The Truth About Cars » advertising http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:58:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » advertising http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Nissan, Ad Agency Settle With FTC Over Hill Climb Dramatization in Frontier Ads http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/nissan-ad-agency-settle-with-ftc-over-hill-climb-dramatization-in-frontier-ads/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/nissan-ad-agency-settle-with-ftc-over-hill-climb-dramatization-in-frontier-ads/#comments Fri, 24 Jan 2014 05:46:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=707490

Click here to view the embedded video.

Nissan North America and TBWA Worldwide, Nissan’s ad agency have agreed to a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over the FTC’s claims that a television commercial for the Nissan Frontier misled consumers about the truck’s ability to climb hills. The 30 second ad, titled “Hill Climb”, portrayed a Frontier pushing a stranded dune buggy up a steep sand dune. In reality, the Frontier wold not be able to perform the stunt in the ad. To shoot the ad, both vehicles were towed up the hill using cables.

According to Automotive News, the FTC said that Nissan and the ad agency are prohibited from using potentially misleading demonstrations in future advertisements for its trucks. No fines will be paid and both companies issued statements saying they never had any intention of misleading consumers. “Nissan takes its commitment to fair and truthful advertising seriously,” Nissan spokesman Travis Parman wrote in an e-mail. “The company has been and remains committed to complying with the law.”

“Special effects in ads can be entertaining, but advertisers can’t use them to misrepresent what a product can do,” Jessica Rich, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “This ad made the Nissan Frontier appear capable of doing something it can’t do.”

While the ad did flash a disclaimer on the screen, in small print: “Fictionalization. Do not attempt,” the FTC deemed that insufficient to protect consumers that might think it was not a dramatization.

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Commercial Break: The Elusive Female Truck Buyer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/commercial-break-the-elusive-female-truck-buyer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/commercial-break-the-elusive-female-truck-buyer/#comments Mon, 06 Jan 2014 12:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=692849

Click here to view the embedded video.

A woman and her horse: the pairing that GM hopes will persuade female consumers to consider the Chevrolet line of trucks. At a time when truck ads are pushing masculinity to absurd heights, it’s a bold move. Even so, it’s a fundamentally conservative approach to a difficult marketing problem.

How do you sell pickup trucks to women? For a long time, the answer has been that you don’t. Close to 90% of pickup buyers are male, a ratio which hasn’t changed much in decades. Making the business case for attracting more women to the pickup market isn’t hard. Full-size trucks have been the prime moneymakers for Detroit for years, a market that the Japanese would like a bigger piece of as well. A skewed sex ratio means that valuable female consumer dollars are gravitating towards other, less profitable segments. In GM’s case, CUVs like the Equinox, Terrain, and Enclave have proved popular with female buyers. But pushing those consumers towards the loaded pickups on the other side of the showroom is even better news for the bottom line. Brand strategists have realized that the full-size truck is now the de facto top of the model hierarchy, at least for the Detroit 3. Upselling women into pickups and SUVs is a natural evolution of an age-old marketing scheme: turn in your smaller vehicle for a bigger, more luxurious one.

If only it were that easy. The thorny dilemma that immediately rears its head is how to market trucks to women without compromising their masculine image in the eyes of male consumers. As long as strong, rugged maleness remains the accepted paradigm for truck ads, the hands of agencies and marketing departments are tied. For the dominant manufacturers in the truck game, there’s no need to shake up the status quo on a product that already sells in droves. The companies with a smaller slice of the pie seem content to ape the strategy of the more successful brands in the hopes of gradually elevating sales. The result is an echo chamber of advertising which intentionally minimizes the role of women or excludes them entirely.

However, there are three factors which might motivate companies to pursue female truck buyers more aggressively. The first is the already-discussed temptation to upsell and broaden the pickup market generally. The second is that for a major product with such lucrative margins, the 10-15% of women who already buy new trucks is “not an insignificant number,” as Chevrolet truck marketing director Maria Rohrer explained to Business Insider back in July. Thirdly, advertising campaigns that incorporate women or themes relevant to women may influence purchasing decisions regardless of who signs on the dotted line. Although women are the direct buyers in a relatively small portion of truck sales, they influence countless more as the wives, daughters, business partners and girlfriends of male truck purchasers. Chevrolet’s “Strong” music video seems to take this influence into account. Although there’s a single female driver at around the 2:46 mark, there are many other women interspersed throughout the ad. The lyrics to the song are a paean to the sturdy blue-collar man who puts work and family above all else, a move away from the kind of brashness that characterizes Ford’s current ad series for the F-series. It’s one thing to give women a nod by putting them in the background, but how do you sell to them directly?

Chevrolet’s solution is an ad featuring a woman that explicitly eschews traditionally feminine themes. There are no kids being buckled into car seats, no painted fingernails tapping touchscreens, no group of women disembarking from a quad cab at the beach or the mall. It’s the opposite of the (in)famous Porsche “school bus” commercial, which dropped Porsche vehicles into a variety of mundane scenarios. Instead, we get a tough, independent woman hurling hay bales into the back of her new Silverado. She’s thin, youngish, and attractive, but not “pretty” or delicate: her hair is loose and wild, she has a tattoo on her wrist, and she looks at home in her cowboy boots, flannel, and sunglasses. She’s the only woman in the entire ad, outside of a quick crowd shot at the rodeo. She handles her horse and her truck entirely by herself; independence is the clear message. At the end of the day, she wins “a ribbon that goes on her wall, not in her hair.” As the author of the Business Insider piece astutely observed, and ad chief Rohrer confirmed, the narrative is designed to be “something that everyone could relate to.” And therein lies the fundamental conservatism of this approach: it seeks to attract female consumers within the existing, male-centric paradigm. There’s no serious risk of the masculinity of Chevy trucks being watered down from this ad, even though the main character is a woman. It engages women within the context of an open but overwhelmingly male-dominated activity. This is the safe approach, but is it the right one?

