x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

The Air Bag: The art of the sell in car advertising

The best car ads connect with some deep emotion that makes the car more than just a mechanical appliance; something that transcends mere money.

Do you care about the price of your car?

Well, of course you do; it's normally the second-most expensive purchase you'll make in your life, behind your accommodation. And so, accordingly, plenty of car advertisements these days focus on what a good deal they are offering on their current lineup and how much you'll save buying their car instead of their rivals'.


Sure, maybe there is a good deal to be had. But in 10 years, are you going to remember reading this ad in the newspaper or seeing it on television? Are you going to even remember what car was being hocked in a year from now? Does the ad stick with you on a level besides how it affects your finances?

Probably not, and that's a shame.

As you'll read in our cover story, car advertisements - like any other advertisement, really - are an artform, one that combines cleverness and creativity that, very often, can make a relatively mundane car become an object of desire. There have been many car advertisements, but rarely are they done well.

Think back through the years about car commercials; I guarantee you'll remember a few, especially depending on how old you are. In the 1960s, Volkswagen broke the mould with a simple, clever ad campaign for their Beetle, focussing simply on its best attributes: how small it was. The company has continued leading advertising since. And starting in the 1980s, Audi has used the tag "vorsprung durch technik", or advancement through technology, in memorable adverts for its lineup. And in the 1990s, Chevrolet ran a long and successful campaign for its pick-up trucks with the Bob Seger song Like a Rock, touting the truck's dependability and strength. Even today, Mini talks more about its fun lifestyle than it does how fast its cars go, and it's created a sensation for the little car.

Over the years, with different media becoming popular, the car ad evolved from simple print and television commercials to other forms of communication - social media, product placement in popular films, and even dedicated, larger productions.

One of the most successful, and creative, examples of these would be the series of BMW short films called The Hire, debuting in early 2001. These featured Clive Owen as a mysterious hired driver ferrying various stars such as Madonna, Don Cheadle and James Brown in various action-adventure scenarios, directed by the likes of Guy Ritchie, John Woo and John Frankenheimer. And all behind the wheel of various BMWs, of course. The compelling and dynamic films (which can be seen on YouTube - a great way to waste time at work) put BMW in the spotlight in a way no direct form of advertising every could. People actually sought out these films to watch, of their own accord, instead of using them as bathroom breaks during episodes of Corrie Street.

And all of these examples highlight the thing about car advertising: the best car ads don't talk about horsepower, or price, or other technical aspects that you'd think you'd find interesting when dropping that kind of money.

The best car ads connect with some deep emotion that makes the car more than just a mechanical appliance; something that transcends mere money. The best ads make you want the car as a lifestyle choice - either to fit the lifestyle you already have or, more often than not, the one you want. Plus, they can make you feel that you need the car because you've fallen in love with it.

And we all know that love trumps a good deal any day.