Being Financially Responsible Means You’re a Lame, Dorky, Geek?

Hi, my name is Brad Chaffee, and I am a lame, dorky, geek!

The new Toyota Highlander commercial really gets under my skin. Have you seen it?

Not only are they trying to make anyone who doesn’t drive a “cool” new car feel like losers, but they’re using a kid to do it. Some may see this as “just a commercial”, but let me remind those naive enough to believe that these commercials are powerless of something. There’s a reason why they spend TONS OF MONEY to air them.


I know that for the families that feel it is important to keep up with and impress the Joneses, this commercial will speak to you. It’s really a tragedy too, because keeping up with the Joneses, will keep you from accumulating any real wealth or security in your lifetime. There’s always the positive side though; You won’t be considered a lame, dorky, geek by an adolescent boy with no job, money, or responsibility.

This commercial isn’t just about convincing adults that they should buy a highlander, it’s about teaching kids that when they get older they should make financial decisions based on how cool it is.

The Joneses are BROKE & STRUGGLING financially! Want to be like them?

Toyota Highlander Commercial

Adolescent boy with no job, no money, and no responsibility: I don’t tolerate dorkiness very well. Yet my parents still cart me around in a car that says “Hi, we’re the geek family.” This Highlander is more like it. Nice interior. Its even got the optional bluetooth streaming audio. Very classy Mrs. J. Just because you are a parent doesn’t mean you have to be lame.

Toyota Highlander Commercial (Enemy of Debt version)

Adolescent boy with no job, no money, and no responsibility: I don’t tolerate financial security very well. Yet my parents still cart me around in a car that says “Hi, I’m paid for!” The Highlander is more like it. New debt smell. Its even got the wealth-hindering debt plan to come with it. Very irresponsible Mrs. J. Just because you are broke, doesn’t mean you have to live like it.

Instead of falling for this absolute nonsense, check out my post on Currency about kicking your car payment to the curb.

Work your way up to a nice used Highlander if you want to but don’t have dessert before dinner! Take care of priorities first! Upgrade as you save and can afford a nicer car, and if you do, your savings account will love you for it. Your sacrifice will give you more money to provide for your family now and the future. What you do NOW, impacts your future. That’s why they call it financial planning instead of financial impulsiveness.

My advice: Forget about the Highlander and Toyota’s despicable “peer pressure” ads, and make a decision you can LIVE WITH.

Don’t be stupidly cool, BUY USED!

About Brad Chaffee

25 Responses to “Being Financially Responsible Means You’re a Lame, Dorky, Geek?”

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  1. Beth says:

    Hi Brad, this commercial is just so bad on so many levels–environmental, financial–I could go on…thanks for writing about it!

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      I\’m a pretty tolerant guy but this commercial made me mad the first time I saw it. This is equivalent to when Barbie came out with the cool shopping Barbie with her own Visa card.

  2. Call me lame then. ๐Ÿ˜›

  3. gina says:

    yep, i agree this commercial irritates me!! love the new jetta commercial thou.

  4. Serenity says:

    I laughed so hard that I cried at your analysis! So sad but true. My students are doing advertising analysis essays right now, and this is right up my alley. And I have to say, this is a ill-advised commercial concept, certainly.

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Sorry about the late response, but I was very glad to see you enjoyed it.The worst part isn’t even that there’s a snot-nosed kid calling parents lame — it’s the message this is sending to our youth about why you should make a financial purchase. Not because you can afford it, but because you want to look cool in it. Craziness!


  5. Brad Castro says:

    I hadn’t seen this commercial before.

    I loved your version of the Highlander commercial, but my take is that I just can’t believe the original is very effective in the first place.

    Sure the kid has great telegenic hair, but what parent, even at an unconscious level is going to be swayed or sympathetic when the first words out of a child’s mouth are, “I don’t tolerate . . .”?

    There’s too much dialog – I think they could’ve communicated their sinister message more effectively primarily through visuals.

