Everyone knows Ken’s a wuss. With his pastel, preppy sweater vests and an ever-present tennis racket; that guy is forever destined to be the blandest of bland boyfriends. His stiff, skinny arms have no Kung-Fu grip. He’s not able to grow “commanding” facial hair. Clearly, gal-pal Barbie is only biding her time with this loser until a REAL man of action comes into her life.
Created by Rob Siltanen, of the TBWA Chiat/Day agency in Venice, California, the spots have now gone on to attain legendary status in the advertising business. The article quotes Siltanen as saying, “Nissan said, ‘Let’s do something different, let’s break the rules,’ To a creative person, that’s as close to nirvana as it gets.”
The first spot (WATCH IT NOW) promotes Nissan’s new 300ZX sportscar, required 11 weeks to produce and cost $1 million dollars. It’s stop-motion animation was both time-consuming and difficult to achieve. According to director Mark Gustafson, “It’s one of the oldest techniques in the book. “We built the models and then manipulated them one frame at a time.” During post-production, Van Halen’s “You Really Got Me” was added as the perfect accompaniment to GIjOE’s onscreen action.
The second spot (WATCH IT NOW) promotes Nissan’s Pathfinder and features the equally blatant song “Calling Dr. Love,” by KISS. In both spots, collectors will notice numerous physical changes were made to the characters. GIjOE had lost his facial scar, Ken’s hair was heaped up. Barbie’s face was widened a tad. The changes are all very subtle, but to die-hard fans they were easily spotted.
Despite the alterations, Nissan soon heard grumblings coming from Mattel’s legal department. Apparently, they disliked the way poor Ken was portrayed and let Nissan know about their feelings in no uncertain terms. Nissan quickly agreed to suspend further production of the GIjOE vs Ken spots and that was that. Fortunately, GijOE and Barbie had already ridden off into the sunset, taking Nissan up on its double entendre offer to…”Enjoy the Ride.”