Is This a Joke? Pennywise the New Face of Takata Airbags?

Pennywise is waving while a car sinks into a frozen lake.

I don’t care what my CFO Ashley tells you, reporting on live auto news headlines is hard work, achievable only by the most insightful, resilient and unconventionally handsome of professionals. Sure, the high level of innovation and steady stream of compelling concepts and reveals presented at industry trade shows worldwide offer a certain level of appeal. But all too often, we’re reporting on more mundane topics like corporate restructuring, plant closures, layoffs, and the nigh-relentless barrage of both optional and safety-centric recalls.

But in this humble opinion of this reporter, our stories gain a little bit of an upgrade when they start to overlap with hot-button topics or entertainment headlines. Many of these kinds of stories never even see the light of day, due to the refusal of the mainstream media to report on them. But here at The Lemon, we specialize in finding the ‘story behind the story’, the ones that are hidden in the shadows, and the ones that popular industry publications simply wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.

Take Takata Airbags for example. For over ten years, risks associated with Takata airbags have been brought to the light of day. The risk comes from the use of an ammonium nitrate-based propellent housed within a metal cartridge that can ignite, releasing metal shards. With tens of millions of vehicles from the 2002 model year-on, including those from nearly every major automaker, this is no small or quick-subsiding news story. In fact, it’s been called “the largest and most complex safety recall in U.S. history” and found to be responsible for at least 24 deaths and 300 injuries worldwide. Needless to say, people who should find assurance in safety-based technologies, have grown fearful…

A car window is shown with Takata recall stickers to prevent sale as they are being recalled in live auto news.
Above, the less graphic real-world results of the Takata Recall, out of respect for the victims

And, according to entertainment industry insiders, New Line Cinema and Vertigo Entertainment are looking to partner with Takata, to channel that sense of fear into one of the most ambitious and morally reprehensible cross-marketing/public relation campaigns ever conceived.

September 6th, 2019 will mark the release of IT: Chapter Two, the highly-anticipated sequel to the 2017 film which told the first half of Stephen King’s iconic novel. Telling the story of seven children from a small New England town, facing down an unearthly and murderous evil in the shape of a clown, the IT series features a number of A-List actors including Bill Skarsgard in the role of ‘Pennywise.’

Bill Skarsgard is in a side by side next to his character Pennywise.
Above, actor Bill Skarsgard shown in and out of his Pennywise costume. I’m not gay or anything, but…rawr

According to the film’s director Andres Muschietti, “the franchise capitalizes on certain primal fears and, due to the sensitive nature of both fear and violence, it can be hard to find companies who want to sign on as commercial sponsors. Needless to say, Shigehisa Takada seemed like a perfect fit!” adding “Not that he wasn’t a hard nut to crack!”

Takada, in search of a positive spin to restore his company’s credibility, would eventually see the light (and the opportunity that had been presented to him). With the help of his public relations team, Takata was able to craft a narrative that drew attention away from the fear of explosion impalement—and focused on a more positive attribute of their airbags.

Shigehisa Takada is shown in a storm drain with Georgie looking in from the IT movie.
Shigehisa Takada is eager to tell his story… Be it to Georgie, or pretty much anyone…

So later this summer, be prepared for new television campaigns aimed to draw attention to the flotational integrity of Takata-brand airbags. According to an anonymous source who claims to be part of the campaign’s production team, the first spot will feature a family enjoying a rural drive as the parents discuss the Takata recalls. The mother, worried, is relieved when the father explains their vehicle doesn’t come equipped with Takata airbags. Suddenly, spooked by a deer running across the street in front of them, the father jerks the steering wheel causing the family’s SUV to plummet down a ravine and into a deep pond. The airbags don’t engage. As they begin to sink and water fills the car, one of the children reaches out of the open window only to be handed a red balloon by none other than Pennywise, himself. Reassuringly he says, “They float. They all float” before devouring her arm. The ad then fades to black, as the tagline “Takata: A Better Way to Go”.

Being called one of the riskiest horror-centric campaigns ever, time will tell if it works to improve Takata’s reputation or simply sabotage the film’s success. Either way, we’ll be there in theaters on September 6th (if our airbags don’t deploy and kill us first).


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