                The issue with this spot is that the direct appeal is ultimately very narrow. Even among the women who already buy pickups, the number of rodeo-competing horse enthusiasts is tiny. And it is very remote from the lives of the small business owners, industrial professionals, and affluent suburbanites who might form the core of a new female class of truck buyers. In other words, the appeal of the ad is deep within its narrow target, but not broad. Were I asked to design my own ad campaign for pickup trucks that targeted women, I would try to choose a widely relevant situation. A woman loading up home improvement supplies would be an example. So would a female contractor visiting a job site, or a business owner making a delivery. It might be worthwhile to toss a few kids into the ad as well, but not as the main focus. A woman and her horse is a step in the right direction, but it’s not likely to get many more women to consider a truck than those that already do. That’s probably what Chevrolet was going for, but expanding the market should be a long-term strategic goal.

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Maroon Velour, Coupes Galore, And An Important Four-Door for 1984 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/maroon-velour-coupes-galore-and-an-important-four-door-for-1984/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/maroon-velour-coupes-galore-and-an-important-four-door-for-1984/#comments Mon, 30 Dec 2013 12:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=688930 DSC_0405Haven’t you heard the exciting news? There’s a new Corvette out this year! Cadillac is building convertibles again! The VW Vanagon has a water-cooled engine! Oldsmobile is offering some kind of voice warning doohickey and the FIRENZA HAS NEW TRIM OPTIONS!1!!11! All with interest rates hovering just under 13%! It’s 1984, and I just can’t wait to check out the goods at the auto show.

 

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My mother volunteers at a local charity that provides needy families with household items. Her job involves separating and sorting useful donations from not-so-useful ones: broken glass, dead appliances, and in this case, old newspapers. She gifted me a piece of the long-defunct Columbus Citizen-Journal which previewed the upcoming attractions at the city’s 1984 auto show. I eagerly awaited page after page of achingly desirable machines, available for a pittance, indicative of a prosperity and degree of freedom that my Internet-addled generation could never hope to know.

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Olds, Pontiac, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Ford, Dodge, and Honda products are all given the puff treatment here, alongside a plethora of ads. Curiously, no Buick, VW, Toyota, Subaru, or any other import marque is included in the paper’s formal writeups. Limited column space, perhaps? On the front page, there’s a marketshare breakdown for 1983: Ford had 17.1 percent, GM had 44.4 Chrysler had 10.3, and AMC 2.5. Imports made up a combined 25.7 percent, with the Japanese holding more than four-fifths of that total. In the whole American market, things have changed dramatically. In the Midwest? Maybe not so much. But hey, check out those conversion vans!

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 A four-cylinder, turbocharged Mustang! How oddly familiar. The EXP serves as a reminder that in the 80s, there was still a market for inexpensive 2-seater coupes. Will they ever come back? Considering that two-door coupes not called Camaro or Mustang barely exist anymore, I’m guessing no.

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Pontiac’s new “showpiece of engineering” won the sales race in the aforementioned market, but changing tastes ultimately doomed it. Perhaps the Solstice would have sold better under the Fiero nameplate.

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  The Civic lineup was all-new in 1984, with seven different models sold under the nameplate. You could get the gas-sipping CRX, the sporty Si hatch, a five-door wagon, and several others. The EPA rating of 67 on the highway for the CRX was undoubtedly optimistic, but real-world mileage still proved stellar. Before the pointless economy-car horsepower wars, you got 60 horsepower out of the 1.3 liter base engine in the Civic. If you were feeling adventurous, you could get the 1.5 liter with its awesome 76 horsepower. Slow? Yes. Tuned for actually saving gas? Absolutely. Tongues will wag and say that safety regs killed light, simple cars like the CRX, but in a world where the Fiat 500 and the Chevy Spark both exist, I’m not buying it. Size creep was already making its presence felt in the mid-80s. As the column points out, the 1984 Civic sedan was 5.2 inches longer than the ’83. Check out the Subaru ad too. In the current era of pseudo-premium everything, would any car company ever dare to describe their product as “inexpensive?”

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 The most important new car of the 1984 season was the Plymouth Voyager/Dodge Grand Caravan. Like it or not, this is the vehicle that truly spawned the SUV/CUV revolution. It showed millions of middle-class families that they could have the kind of voluminous, carry-all interior space previously considered the exclusive domain of commercial vehicles. Their relative cheapness and ease of use made consumers unwilling to tolerate the compromises inherent in traditional sedan-based wagons. True truck-based SUVs didn’t take off until the early 90s, but minivans paved the way long before huge fake dinosaurs were eating people out of Ford Explorers.

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 A BMW sold on its residual value? Your eyes do not deceive you. Exacting build quality, careful engineering, the latest in technological wizardry (Service warning lights! An MPG computer!) all help you “not only hold onto a significant portion of your wealth- the portion that you keep in the form of a car- but to enjoy yourself tremendously in the process.” Is this even on the same planet as the modern-day lease extravanganza? You needed the retained value if you were going to be paying 12.95% APR on a new car loan, though.

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 Here’s another bank ad. It might have been morning in America, but credit was still quite tight in 1984. 11.95% sounds like buy-here pay-here level financing today, but in the mid-eighties one needed to have great credit to get these kinds of rates. Apparently 60 month terms weren’t that uncommon thirty years ago.

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  There aren’t a lot of prices in these ads, but the few that are there are revealing. $9999 for a 1984 Marquis Brougham is $22,430 in today’s money, according to the handy Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator. For that, you got a front-drive, midsize sedan powered by a  carbeurated 120 horsepower V6, an automatic transmission, and air conditioning. You also got one power seat (part of a split bench), steel wheels with covers, no cassette player, zero airbags,  and no ABS. Don’t forget the interest rate.

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Maybe used is more your style. Then as now, Budget has plenty of no doubt gently-driven rental cars to offer you. How about an ’83 Sentra for $15,227 in today’s dollars? Hey, at least it has a stereo, four wheels, and “air conditioning!” You could get a Citation for a little less. A V6, automatic ’83 Camaro or a Mercury Cougar would set you back $21,284. Deals! There are more than a few cars from 1984 that I wouldn’t mind owning. The G-body Cutlasses and Regals are still among the best designs of the latter half of the twentieth century. I’d love to have a Civic Si and a Prelude, as well as a Fiero and Shelby Charger. I will own another E30 some day. But 1980s new car prices stir no longing for times gone by in my heart.

