What you’re looking at is possibly the first advertisement for a new car using personal watercraft (or specifically Kawasaki’s then-groundbreaking JetSki) as a central prop. The cars in question are actually a pair of Dodge Ram trucks – specifically a 1976 Dodge Macho PowerWagon (yellow, right) and a Dodge Ramcharger 4×4 (green, left).
The two Rams were part of a hilariously poorly-named “Adult Toys From Dodge” ad campaign that clearly, wouldn’t pass the PC police culture of today’s marketing firms. Nevertheless, in our research, we find this to be the earliest example of the venerable jet ski being featured front-and-center in a new car ad.
In our journeys into the world of cyberspace, we’ve stumbled across several examples of jet skis and full-sized runabouts being used as props in new car commercials and advertisements – but in varying degrees and purposes. While PWC’s earliest appearances in car ads looked to emulate a certain carefree and playful lifestyle, later appearances in media were seen as a means to illustrate a vehicle’s light-to-medium towing capacity.
The utilitarian representation made the watercraft look less fun and more cumbersome, an image we’re sure many manufacturers would like to shed. In the included examples, we see Ford’s minivan, the Transit hauling a pair of 3-seater Sea-Doo RXTs, as the other includes a GMC Envoy SUV pulling a pair of Sea-Doos, a GTX and RXP-X 255.
Again, the staid and quiet tone of the ads are incredibly polarized from the earlier Dodge “Adult Toys” ad, where a group of youthful lake-going co-eds mingle at the waterfront around a pair of brightly-hued four-wheelers, one hauling a 400cc Kawasaki in its bed.
The final example (shown below) is an international advertisement for Nissan’s compact 4-door Navara pickup. Meant to show the small truck’s large capacity bed, a heavily photoshopped imaginary 3-seater is depicted as leaping from a water-filled truck bed. It’s a bit silly and over-the-top, but communicates a solid message, “there’s an ocean-sized bed behind this truck.”