that comes to your mind when you think about Chevy?” Literally, the guy next to me was like, “Freedom.” [Laughs.] He was suddenly so patriotic. He was like, “American-made cars. Quality.” All of these people were spewing out these buzzwords.
The whole thing took about two hours. Chevy ended up paying the person $150 in Visa gift cards and promised to mail $50 later. (This was a baffling payment method to him, as well.) The “real people” that ended up having speaking roles in the commercial would eventually get more money, something that may also explain why everyone is so eager to be enthusiastic.
As The News Wheel reported in 2015, some of the “real people” were actors by profession, a fact explained away by a GM representative who claimed this was just because they scouted for people in LA. Struggling actors who know that faking enthusiasm could yield a better paycheck could explain this.
It’s a popular opinion that these commercials are pretty painful to watch, so much so that just one of the many people parodying the ads has earned millions of views. All at Chevy’s expense.
Here’s one of those parodies:
After being a part of the commercial, the NDA-breaker still doesn’t understand what the J.D. Power award is supposed to mean. He told The A.V. Club:
I’m still not really sure what a J.D. Power And Associates Award is, and they explained it to us. I didn’t retain it at all. But I am genuinely surprised to hear that Chevy has won more unimportant awards than any other car manufacturer.
No matter how long these inane commercials continue (and like cockroaches, they will probably outlive us all), the world may never know who or what J.D. Power is or represents.
Maybe ― speculating widely here ― J.D. Power is the pseudonym of famously reclusive author J.D. Salinger, who actually cheated death and spends his days writing the next great American car reviews, like, “A Perfect Day for Bananafish ... and Chevy Products.” Nothing makes sense in this world. Especially these commercials, though.