Car Vending Machine

An over-sized, futuristic-looking vending machine with an “Insert Coin” sign sits to the side of a shiny red car. The Carvana logo is faint but visible on the vending machine and the rear license plate of the car.

Image credit: Carvana

What a wonderful world we live in!! Drop a coin in a vending machine and buy a whole automobile just as easily as you would buy a snack from the machine in the hallway on the way to your next class. Perfectly normal. This 30-second ad from Carvana, which debuted in 2015, makes it look just that simple.

Watch it here.


1. Like any advertisement, the video aims to entice you to purchase the product—in this case, an automobile. And oh, sure, the ad is entertaining, and it’s a very slick production, but how effective is it as an ad? Do you think it generated a lot of interest in Carvana? Why or why not? Would it (or did it) pique your interest? Why or why not? Who do you think the ad was intended to appeal to? Why? Explain your response. 

2. Carvana’s ad is essentially a simile; that is, an unknown entity is described or defined as being like something already known, already familiar. So, in other words, buying a car from Carvana is just like buying a candy bar from a vending machine. How did the ad’s creators construct the simile? What elements of the familiar vending machine transaction does the ad depict? List them all. While similes are very useful devices (both in writing and in everyday life), they always highlight some similarities and downplay or ignore the differences. What features of car buying does the Carvana ad omit? 

3. LET’S TALK Now that a college education can be accomplished totally online from wherever a student happens to be, schools could be sold in “vending machines,” too, couldn’t they? What might a commercial promoting that idea look like? First, brainstorm with a few classmates to develop ideas for the commercial, using the Carvana ad as a springboard. What images could you show? What, if any, narration? Printed words? How might you get the message across? Next, discuss whether you think vending machine college would be a good idea. Would it help students? Would it be beneficial for institutions? Could communities and society at large benefit? See where your imagination takes you. 

4. AND NOW WRITE In a not very distant past, all purchases were conducted in a person-to-person manner. A human buyer handed some form of currency to a human seller, and some kind of merchandise or service was dispensed. In the mid-20th century, along came gumball machines and coin-operated soda pop dispensers, and it all took off from there. Today, we buy all kinds of things online without needing to interact directly with anybody—groceries, toys, clothes, shoes, books, stoves and refrigerators, you name it. It’s the most normal thing in the world; no human sellers need to be present. If you set up a scheduled auto-purchase, even you don’t have to be directly involved; the merchandise arrives at your door when you need it, and the payment is automatically charged to your account. It’s the New Normal. Automobiles, even houses, can be purchased on a website or an app. Do you like this New Normal? What do you think is the cost, if any, of this convenience? Start by making one list of the things you personally like about it and another list of the things you don’t. Then, make a list of the benefits and drawbacks to society as a whole. These might include, for example, increased economic efficiency as a benefit and increased deterioration of communicative skills as a downside. Once you have your lists, reflect on what you’ve detailed and write an essay that takes a position on this New Normal of commerce.

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