By on June 30, 2017

Mazda Driver's Choice YouTube Screenshot - Image: Mazda YouTube ChannelThey’ve haunted you in your sleep. “The lines down here are seamless, like classic German design,” a British fellow says about the new Chevrolet Malibu.

You overhear them during the morning news breaks as you walk to your gate at the airport. “Business in the front, party in the back,” a young woman says, describing the Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback.

“I am surprised that it’s Chevy,” a woman responds after being asked what she thinks about Bowtie victories in J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Study. You vomit a little in your mouth.

But in the eyes of General Motors, Chevrolet’s Real People, Not Actors campaign is working. And it appears Mazda thinks quite highly of the formula as well.

“From where I sit two years in, there’s no sign that it’s losing steam,” Chevrolet vice president of marketing, Paul Edwards told Automotive News in May. “In fact, every month, like I said, it continues to pick up in terms of our ability to break through and drive opinion.”

GM likes what it sees, and wants to keep seeing more of the same. “For the foreseeable future, we don’t have a change in mind,” Edwards said.

Mazda’s new Driver’s Choice ads will by no means be outright copies of the Chevrolet marketing scheme, just as Chevrolet’s willingness to essentially highlight its own quality reputation — why do people find it so hard to believe Chevrolet builds quality cars? — was different from Buick’s means of denigrating its image.

Mazda’s focus is on displaying “luxury vehicle owners who unknowingly choose a Mazda vehicle over premium brands after a blind test drive.”

Yes, premium.

Maybe even #premium.

For Mazda’s blind test, vehicles were disguised with camo to hide not just badges but the distinctive shape of the vehicle. “The participants were then asked to give their honest feedback after test driving the vehicles and evaluating their features,” Mazda says.

Lo and behold, Mazda also filmed the blind test, to the surprise of absolutely nobody. “This was a risky, but fun way for us to gain insight into what our customers experience when they visit a dealership,” Mazda North America’s marketing vice president Russell Wager says, as if Mazda would have ever allowed the clips to go to air even if the participants preferred the Germans.

Mazda says its real people weren’t just owners of premium vehicles but individuals who are also “premium experts because of their professions.” That includes an architect, designer, and an engineer.

Automotive journalist? Pfft.

Incidentally, Mazda’s Driver’s Choice advertising spot includes in the not-so-fine print some very familiar text: “Real people. Not actors.”

Mazda’s premium push is nothing new. Mazda doesn’t intend to be an Audi rival overnight. Indeed, Mazda doesn’t believe premium positioning against premium brands is the goal at all. Rather, Mazda wants a premium slice of the mainstream market. While the Driver’s Choice ad counterintuitively clarifies that Mazda isn’t a premium brand, it also serves to bolster Mazda’s justifiable claim that a modern Mazda interior can offer a cut-above experience, at least in comparison with similarly priced competitors.

If Mazda lets itself down on the premium front in the Driver’s Choice commercial, which will run from July 1, 2017 through the Labor Day weekend to September 4, 2017, it does so by returning to the age-old incentive-propelled advertising for the final one-third of the ad.

Mazda seemingly can’t resist, noting interest-free financing for 60 months on 2017 Mazda 3s and Mazda 6s with a $1,000 discount and a three-month payment deferral.

If you’re going to sell cars based on a premium position, you must at times allow the premium aspect of the car to speak for itself. If the cars are so great, why does Mazda feel it necessary to advertise the fact that people aren’t willing to even pay the modest, non-premium asking price?

Also, Mazda showcases a five-model lineup at the end of the Driver’s Choice clip: CX-9, CX-5, MX-5, 3, and 6. Whither the CX-3 — is it insufficiently premium?

[Image: Mazda/YouTube]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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66 Comments on “Uh-Oh – Like Chevrolet, Mazda’s New Commercials Also Have Real People...”


  • avatar
    punkybrewstershubby aka Troy D.

    No matter how seemless the lines or how many awards are earned, a General Motors vehicle will never grace my driveway again. Questionable engineering, government handouts and hell, they can’t even line up the steering wheel and instrument cluster with the drivers’ seat on their full-size trucks!

    Mazda, although not a current owner, always a fan!