 

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Editorial: It’s Time to Rethink Truck Advertising http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/editorial-its-time-to-rethink-truck-advertising/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/editorial-its-time-to-rethink-truck-advertising/#comments Thu, 19 Dec 2013 13:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=683346 Click here to view the embedded video.

An imposing, expensive log home dominates a clearing, reclaimed from the rugged pine-infested wilderness that surrounds it. Smoke rises from the chimney, overlaying the picturesque mountain peak in the background. In front of the home, a man leans over the open engine bay of his obviously new truck. The chrome gleams, despite the trail mud artistically bespattered on the sides. As the camera zooms in, he looks up from the engine bay and smiles. His tousled hair, unshaven stubble, and harmonious blend of over-25-under-40 facial features comport well alongside his worn cowboy boots, perfectly soiled jeans and carefully rumpled flannel shirt. He wipes his hands with a rag, looks back at the house for just a moment, and then turns to the camera.

“Built it myself,” he says with a polished gruffness. “But I couldn’t have done it without the right tools for the job. Saws, hammers, nails, and varnish. And a truck I can depend on.” He reaches over and closes the hood with a “thunk” that took the sound editing guy three weeks to get right. “Brand X is as reliable as the day is long. But what I like the most is that I can do all the regular maintenance myself. Oil changes, fluid flushes, and anything else she needs. It’s easy. Everything comes in a handy guide. No experience necessary. Brand X builds a truck for you, not for mechanics.”

At that moment, the screen door on the porch swings open. A well-groomed Labrador Retriever rushes out with a happy bark, his collar jingling. As he runs towards his master, an achingly beautiful brunette steps out onto the porch. Her hair falls down over her slightly unbuttoned blouse as she smiles at the man in the courtyard. He turns to face her and gives a casual wave, just as the dog reaches his feet. She returns the wave, as he pets the dog with his free hand. She leans against a porch column as he turns back to the camera, the dog now sitting alongside him. Now he wears a knowing smirk on his face. “Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.” The challenge made, he turns back and heads towards the front door. The camera zooms out, and cuts away to the mountains as he reaches the porch and embraces the girl. The logo for Brand X looms onto the screen. An announcer calls out the tagline. “Brand X. Independence is everything.”

“Don’t provoke your customers.” The maxim seems simple enough. So is the script above a form of marketing suicide? Not necessarily. Megadoses of brash masculinity in contemporary truck ads are a given. Especially with the collapse of the small and mid-size truck markets, portraying the heavy-duty macho pedigree of pick-ups is essential. Nobody wants to build the next Brat. Instead, deep-voiced announcers harangue viewers with statistics and brawny narratives. The question becomes one of oversaturation. How many images of trucks towing impressive-looking gooseneck setups/ginormous almost-yachts/inferior trucks, trucks getting huge loads of bricks/rocks/other bulky substances dumped in the bed from ridiculous heights, and trucks pulling overloaded trailers up a Mad Max-ish winding tower of death surrounded by OMG FLAMES SO HARDCORE can the average guy absorb before the effect starts to wear thin?

Perhaps we already have the answer: pulling a freaking space shuttle into a hangar in a supposedly “real world” challenge without the slightest hint of irony or self-effacement (“It’s really heavy, and it’s also quite big.” Bob the Builder would be proud.) Or maybe it peaked even earlier: parking a perfectly good pickup between two bulldozers and bending the hell out of it just to prove that yes, it is hard to crush something made of metal that weighs the better part of three tons. (It’s worth noting that Ford pulled that ad after negative consumer reaction.) Every manufacturer is guilty of this to some degree; the struggle for breathless superlatives and ludicrous stunts is an arms race that not even Kissinger could de-escalate. What’s more of an insult to a customer: the insinuation that these shenanigans somehow represent real-world product value, or that maybe, just maybe, taking responsibility for your own vehicle maintenance is sexy?

The cartoonish over sincerity of truck advertising is ripe to be skewered. At least one ad exec working for GM has realized this. A memorable 2012 Super Bowl ad for Chevy trucks riffed cheekily on the Mayan Apocalypse as well as manly vigor in the face of chaos. The ad works because it gets the message across (GM builds the most reliable pickups) without resorting to overwrought machismo or torrents of forgettable facts and figures. Recently, brands in other product categories have gotten far by giving masculinity the ironic, playful treatment.

The line of Axe grooming products comes most readily to mind, as do the over-the-top ads for Dr. Pepper 10. Going farther back in automotive history, there are numerous examples where manufacturers achieved enormous success by attacking the marketing tropes of the day. The most iconic of these was the Doyle Dane Bernbach series of Volkswagen ads that appeared in 1959. “Think Small” exploded decades of conventional wisdom about what Americans expected from an automotive ad campaign. The enormous success of VW in swimming upstream changed not only that company’s fortunes, but arguably the entire character of the US car market.

The DIY aesthetic has long been a favorite background for truck ads. Since at least the 1980s, though, manufacturers have been hesitant to apply it to the trucks themselves. Perhaps this is due to the need to maintain good relations with dealers, who rely on service for a steady income stream. More likely, it rests on the presumption that modern drivers want nothing to do with the mechanical upkeep of their vehicles of they can help it. It wasn’t always this way; ads from the 1970s and before are replete with references to the ease of do-it-yourself maintenance for both cars and trucks alike. Resurrecting self-maintenance would be a quick and easy way for a manufacturer to stake out a unique niche in the marketing game.

Because many truck buyers are commercial customers who are already more likely to self-maintain, the strategy carries less risk than if it were applied to passenger cars. It could help a marginal player like Nissan establish a reputation as a “man’s truck,” owned by the confident and technically savvy. This is the most crucial part of the game: the creation of an image that customers will want to buy into, not necessarily one they live themselves. Very few smokers of Marlboro Reds are lasso-wielding cowboys. But the image offered by that campaign proved to be an immensely powerful draw. It isn’t necessary to throw out all conventional wisdom at once, like DDB did for VW. However, the existing stale and hyper-masculine paradigm of truck ads is ripe to be shaken up, one way or another.

