Clarkson is right - Car ads suck nowadays

I recently read an article by Jeremy Clarkson who was moaning about how car ads nowadays were too ‘safe’ and boring and driven by pencil-pushing number crunchers who know not what the word ‘emotion’ means. Okay Jeremy didn’t say that exactly but it was along those lines. I agree Jeremy!

I work in the Marketing game so I know the value and power of a good ad. When I see it, I feel it. What car ad today do you feel? Really? What happened to the days of on-the-edge-of-your-seat car ads, where cars blitzed through the countryside, flew through the air, drifted around a hairpin bend on a mountain pass and made the curves of your mouth rise and your heart beat a little faster….know what I mean? What happened to the Car ads that sucked you into that world for 60 seconds and left you feeling like you just wanted to see more, feel more. What happened to those commercials that married art and engineering to the human heart?

Nowadays, the game seems to have changed. Some car ads are very clever, some are very funny, some are well shot, but NONE that I can think of leave a lasting impression. In 2011, the one that sticks most in my head is the Hyundai Accent commercial. ‘Haawsit? Check you tomorrow hey’ – It’s very funny, and very South African.



The other is the Darth Vader ‘The Force’ commercial which is amiable and amusing.



But let’s face it, I doubt these won any awards or will be remembered for years to come.

Some car manufacturers seem to get it right more of the time than others, and I assume this has to do with budgets and sales where the number crunchers do have work to do. Even so, Toyota’s latter campaigns have been clever and cute with singing and talking dogs etc but again, the clever, funny, cute boxes get ticked, but nothing else.

Mercedes tried to do the right thing with the SLS AMG by hauling Michael Schumacher from his private jet and getting him to drive the car upside down in a tunnel. Yeah right. It was so faked up and his grin at the end was terrible so that didn’t work at all. Even for Schumacher fans.



I recently asked my Facebook friends what their favourite car ad was of all time. “VW You and me” popped up with which I see the logic. There’s engineering, people and emotion.



BMW’s ‘Beat the Bends’ ad popped up too. Who would have guessed it? I don’t remember this ad personally, but it was clever and touched a nerve (obviously) so full marks for that BMW.

BMW’s M5 ad from 2006 hit the spot for me. It was hardcore, clever and about performance. That’s what an M5 is about.



Who remembers the Volvo ad about safety with the little girl in the back seat? The ad references armoured cars transporting Gold, and what then, would you choose to transport your children? It’s simple but very effective. Good ad that one.

For me, the best ad I remember is the Volkswagen Touareg ad also from 2006 I think.



Why you may ask? Well watch the ad and tell me how you feel? Brriliant! I quite enjoyed the VW Amarok commercial ‘As the Crow Flies’ that came out this year. It’s typical VWSA but it works, it’s beautiful, it’s funny, it’s South African and it showcases the car in every sense.




At the end of the day, advertising is about numbers. Car ads need to sell cars, increase brand presence and power and ultimately turn a profit. How do you do that by producing ads that are only about service warranties and 5% below prime interest offers?

For me, buying a car is more an emotional decision than it is a rational decision and I am assuming most consumers are the same. And I am not talking about fleet car purchases or commercial vehicle purchases – I am talking about passenger cars: the things that we get into every day to go to work and back, the things that trek us to and from our holiday destinations, the things we change our babies diapers in when there is no alternative, where we kiss(ed) girls on dates. Those things where we make life’s big decisions, where we sing to the beat like Usher, where we laugh and cry and scream and shout. How else will you sell me a car, if not by gripping me with riveting, hard-hitting, on the edge of my seat TV ads?

Next time you watch a really great car ad, share it with all the people you know. Until then, let’s laugh at the Nandos ads – there are no great car ads to chat about.

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