    • 0 avatar

      Just two decades ago GM was building decent “American” cars people wanted to buy like the, Aurora, Intrigue, Saturn S2, Neon, Intrepid, and Deville. GM actually had a 30% domestic market share back then. Then all of a sudden GM started outsourcing most of their engineering and design to Opel and bankruptcy followed nearly a decade later. They have finally broken ties with Opel, but now it is too late. I think GM will finally level off at around a 15% US market share within a few years. It remains to be seen if they stay ahead of either Ford or Toyota.

  • avatar
    Rocket

    I respect Mazda’s desire to promote themselves as a “premium” brand, but premium styling and materials only go so far. To genuinely reinvent themselves, they need premium levels of refinement, premium powertrains, and a premium dealership experience. In short, they have a long way to go.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I do not, product should speak for itself. Any attempt to claim otherwise is simply a lie.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      You said the magic word, powertrain.

      Doesn’t Toyota have enough 3.5L V-6s laying around to swap for some of those rebadged/uglyfied Mazda2s they’ve been building for them? Not that the 3.5L will turn a 6 into a Lexus, but at least it would be an option for those who want more. And “those who want more” are what being premium (or even semi-premium) is all about.

      I understand if Ford engines aren’t an option anymore, but geeze, there has got to be something out there they can use.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        They’ve taken the Johann route, just act like Baghdad Bob on truthful issues and keep repeating the big lie.

        • 0 avatar
          FreedMike

          Hate to break it to you, 28, but about 95% of advertising is so full of s**t that Baghdad Bob would probably twirl his mustache, nod in silent approval, and mutter “well played…well played indeed.”

          Nothing new there.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          Yes, “truth in advertising” is laughable at any time.
          All they have to do is expose us to an object to make it seem familiar. Placing *alleged* *real* people in advertising is meant to enhance that sence of familiarity…….. “Oh look, members of our tribe are with that object. Object must be safe!”. That is how the caveman brain survival reflex works. Trust the familiar and run away from or kill the unfamiliar.

      • 0 avatar
        Rocket

        It’s too bad the Ford engines aren’t an option. The 2.7T would give the CX-9 and 6 the engine they deserve. But you’re right … even the Toyota corporate 3.5L would be an improvement.

    • 0 avatar

      Mazda is lucky they don’t have cut-and-run Mary Barra in charge. If they did Mazda would already have left the US market due to low market share and lack of profitability.

  • avatar
    SlowMyke

    The man bun calling the equinox a bad mamajama is the new grounded to the ground guy…

    The commercial I’d really like to see is a bunch of real, non-actor people watching and reacting to all these ridiculous commercials. I know car enthusiasts are a tiny and unique segment of the actual market, but we can’t possibly that far off from the general opinion of these commercials.

    If Mazda really wants to grow into a premium-ish brand and command that money, how about build your sales base first and then slowly build up your pricing. Not the other way around, that’s a good way to lose a lot of money and end up at the mercy of partnerships with your much larger rivals.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      “…that’s a good way to lose a lot of money and end up at the mercy of partnerships with your much larger rivals.”

      Seems like Mazda achieves this pretty well already.

      Honestly, I wish them the best. I’m all about having many choices in the marketplace, and I don’t want Mazda to take a que from Isuzu, Suzuki, etc and abandon our market. I hope they can right the ship before it sinks past the point of no return.

      Its easy for us to sit on the outside and tell them what to do, but we don’t know all the reasons they don’t take what we consider to be the obvious solution: Source a V-6 for your larger car/crossovers, pursue paths nobody else is taking like you’ve done with Miata since freaking 1990.

      I would leverage the Miata platform more than just building a few for FCA. Create a new lineup of small hatch/coupe/wagon/shooting brake/whatever based on the platform. Not to be an extension of the Miata brand (in other words, not like Toyota has done with the Prius), but a seperate, yet mechanically related car. Call it the MX-2.

      People love the Miata. If Mazda offered a little RWD 4/5 passenger car that was 90% as fun to drive and 150% more practical, I bet it would carve a slice of pie nobody expected, just as the Miata itself did nearly 30 years ago.

      • 0 avatar
        SlowMyke

        I like Mazda a lot, there’s a strong chance my next purchase will be one. I agree with you pretty much on all you’ve said except the mx2. Mazda needed to do that 10 years ago. As TTAC will happily point out, sedans and coupes don’t sell anymore.