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Volvo Truck Denies Release of Van Damme “Epic Split” Video Was Timed to Bury Layoff News http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/volvo-truck-denies-release-of-van-damme-epic-split-video-was-timed-to-bury-layoff-news/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/volvo-truck-denies-release-of-van-damme-epic-split-video-was-timed-to-bury-layoff-news/#comments Tue, 17 Dec 2013 10:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=681802 Volvo assembly line

You’ve probably seen the video that Volvo produced with actor and martial artist Jean Claude Van Damme performing one of his famous splits, while perched on the side mirrors of two Volvo semi trucks demonstrating Volvo Trucks’ “Dynamic Steering”. The video quickly went viral in the automotive and general worlds, with millions of people seeing it in the first few days after release. Now some Swedes are wondering if the timing of the video’s release was calculated to deflect attention from layoffs at the truck maker. Right around the same time that the video was going viral, it was announced that 380 temporary workers will be laid off from Volvo’s plant in Umeå, while another 100 jobs will be lost at Volvo Powertrain in Skövde .

“This is an adjustment to market fluctuations and we’re adjusting our capacity accordingly,” plant manager Mona Edström-Frohm said in a statement. Volvo trucks had previously announced that 500 jobs will go away when the Umeå plant ceases assembly operations in 2015.

When asked if the release of the Van Damme video was timed to coincide with the layoff announcements, Volvo Trucks spokesman Anders Vilhelmsson vehemently denied any connection. ”The release of these films aren’t at all directly related to the organization of our manufacturing,” he told the Swedish website The Local.

Click here to view the embedded video.

 

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Hammer Time: Young People Smell Funny http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/hammer-time-young-people-smell-funny/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/hammer-time-young-people-smell-funny/#comments Thu, 14 Nov 2013 17:40:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=650706 large

A herd of automotive journalists get led off into a dark room filled with oversized furniture and cheap snacks.

It is where the ritual slaughter of truth takes place. A screen bigger than Wilt Chamberlain’s …. flashes in front of them as discordant music pulses and the beautiful people beam out their irrational exuberance of owning the upcoming 2014 model.

The actors and actresses on the screen are all young, sexy, virile, obscenely joyful, and about as genuine as a thirty-three dollar bill. Which is A-OK for me. Because after the fifteen minutes of corporate infomercials filled with empty code words such as “Value”, “Best In Class”, and “Award Winning”, the head honcho of the press junket let’s me, and everyone else, off the hook with the biggest lie in the car business.

“We believe our core audience will be young people in their 20′s and 30′s.”

It doesn’t matter what car they are trying to jerk us off with, the words never change.

Cadillac XTS?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Young… 30′s…. a technology junkie…

Toyota Corolla?

Click here to view the embedded video.

20′s and 30′s… preferably someone who thinks that there were plenty of talented white dancers on Soul Train.

A Lincoln?

Click here to view the embedded video.

A rabid Jimmy Fallon fan… 20′s to 30′s…. who still thinks old Town Cars and floating sting rays are great ways to rebuild your brand image.

I have been through dozens of press car launches over the last two years, and every single one of them is lock, stock and loaded with a barrel full of the big lie.

“We… want… the… young. Old people? Not in our commercials! But you’re invited to visit the local dealership, and we’re hoping that the parental enablers within you will help improve our current demographics. But our NEW customers? Our army of customers for the future? Young.”

The young obviously include the young at heart, and of course, that includes all of us who have the money to blow on a new car. In otherwords, the average 60 year old.

Click here to view the embedded video.

These days the mature among us are supposed to be sold with plenty of dancing, spastic pop music, and enough good drugs to turn any rotten life into a Disney movie.

Am I being a curmudgeon? Not at all. This particular commercial struck me as one of those patronizing phony pitches that is designed for success in the boardroom. and failure in the marketplace.

The old man within the middle-aged me looked at this ad. and imagined a bunch of burnt out advertising executives trying to convey the following message.

“Our car is the cool car. Our cool is the hip car. Why? Shut up and look at the young people dancing. It’s like, all 70′s and shit.”

This is the same outstanding logic that brought us talking cartoon ducks selling Cadillacs.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Commercials featuring water, which were somehow supposed to introduce the Infiniti brand back in the day when all Datsuns were Nissans.

Click here to view the embedded video.

And the reanimated corpse that nobody knew outside our industry or cared about. Once again hocking cars… maybe…

Click here to view the embedded video.

Now if Harley Earl had ripped the flesh off that young guy’s neck. Carjacked the brand new 2003 Pontiac GTO, and hit enough curbs, pedestrians and stop signs to make the commercial resemble the game Grand Theft Auto, then it would have been something worth our attention.

Instead you’re left thinking, “What the hell was that all about? Buicks? Old guys with hats?”

This is the exact level of bewilderment that goes through my mind whenever I am reintroduced to the young buyer paradox. Young people are broke these days, for the most part. So why fucking lie?

Reality usually gets no more than a passing glance in the rear view mirror at these new model launches because doing so would require these guys to admit that that their best customer is the stupid one who buys the car at MSRP, and finances it at an 18+% interest rate,.Plus bullshit fees and GAP insurance.

While the guys pine away about their target audience. This is what I usually lead between the lines and the moving lips.

“We love all our customers Steve. Really! But we especially love the stupid ones who are bad at math.” If the guys who presented these vehicles would at least pay homage to their true prime customer, instead of creating fictional facsimiles based on modern day fashions, they would likely wind up with better marketing campaigns.

The Cadillac XTS was probably the best example of the type of marketing campaign where there is simply no audience and a complete dismissal of reality. After a few commercials featuring music and random images of the XTS, we were introduced to the then brand new CUE technology. This new system would be the killer app for getting Cadillac’s new young customers in the door.

Did the CUE technology enable hands-free communting? Was it some type of tablet, phablet, or mobile device? I came there with absolutely no idea what CUE meant.

So, I was treated to a solid two minutes of a guy using what seemed to be aikido type movements to guide all the instrumentation on the center console.

What the hell was that? Why?

