Which of the following is your favourite car commercial from the past year?

Strident opinions by Steven Bochenek

Ninety-eight percent of advertising is tedious dreck you’ve learned to tune out. Another one percent is interesting or entertaining but irrelevant. “Remember, like, that guy did that sooo funny thing? Wha’ were they selling again?” Yes, those ads. If you don’t remember the brand and product benefit, that’s bad advertising.

Even more loathsome than bad advertising is advertising award shows, where fragile egos are shattered or barely held together with Botox, booze and barbiturates.

Yet when a brilliant piece of communications sneaks through and connects with its intended audience, it’s simply magical. And there’s nothing wrong with celebrating that.

So – here are ten advertising examples that got it right since early 2012. The first five (Okay six, because Autos.ca loves you) are simply TV commercials because they’re easy to talk about and we all need stuff to post on Facebook. The second batch? We’ll get to that.

Several are from the Super Bowl because that’s the only time anyone watches TV anymore. Enjoy.

Honourable Mention (Six): Volkswagen Beetle ‘Get Happy’ For Branding

Many experts credit Volkswagen and its ‘60s NYC agency, DDB (the same one they still use in many parts of the world today) with inventing modern advertising. Headlines that would still get most agencies fired today – like ‘Lemon’ and ‘No point in showing you the 1962 Volkswagen, it still looks the same’ – were that much more incendiary fifty years ago. What brave clients to trust the agency to make their brand legendary.

This spot began with an interesting conundrum: it wasn’t trying to define any special niche or explain a specific product benefit, just feel good about Beetles. Which actually makes the brief much tougher than you’d think. But you can’t picture any other car in this context – excellent branding. And who doesn’t love the Partridge Family?

Five: Chevrolet Silverado ‘Apocalypse’ For Topicality and SFX

Advertisers are always trying to be newsworthy and relevant. One of the best ways is to react fast to what’s in the news. The all-time best example was also at this year’s Super Bowl when Oreo informed those in the blacked out dome but also on Twitter that they can still dunk in the dark!

This General Motors spot used the much-hyped Mayan meltdown to make the point that Chevy Silverado is built to last. It’s funny and simple to get without being simple-minded and charmingly post-Apocalyptic. Enjoy the invincible Twinkies and raining frogs. Speaking of the world’s end, who doesn’t love Barry Manilow?

Four: Hyundai Genesis ‘Excited’ For Judicious Use of Budget

Many won’t agree with this choice, but they can write their own list. My favourite advertising is clever hard-sell done inventively on the cheap.

The sheer reality of what this spot’s creators were facing is clear. Dollars to dollars to donuts, they were using existing footage of the car at a track: stuff that manufacturers supply their agencies around the world for retail ads. Conclusion? There probably wasn’t the time/money to shoot something original.

Plus there was the laundry list of points the client clearly wanted the ad to make. (Rule #1 of effective advertising is to champion a single benefit with panache, but this is one of those times clients remind creative people, not vice versa, that rules are made to be broken.)

Solution? If you can’t change the pictures, play with the sound. They flipped the voiceover from the expected cool gravelly FM guy you’ve heard ten times today to the excited car geek who’s experiencing 429 hp!

For budget and time-effectiveness it’s very smart. You could execute the whole thing overnight. Generate the title cards in 10 minutes, record the track in an hour, slap them all together into the edit, exacerbating the contrast of the car’s motion and title cards stillness with peak revs and silence. Would you watch this for sheer entertainment or pass this on? Maybe not. Would you watch it if you were looking for a powerful sedan? Definitely! Hence, effective advertising.




About StevenBochenek

Despite being a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada and a member of its house band, the Troubadours, Steven is a veteran marketing writer who came to writing about cars almost by, umm, accident.