        I’d love to see a sub compact Mazda not ruined by Toyota’s atrocious styling, but i think Mazda needs to build some bigger vehicles and add some power and refinement. That’s what the market wants right now. If they want to keep building their spirit-projects, and i hope they do, they should follow Porsche. Let the mass market pay the bills via powerful CUVs and so the niche markets can keep the zoom zoom reputation alive.

        • 0 avatar
          JohnTaurus

          You’re probably right. They have a line of crossovers for the soccer mom/dad set, but a fun RWD commuter than you can also pick your two kids up in would be a real treat, I could see it catching on with guys who would love a Miata but the wife says “WTF A TWO SEAT CONVERT? NO WAY BUDDY!”. Look, ma, RWD, fun to drive, but has a back seat!

          • 0 avatar
            doctorsuarez

            I really wish they would do this. The fact that the Kia Stinger GT is coming out should be either pissing them off or holding their attention. With the 3 series getting so expensive and complicated, with the fact that its reputation has been weakened, and with BMW’s reputation for reliability, I feel like there would be a hole in the market for Mazda to blitz through. People who want the 3-series drive without the baggage, and for ten grand less.

            They won’t BEAT BMW that way, but at their size that’s not the point. They should be stealing buyers from the ILX, the IS 200t, the CLA, and maybe even the 320i.

    • 0 avatar
      Car Ramrod

      @SlowMyke, I logged in just to rip the man bun but see you’ve beaten me to it. Perhaps he’s mostly excited that the equinox fuel port is at crotch level.

      How can these be “real people, not actors” if they’re “watching” a CGI 4 story tower of cars rise from the floor in one of the commercials. Or did GM really bring these people to a building with 50 foot ceilings?

      • 0 avatar
        Maymar

        http://www.avclub.com/article/whats-it-be-one-regular-people-those-chevy-commerc-255734

        Yes, apparently (at least one of the commercials was filmed at the LA Convention Center).

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      https://youtu.be/9-M5xg2Uyxw
      https://youtu.be/zSBsq6HBBzw
      https://youtu.be/xTfS0nAgfuE

      That is the CORRECTED Chevy commercials.

      I just bought a ’17 SS 6M, that is the only car currently for sale, no longer in production, that is actually somewhat interesting. The market for normal affordable cars that aren’t complete crap is so small that GM has to do these cringeworthy commercial hoping to convince people that they won’t be looked down on for buying some POS Malibu or Impala. They literally sell a product by trying to convince people it isn’t embarrassing.

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    Premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium premium

    What is premium, besides an incredibly overused marketing term?

    Is premium that gigantic gray area between Ace of Base and luxury?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’ll beat this drum again: why does anyone listen to any commercial for any brand, and why does it matter what’s in these BS commercials to begin with?

    Folks get awfully triggered over these. I have no idea why.

    • 0 avatar
      SlowMyke

      I think because it’s very difficult to avoid the commercials if you consume any decent amount of media day-to-day. People get advertised at constantly. Some people can tune it out, some can’t. I try to tune it out and not consume media i don’t have control over the content, but even as i type this there’s a banner ad for a dealer conglomerate that i don’t like staring at me. I know ad block and all that but my point stands.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus

        I actually don’t mind the banner ad. Its the Toyota Tundra advertisement that looks exactly like a genuine TTAC article that annoys me.

        I know bills must be paid, and they certainly wouldn’t get paid waiting on the B&B to send TTAC a check, but to hell with it perpetrating as a real article. That is too far. Yes, once I recognized it, I didn’t click on it, but it just seems more invasive than a banner ad. At least until ads start covering most of the screen, which they’ve seemingly fixed for now.

    • 0 avatar
      JohnTaurus

      I don’t watch commercials, because I so rarely watch TV and its almost always DVRed or Netflix. If I am watching live TV, I mute it when commercials come on and browse TTAC or look at cars I can’t afford on my device.

      I have been forced to watch some of the Chevy commercials, though, I recognize the lines quoted in the article, and it is an annoying campaign. But, so are damn near ALL advertisements! **Especially** successful ones! I can’t hear Sly and the Family Stone anymore without seeing a late 90s Camry in my head.

      • 0 avatar
        SlowMyke

        Yep that’s the problem, no matter what you do, advertising eventually gets to you. Unfortunately the general marketing model today is loud, inane, and irrelevant to the product being pushed.