Well, because in the future dictated by Cadillac, apparently knobs no longer work. This was the defining reason to buy the XTS. No knobs.

Click here to view the embedded video.

After the final video, we were given the grand announcement of who the target audience would be for the XTS.

Young.

30′s, maybe 40′s.

Technology junkies.

Someone who thought that Cadillac is a world class brand that can outperform other leading luxury brands including Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Lexus and Infiniti.

Any questions?

You bet your ass I had questions. After a couple of minutes I was mentally crossing out the questions that I simply couldn’t ask…

“I see that CUE uses hand movements for the radio and temperature controls. What about finger gestures? If I gave CUE the finger, or the circle jerk, would it automatically scan to the nearest talk radio station?”

“In the future, are there any black people who buy your product?”

“What do you guys have against knobs? Couldn’t you have simply constructed four round knobs that don’t feel like rubber dog chew toys?”

This is the one I ended up asking…

“The Mercedes E-Class, Audi A6 and BMW 5-Series all offer multiple engine choices along with their own unique high performance models. You are offering one engine and that one is shared with the Impala and LaCrosse. How can you realistically expect to compete with the best cars in this class?”

The fellow in charge of answering the questions did a little sidestep.

Click here to view the embedded video.

And let me in on who Cadillac’s future customer would be.

It…

Was….

The sleazy used car dealer? Pretty close.

The young Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

Now don’t get me wrong. Marketing teams in every industry want to show how their product is the best in the business. But to get people into that Promise Land when it comes to cars, you need a target that your audience can relate to.

Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who think that Cadillac is a world class brand is not a target. It’s a fictionalized slip of the tongue that let me know the XTS had no chance of making it.

“Young people” is also not a target. When it comes to cars, not even an age group (or sex) can represent a valid target. 25 to 35 can range anywhere from investment banker to jail bait.

However, the worst target is not one that is too big, too small, or even a fictional one.

The worst target in the car business is the one that aims squarely at pleasing the guys in the suits, and nearly nobody else who is outside their brainwashed world.

Self-adulation of a brand, or a model, is the surest way of making any audience cynical of your credibility and intent.

Everybody says they’re the best.

clapton-is-god

It takes more than that to get the point across. In the case of the spastic dancing Corolla commercial, they could have used a canine, a cane, and a Clapton… and maybe some cocaine from the 70′s.

That would do the trick.

 

 

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Automaker, Movie Studio Sell SUV, Movie Sequel Together http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/automaker-movie-studio-sell-suv-movie-sequel-together/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/automaker-movie-studio-sell-suv-movie-sequel-together/#comments Tue, 15 Oct 2013 11:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=623857

Click here to view the embedded video.

If you get your automotive news online you’re probably familiar with the new ad campaign for the [car brand name] [vehicle name] starring [famous comedian] in his character, [fictional newscaster], from [hit movie name], the sequel to which will be released later this year.

Publicity for the ad campaign says that [famous comedian] was so enthused at the creative comedic opportunities presented that he ended up ad-libbing dozens of commercial spots. That publicity was apparently successful because now the publicity campaign about the cross promotional ad campaign has announced that in a little more than a week since the ads were released on YouTube, over 2.7 million people have seen them. That figure doesn’t include those who have seen the [fictional newscaster] [vehicle name] ads on television. [Automaker headquartered in the Detroit area] is one of the major advertisers during Major League Baseball’s postseason playoffs.

The ad campaign has certainly been successful at getting the name of the [brand name] [vehicle name] out in front of the public. It’s possibly been even more successful at getting the names of [fictional newscaster], [famous comedian] and [movie sequel title] publicized. I’m sure that everyone involved with the new [vehicle name] ads are pleased with all the buzz. Next month, when the October sales reports are issued, we’ll know if that buzz translates to more [vehicle name]s getting sold.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Acura Pitchman Jerry Seinfeld: Car Advertising “Too Commercial-y”. Really? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/acura-pitchman-jerry-seinfeld-car-advertising-too-commercial-y-really/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/acura-pitchman-jerry-seinfeld-car-advertising-too-commercial-y-really/#comments Fri, 04 Oct 2013 20:17:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=606049

Click here to view the embedded video.

In a rather promotional feeling interview with Bloomberg, comedian and noted car collector Jerry Seinfeld discusses his growing relationship with Honda Motor’s Acura brand. Last year’s Super Bowl featured an ad for the upcoming revival of the NSX sports car scripted by Seinfeld himself, with a cameo from Jay Leno, riffing off of the two comics’ reputation as serious collectors. More recently Acura has become the sole sponsor of Seinfelds popular “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” webcasts. Jerry told the news agency that in general he’s not a fan of car advertising.

Seinfeld said, “For the most part, car advertising is a total turnoff to the consumer; I think it needs a complete reboot. It’s too commercial-y and fear-based. Stop showing us the cars driving through the desert.”

Seinfeld thinks that auto companies shouldn’t focus on product in their advertising, but rather getting consumers to like them.

“Don’t sell me your product, sell me you,” said Seinfeld. “You’re trying to make people like you. You don’t have to sell them your product. You have to make them like you.”

So if Jerry doesn’t like how automotive advertising is “too commercial-y” one can’t help but wonder if the wisecracking comedian has offered his opinion to Acura on their high concept “Made for Mankind” commercial that somehow equates owning a MDX crossover with humanity’s eternal quest for knowledge and adventure. I suppose that it sort of fits into Seinfeld’s notion of selling the brand, not the product, but the ad takes itself so sonorously seriously, that it’s easy to imagine Jerry’s reaction to something like “If your quest is to built the world’s smartest luxury SUV for mankind, you must hold yourself to the standard of mankind”. Really?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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“Women Drivers” In Period Advertising http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/women-drivers-in-period-advertising/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/women-drivers-in-period-advertising/#comments Sat, 06 Jul 2013 07:25:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=494351 libertyad
Period advertising can be entertaining. The ads are often graphically interesting and it’s also kind of educational to read the copy. At the least they are historical artifacts, a window into the commercial mind of a different era. For the long Fourth of July holiday weekend we posted a piece on the Liberty Motor Car Company, including the above ad. It was published sometime between 1916 and 1923, when Liberty went out of business. While reading the ad copy, I came across the following phrase:

“How about safety, in these days of women drivers and crowded traffic? Did you ever see an emergency brake applied with a touch of one finger that will stop a car without shock at full speed – surely – smoothly – safely. Try the Liberty emergency – and try it where life might depend on its action.