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      I think you\’d be very surprised at how effective a commercial like this can be. The big problem is the message this sends to young people as I stated in my previous comment response.

      There are so many things that could be better with this commercial. ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Peter says:

    I kinda wanted to smack that kid and give the poor dad a high five for being responsible. *sigh. Oh well, what are you going to do – your analysis was spot on.

  7. Derek Link says:

    Right on Brad! These commercials really tweaked my ire too! I started a web site an an online petition to promote boycotting Toyota until they pull the ads. Keep fighting for good values!

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      I saw the website and the facebook page, thanks for sharing it with everyone. When companies make bold decisions like this they cause people to stop buying there products naturally.

      Good luck in your efforts. ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Debt Solution says:

    Brad I agree with you about this commercial, but I’m going to perhaps extend the conversation by adding my experience from the other side of this.

    I’ve owned a weekly TV shoppers magazine since 1991 and I’ve written ads for over 2,000 businesses helping them to get the money from consumers into their hands by selling them products and services. Some they needed and some they really didn’t need to buy, but we did everything possible to make them respond to the advertisements.

    This whole marketing game is more like a WAR! On one side we have consumers that have limited funds (most not all) they are trying to support their families, live a good life by having things that make them look and feel good. They do what they can to save money for retirement if possible.

    On the other side you have businesses that are trying to get as much of that money from the consumer’s because they have workers to pay, bills to pay and they want to live a good life by having things that make them look and feel good, but they are mostly trying to do it on a higher level.

    When I see commercials for new cars and other new merchandise such as furniture I have this feeling that we have past the point of no return.

    Companies that only produce and sell new products and services have no choice other than to concentrate on marketing to convince us that we “MUST HAVE” their products and services or they will cease to exist.

    I used the word “War” because if the consumer buys too much they can become financially destroyed. If the businesses fail to sell enough products they are financially destroyed. Regardless of who wins someones going to get hurt.

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      That pretty much sums it up my friend. It\’s a shame that companies just can\’t leave kids out of commercials like these. Thanks for the awesome comment Sir! ๐Ÿ˜€

  9. Shawanda says:

    I haven’t seen this commercial, but I understand your frustration and disgust. I’m 100% in favor of the paid for vehicle. Additionally, parents shouldn’t feel pressured to take financially related advice from their children.

    I’m glad that dad is bucking the social norm of perpetual insolvency.

  10. Just Me says:

    I agree and disagree with this post. I agree it makes more sense to buy used to save money, as long as you really put the effort out to find GREAT used cars. However, for me, it has always made more sense to buy new, take great care of it, and then let it become used. Keep the new until it is so used, you’re no longer paying on it, but rather, start saving the money each month you don’t make on payments. After five years of payments, the next five years of your car ownership you make the payments to yourself. So, if you bought a car in 2000, paid it down over five years and kept paying yourself for five more years, in 2010 you should have enough money to go out and buy a new car. Or, if the car still runs, keep saving, and then you can buy you and your child a new car. What doesn’t make sense is keeping yourself in a constant circle of paying and paying and paying. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Dawn says:

      I so agree with you. I have never been in favor of, nor understand why anyone would lease a car. Even more absurd than that is actually driving the car so much that you have to pay the additional cost per mile of .25 or.30 per mile over your lease agreement. Then you are put in the position of weighing the option of whether it makes more sense to pay the overage or just use your “option to buy”. I had a friend in this position that decided to use the option to buy, and he would have spent less money if he had just bought the car outright in the beginning.

  11. Slackerjo says:

    Hey Brad, there is still hope!

  12. I wrote about these horrible commercials too. I am outraged every time I see one of these commercials. The message it teaches kids is awful. If parents buy a Highlander to look cool for their kids, then these parents need to be smacked.

    • Brad Chaffee says:

      Agreed! Perhaps the parents that do buy things to look cool for their kids they should be required to also show them their bottom line. Look son, this is how much debt we have so we can “look” cool! LOL

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