    • 0 avatar
      Car Ramrod

      They irritate me because GM bought probably 30% of the ad space on the NBC Sports app during the stanley cup playoffs. Hearing anything that many times will cause loathing. I think I’d rather listen to the Fusillo Kia guy.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    I seriously can’t remember the last time any ad made me go out and buy something, based on the ad.

    If anything, the hatred of this format of ad and continued discussion is essentially an indication the campaign is a success because people are talking about it. There is no such thing as negative publicity.

    Think there is, ask someone who bought a diesel VW in the last 30 days how negative publicity drove their decision…

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      If you’re right, we should see a improvement in Mazda sales.

      Chevrolet is a huge brand and any uptick in sales may not necessarily be credited to just ads in my view.

  • avatar
    The_Imperialist

    I worked on the Mazda account for 10+ years at Doner and believe me, those people don’t want good advertising. Most Mazda vehicles are fantastic, with plenty to recommend them…kind of a BMW for the rest of us. It’s sad that the execs at Mazda’s North American HQ have no clue as to how to market them. They can shuffle personnel all they want, but they’re not going to increase sales until they accept that there’s nothing wrong with not being a premium brand as long as you offer a premium driving experience.

  • avatar
    geozinger

    Like others noted, I don’t understand the hate for the Chevy commercials. It’s like any other commercial in high rotation, you’re going to see it repeatedly. I don’t think they’re any worse than the “Jan from Toyota” ads or the super sappy Subaru “Love” ads.

    I think that Mazda, with no big keiretsu to keep them afloat, will become the FCA of Japan before long. I’m always amused by folks calls for Mazda to build cars for/with FCA. There’s nothing that either company can really offer one another. Like the Fiata project, the only thing they can do together is specialty cars.

    Bit by bit, Toyota insinuates itself into it’s competitor’s lineups. I don’t know what the anti-trust laws are like in Japan, but I suspect before long that it will be Toyota uber alles…

    • 0 avatar
      Pete Skimmel

      Oh my gawd! your mention of the Subaru “love” ads reminded me of one of the reasons I opted out of Subaru when our ’06 Forester was due for replacement. Makes me nearly puke every time I see it. Jayzus.

  • avatar
    Veeg

    (Disclaimer: I sell Mazdas. The views expressed in this post are mine alone and do not reflect my dealership or Mazda at large, just Veeg.)

    The product is almost there. We need to put the turbo 2.5 in literally everything and then it’s a ballgame. The ads – and these are shockingly better than most of ours – need to catch up; the product stands up to just about anything within shouting distance of the cost.

  • avatar
    EX35

    lol at claiming you are “premium” when all you’ve done is pair a decent interior with a garbage low rent powertrain. Mazda doesn’t make a single car I’d be interested in with the only exception being the diesel CX-5 (if it ever comes and its reliable).

    • 0 avatar
      Veeg

      1. our interiors are fantastic
      2. you obviously haven’t driven a 2016+ CX-9 if you think it’s a “garbage low rent powertrain”.

      Also, the EX35 is a nice car. I’m a fan.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Mazda’s interiors are on par with Infiniti’s for half the price as far as material quality goes, and they are way better designed aesthetically. CX-9 is also faster and more fuel efficient than the Pathfinder.

      And judging by your name tag it’s obvious you’re interested in cars nobody else is interested in. Christ, what a miserable poster you are.

      • 0 avatar
        EX35

        Woah, touched a nerve? seek help.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I can’t speak to the interior, but outside the 6 and MX-5 the aesthetics of the ones I have seen are p!ss poor.

        So the EX35 fan is miserable compared to the Accord guy? Really?

        Sometimes personal angst contributes to our worldview. I sincerely hope you work through yours whatever it happens to be. Cheers.

        • 0 avatar
          carlisimo

          I bought a Mazda3 2.5L 6MT hatch last year. The interior’s mostly great. I agree there are some refinement issues: the pedals themselves are annoyingly loud, there’s no dead pedal, lots of road noise, and the AC is weak. I’m used to the latter two, but my previous car was a 2002 Miata. Not sure I’d accept them if I were coming from something more expensive.

          The engine’s biggest problem is throttle response; it’s so lazy you might as well slap a turbo on it and live with the lag. Makes heel-and-toeing difficult, imo. I’m going to get an OrangeVirus tune in the near future – not for power gains (though I do expect some) but for improved throttle response on a map that requires 91 octane fuel. I realize building in some lag helps with emissions and it may be impossible to get it as good as in that old Miata, but right now the difference is huge.