At first my reaction was “women drivers”? “How quaint and patronizing and sexist”, went through my head, which is rather funny considering that I’ve been called a troglodytic misogynist, being terribly allergic to any form of PC thought. Women have always been in charge, they give the next generation much of their values in every society that ever has been, and ever will be. I am, though, a father of two daughters and a granddaughter and I want them to be able to pursue whatever opportunities their talent and hard work might merit. I personally have nothing against women drivers, I taught my older daughter (and her mother, too) how to drive a stick. Heck, my ex shifts smoother than I do and has a spotless driving record, which I can’t say for myself.

Then I thought, maybe the reference to women drivers was not disparaging but rather appealing to protective impulses. That’s a theme common in a lot of recent commercials, and some not so recent. There’s the Subaru ad with the dad talking to a little girl playing behind the wheel of their car sitting in their driveway who turns into a 16 year old about to drive on her own for the first time.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Michelin has been using the tagline Because so much is riding on your tires since 1985, when the DDB ad agency created this ad. It’s been called one of the most effective advertising slogans ever and it’s all based on appealing to parents’ protective natures.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Interestingly, this 1987 version shows the changing roles of women, because it’s the mother, not the father who is buying Michelins so their child will be safe.

Click here to view the embedded video.

I’ve written about the incessant cliched and misandrist stupid father commercials, so this Chevy truck commercial, with Tim Allen sonorous tagline “the things you carry are even heavier than the things you haul”, also a variation on the “keep my family safe” theme, hits all the right notes for me. It shows a capable, caring and strong but gentle dad dropping his kid off to day care on the way to work.

Click here to view the embedded video.

That’s why I thought it was silly when this old Goodyear ad was labeled as sexist. It’s just another variation on the same theme. Yes, back then men may have made most tire purchases, but if it was okay for a mother to be concerned about her daughter’s safety in 1987, it was okay for a husband to be concerned about his wife’s safety in 1967. Besides, unlike all those stupid dad commercials, it shows the wife actually accomplishing her task, getting to the airport in difficult traffic conditions, picking her husband up. I think what really bothered the scolds was that when she picked him up, she slid over and let him get behind the wheel, the ad ending with a kiss. I’m guessing that they could reshoot the same commercial today, not changing a thing other than making it a same-sex couple, and the same folks who call the old ad sexist would cheer it.

Click here to view the embedded video.

People were concerned about their families’ safety in 1917 as well. Perhaps rather than mocking women drivers, maybe the Liberty ad was appealing to them and their husbands. I’m not so sure that it’s putting down women as much as trying to sell the car to women and to husbands of “women drivers”, concerned for their safety in increasingly crowded traffic.

Alice Ramsey changing a tire on her renowned 1909 cross-country drive.

Alice Ramsey changing a tire on her renowned 1909 cross-country drive.

To be honest, I’m not even sure if “woman driver” had become a pejorative by the time the ad was published. Liberty was in business from 1916 to 1923. It was a time of women’s suffrage. Women drivers like Alice Ramsey and Dorothy Levitt (who held land and water speed records and wrote what is probably the only book that gives both fashion advice and instructions on how to rebuild a carburetor) were world-famous years before the Liberty was on sale. By the time the Liberty was being made, Kettering (another one of those “dead white males” whose inventions helped liberate women) had developed the electric starter and women drivers were indeed becoming more common.

Dorothy Levitt at the inaugural Brighton time trials, 1905

Dorothy Levitt at the inaugural Brighton trials, 1905

One of the Liberty’s selling features was ergonomics, the ad mentions how just a “touch” is needed at the controls. Note how the text that I’ve quoted says that with “touch of one finger” on the emergency brake the car can be brought to a complete halt safely (presumably to avoid an accident). Perhaps all that ergonomics and light touch was a selling point to women, implying that a driver didn’t need a man’s physical strength to drive the Liberty.

Dorothy Levitt in a Napier racer at Brooklands in 1908

Dorothy Levitt in a Napier racer at Brooklands in 1908

I’m not naive, and neither was whoever wrote the copy for this ad. Read it. It’s pretty sophisticated copy for an ad from not very long after Alfred Lasker more or less invented modern advertising. It’s possible Liberty was trying to have it both ways. They use the phrase “women drivers” but they don’t actually say anything disparaging. Maybe novelist L.P. Hartley’s famous opening line, “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there,” applies. Maybe it really was patronizing and sexist, but I’ve seen enough period advertisements from that era that were pitching cars and car accessories to women to think that Liberty was perhaps being true to its name and was as eager to make money off of women drivers as it was from men.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Silly Car Commercials http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/silly-car-commercials/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/silly-car-commercials/#comments Wed, 22 May 2013 18:04:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489207

Click here to view the embedded video.

When was the last time you saw a major car company do something silly in a commercial? No, not like that Lincoln ad made from Tweets curated by Jimmy Fallon, I mean something deliberately silly. There may be more recent ones but  Isuzu’s “Joe Isuzu” ad campaign is the most recent one that I can think of and that was so long ago that when young people see Joe’s I-Mark ads on YouTube they must ask, “Isuzu sold cars? I thought they just sold trucks “

Click here to view the embedded video.

I suppose that Chevy is sort of trying with their current ads that seek to emulate the look and feel of The Office sitcom, only staged in a Chevy dealership, not a paper company sales office. Of course local dealers will still do schtick to get your attention. Few, though, get as surreal as the series of  ads that the Firesign Theater made for Jack Poet VW back in the day when sunshine was orange.

Click here to view the embedded video.