          My wife test drove a top-trim CR-V last year (the previous generation) and it had a much stronger sense of being a cheap car with a thin veneer of nice interior trim. Going after people who buy top-trim non-premium vehicles may be a rather small niche, but I imagine it’s a somewhat profitable one.

  • avatar
    ajla

    They should do an ad where the little “Zoom-Zoom” whisper kid is driving around his new premium Mazda doing premium lifestyle things.

  • avatar
    Mud

    I find the YouTube versions of these commercials entertaining.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    Seems every brand wants to be a “premium” brand.

    Mazda, you can’t sell as a non-premium brand – so you want to go “premium” – good luck w/ that.

    Not.

    Gonna.

    Happen.

  • avatar
    manu06

    Makes me wish for Joe Isuzu.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nJMq_7alQpU

  • avatar
    33873

    An intelligent car buyer may vomit in their mouth a little watching these commercials, but your typical Chevy buyer not so much.

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Define “Intelligent.” I’m curious where I fit in, as I bought a Chevy.

      • 0 avatar
        mikey

        @threeer…So glad you asked that. Last count I figure I’ve bought 8 Chevys. My brother is a self made millionaire, and drives a 5 year old Tahoe. I guess IQ isn’t a family trait for us ; )

        • 0 avatar
          threeer

          Mikey, it’s all good! I drive one (my first in a long, long time), or I should say my wife does. 2013 Cruze 2LT (RS package). It’s actually a nice ride. My cousin just bought a new Impala and that is a seriously impressive vehicle, even if the large car segment is going away. My mother drives a Verano (OK, technically not a Chevy, but a GM cousin to our Cruze) We’re all college educated and doing pretty well in our chosen professions (except my mom…after a brilliant career she’s retired). IQ is relative, I suppose…and all of ours must be collectively lower because we drive Chevys/GM.

  • avatar

    Mazda is like the art film the critics love, but few go to see.

  • avatar
    Raphael

    The ads sound stupid but maybe there is a future niche for Mazda as the Japanese “sporty” brand as opposed to competing upmarket against Lexus, etc. The Miata and the RX series offer excellent sporting pedigree, the current generation is well styled and handles well. Hybrids and CVT are the antithesis of driving fun, so Subaru has the Outdoorsy/lesbian markets cornered (no offrense, but no gay man I know owns an Outback. One of my gay friends traded his EOS for a BRZ). So why not offer a cut price Alfa experience?

    • 0 avatar
      threeer

      Because apparently “Zoom/Zoom” didn’t work for the decade(s) they were trying to be the Japanese “sporty” brand. I guess Americans really don’t much sport in their cars, with maybe the exception being the MX-5.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    I just saw the Mazda ad for the 1st time. No one was reading lists of bogus awards -cough- JD Power -cough- or were there idiots going “yeah buddy” or “it looks like a monster”. Hmmm, smart Mazda “real people” vs dumbass GM “real people”. I think I sense something here.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I love the spoofs on the Chevy “real people ads”

    youtu.be/xTfS0nAgfuE

    youtu.be/15iLHlJPp_0

  • avatar
    SuperCarEnthusiast

    Chevrolet and Mazda should get together and do a commercial! LOL!

  • avatar
    John R

    I wonder if Mazda allowed those two to take their camo’ed Mazda6’s out on the interstates and highways of the real world so they could experience the “premium” feel of the gutless powertrain.

    • 0 avatar
      Daniel J

      Gutless compared to what exactly? The 2.5 is more than adequate in the Mazda 3 and mazda 6. Less than 10 percent buyers are getting higher spec engines in their Accords, Fusions, or Camry’s. The CRV, Rav4, and Rogue all come with pretty “gutless” engines, and they all sell like hotcakes.

      Mazda sold 45,000 Mazda 6s in 2016.. Its just not economical to drop something more powerful for an engine option for what, 4500 cars.

      • 0 avatar
        EX35

        If you are going to be gutless, at least be smooth. The 2.5 is no Honda 4-cyl. And with the next gen accord including a turbo as the base engine, thr Mazda engine will certainly feel gutless.

  • avatar
    DownUnder2014

    Hmm…interesting, we never got this advertisement for the Mazda 6 on my end. I have not seen it advertised in ages!


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