So what’s your favorite silly car commercial. Manufacturers’ ads, like the long form commercial for the 1955 Ford Fairlane models at the top of this post, starring comedian Ernie Kovacs and his wife, singer Edie Adams, are preferred, but if you know of a particularly silly (or surreal) ad for a dealership, feel free to share the URL.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Hey Duke, Ever Worked On One-a-Dese Choiman Transmissions Before? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/hey-duke-ever-worked-on-one-a-dese-choiman-transmissions-before/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/hey-duke-ever-worked-on-one-a-dese-choiman-transmissions-before/#comments Thu, 16 May 2013 15:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=488649 TransmissionManOutIt wasn’t that many decades ago that imported cars— any imported cars— were considered fairly exotic. I’ve dredged up memories of some very funny 1980 Aamco ads that deal with that subject, and the internet has obliged by providing those very ads for us!

The bumbling rubes working in the transmission shop in this ad show some brilliant casting by the producers: “I watched a guy fix a Japanese trans-mish-ion!”


Speaking of bumbling rubes, the guy with the hose in this one deserved an Academy Award… but don’t let that brilliant performance eclipse the perfect stonefaced expression of the customer who doesn’t need his car fixed… that bad.

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Audi Kicks Off “Heritage” Ad Campaign With Historic Detroit Poet Used In Chrysler’s Imported From Detroit Ads http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/audi-kicks-off-heritage-ad-campaign-with-historic-detroit-poet-used-in-chryslers-imported-from-detroit-ads/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/audi-kicks-off-heritage-ad-campaign-with-historic-detroit-poet-used-in-chryslers-imported-from-detroit-ads/#comments Tue, 14 May 2013 18:56:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=488400

Click here to view the embedded video.

Once, while I was reading prewar classic car restoration expert David Greenlees’ fine site The Old Motor, there was an article about a custom 1925 Rolls Royce Phantom with round doors, a museum piece. The article mentioned how the body was the second one fitted to that chassis as the first, a custom Hooper body, was apparently rejected by the lady who ordered it, “Mrs. Hugh Dillman of Detroit, MI.”.  The name rang a bell so I looked it up on a search engine and every result on the first page said the same thing, that the Rolls had been ordered by Mrs. Dillman but for some reason she didn’t like it and never took delivery. Other than ”Mrs. Hugh Dillman of Detroit, MI.”, pretty much repeated verbatim, there wasn’t much info on Mrs. D. Digging deeper I found out why her name was familiar. Hugh Dillman was Anna Dodge’s second husband. Her first hubby was Horace Dodge, who along with his brother John founded the Dodge Brothers car company. All these automotive sites were talking about Mrs. Hugh Dillman without realizing that they were missing an important fact about the lady, perhaps of more interest to car enthusiasts than the fact that she refused delivery of a custom car.

When I saw that Audi had announced that they were kicking off a new ad campaign that “celebrates the heritage and spirit of the century-old brand”, starting with a 60 second commercial titled “It Couldn’t Be Done”, that goes all the way back to August Horch, it was with some bemusement that I read that the ad is titled after, and set to the words of, a poem by “Edward Albert Guest”. Guest, who died in 1959, was derided by the likes of Dorothy Parker, but he was popular with the masses. Most likely Audi got the idea from last year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award show, when actor Idris Elba recited the poem.

My bemusement was from how Audi described the man as “Edward Albert Guest”, since I knew the man as Ed Guest, the official Poet Laureate of the state of Michigan, the only person so honored. He was born in England but he moved to Detroit with his parents in 1891, got a job as a copy boy and then reporter for the Detroit Free Press, which published his first poem in 1898. He wrote thousands of poems, was syndicated in 300 newspapers and was popular enough to have a weekly radio show in Detroit from 1931 to 1942, followed by A Guest in Your Home, a national tv series that ran on NBC in 1951. He was a Detroit institution, buried in Woodlawn Cemetery not far from Edsel Ford and the now deceased greats of Motown. Audi, headquartered in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, couldn’t have picked a popular poet more closely identified with Detroit, unless they picked Eminem, but then Chrysler already signed him up. Come to think of it, Chrysler used Edward Guest’s poetry before Audi did too, using Guest’s 1917 poem, See It Through, in a 2011 Chrysler 300 commercial. That ad, part of the Imported From Detroit campaign, specifically identified Guest as the “Poet Laureate of Michigan”, so it’s not like Audi didn’t know whom they were quoting. Maybe Chrysler can return the favor by quoting Heinrich Heine in their next ads.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Now I wasn’t yet in kindergarten when Ed Guest died, but he was a part of Detroit culture when I grew up, not in small part because his son, Edgar “Bud” Guest, had the morning drive slot on Detroit’s leading radio station, WJR, for years. My dad had Guest’s “Sunny Side of the Street” show on his blue 1961 Pontiac Catalina’s radio every morning when he drove me to school on his way to his veterinary clinic. The Pontiac’s vacuum tube AM radio would get warmed up about halfway to school and Bud Guest’s familiar voice would start to resonate. When the Catalina’s transmission started to slip once it warmed up too, the Pontiac was replaced with a fire engine red Oldsmobile 88, but Bud Guest, and his father’s poems, were a constant of my youth and that of many other Detroiters. He’d often recite one of his those poems on a show that during the tumultuous 1960s still, as you can tell from the title, managed to be uplifting, though as the morning drive show on Detroit’s flagship radio station he’d have his share of newsmakers. His last show was a couple of weeks after I graduated from high school. When Bud Guest retired, he was replaced by another Detroit radio giant, the late J.P. McCarthy who made the show a bit more topical. The slot is currently hosted by Paul W. Smith and it’s still one of the premier radio host gigs that there is nationwide.

I don’t know if Edward Albert Guest ever drove an Audi or a Horch. He was already a published poet when Horch sold his first car in 1901. We do know that  Mrs. Hugh Dillman bought imported cars from the story of the Rolls Royce with the funny doors. Somewhere, though, I think that a couple of Detroiters, Ed Guest, and Anna Dodge, are sharing a good laugh.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Audi Boldly Goes Where No Product Placement Has Gone Before http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/audi-boldly-goes-where-no-product-placement-has-gone-before/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/audi-boldly-goes-where-no-product-placement-has-gone-before/#comments Wed, 08 May 2013 11:30:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=487692 Click here to view the embedded video.

Product placement in movies and television can be tricky. It gets hard for the viewer to suspend disbelief and get into a movie or television show when every character pulls up in a brand new model offered by a single manufacturer. I’m looking at you, producers of the 60 minute Chevrolet commercial that runs every Monday on CBS Hawaii Five- O.  I’m a cop who works a lot of overtime. The newest vehicle in my family’s personal fleet is seven years old. No new cars will be gracing my driveway any time soon.

It’s especially hard to pull off if you’re talking about a high- end product like a luxury automobile. Audi appears to be pushing the envelope this summer, with supporting roles for the Audi R8 in the new Iron Man 3 already being advertised. Judging from this commercial that appears to have first hit the web on May 6, it looks like we’ll be looking for the Audi rings to be prominently displayed on 23rd century land speeders in the new Star Trek: Into Darkness movie as well. Still, it’s a funny and well done commercial that’s definitely worth a couple minutes of your time.

Hit the jump for the video that explains exactly what the hell Original Spock (Leonard Nimoy) is singing about if your knowledge of geek trivia is wanting…

Behold the wonder that is The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins.

Yes, this really happened. It was the sixties. Everyone was on drugs.

Click here to view the embedded video.

You’re welcome.

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49 Years of Mustang Advertising http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/49-years-of-mustang-advertising/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/49-years-of-mustang-advertising/#comments Mon, 22 Apr 2013 15:01:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=485654

We’re told that the “pony car” era started when the 1964 1/2 Mustang was introduced at the New York World’s Fair on April 17, 1964. Actually, the Plymouth Barracuda beat the Mustang to the market by 16 days, but the Mustang made a huge impression, which is why they’re called pony cars and not fish cars. Ford has already started with their 50th anniversary celebrations, and of course you’ll be able to buy your choice of merchandise with the golden anniversary logo, which uses a version of the font used for the Mustang’s 5.0 liter engine logo. By April 17th of next year you may be sick of hearing about Lee Iacocca’s pride and joy, but in the meantime, please enjoy 49 years of Mustang advertising.

 

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks – RJS
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Building An Icon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/building-an-icon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/building-an-icon/#comments Thu, 18 Apr 2013 14:40:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=485331

The Nike Swoosh. The McDonalds Golden Arches. The Chevy Bowtie.

When you see them, you know them. Decades and billions of dollars are dedicated to make a ride on the freeway or, a walk in a park, a frequent subliminal reminder of how worthy a given brand is of your time.

Firestone is just beginning to invest in the icon you see here. What do you think?

The idea behind it is…

“You’re not driving a car, you’re driving a Firestone.”

The slogan has been enunciated, imprinted, and emblazoned on tens of thousands of advertisements over the past year. Print. Online. TV. Cable. Radio. The owners of Firestone are trying to make your used car, a Firestone car.

This is obviously a tall leap when it comes to brand identification; which is why Firestone has such a painfully challenging road for their new ‘F’ icon. For over 100 years cars have been identified by their marque. Mercedes-Benz. Cadillac. Honda. These brands not only exude a high level of awareness in the new car market, but an equally unique and compelling level of prestige in popular culture.

Mercedes symbolizes wealth. Even those who are financially struggling like to pretend they’re rich by owning one. From country clubs to rap videos. Everyone knows a Mercedes.

Cadillac is the king of American luxury. From the 1930’s when a ‘Cadillac’ referred to a gram of cocaine. To the 1960’s where a Cadillac ranch would undoubtedly have a matching Cadillac in the garage.  To even the mansions of today where a lot of folks are still willing to pay for the Cadillac of SUV’s.

Honda symbolizes Japanese engineering and enduring quality. The Honda of minivans in today’s advertising world is a mere continuation of the quality people you met 50 years ago on a Honda Scooter. Honda is quality incarnate thanks to a continuous advertising campaign that has always hammered away at that virtue.

Firestone has been popularized for their tires and their auto repair centers. Billions of tires sold. 10,000+ auto repair centers. A long winning history with NASCAR and a common sight on most rolling commercial roadfronts of the modern day, Firestone is an instantly recognizable name.

However that seems to be part of the problem. For nearly a century you needed to see the whole name to see the Firestone logo.

The full name of yesterday is now given an automotive emblem for today — along with a shift in identification from products and services for a used car, to the car itself.

Can a car wear two badges? Three? Four? If so, how can you put value into products and services that are usually catered to the non-enthusiast?

Is Firestone seeking to gradually usurp the brand identities of used cars? Or are they trying to compliment the brand identity that is already there?

I have no clear understanding of where this road leads to. At the same time, this is likely not the fault of the company or the advertising agency. It takes years of a compelling vision, endless instillations of nuance, and a change in popular culture to make a brand truly iconic.

Can Firestone ever become an iconic brand?   Or were they already there?

 

 

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Adventures In Marketing: Observe the Edgy and Rebellious Lincoln MKZ Buyers! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/adventures-in-marketing-observe-the-edgy-and-rebellious-lincoln-mkz-buyers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/adventures-in-marketing-observe-the-edgy-and-rebellious-lincoln-mkz-buyers/#comments Thu, 18 Apr 2013 13:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=485273 I do a lot of traveling (to such exotic places as Kershaw, South Carolina and South Haven, Michigan) in my travels with the 24 Hours of LeMons, which means I have plenty of dead time in airports to contemplate puzzling car ads. The Economist is the best possible magazine to have on hand when you get hit by a six-hour weather delay at George Bush International, because of its incredible bang-for-buck density. It’s clear that marketing flacks take the Economist‘s word for it when they talk about readership demographics, because the split between self-proclaimed readership (powerful and influential globe-trotting executives) and actual readership (geeked-out history/politics junkies with unkempt beards and Dead Kennedys T-shirts) makes for some entertaining car advertisements. Here’s one for the ’13 Lincoln MKZ, which attempts to woo the 72-year-old owner of a 6-store dry-cleaning chain into feeling that the purchase of an MKZ will transform him into a focus-group-perfect 42-year-old entrepreneur. Let’s take a closer look at what Lincoln’s marketers picture as the idealized MKZ buyer.
“Like individuals, no two journeys are alike.” In fact, every one of the ten men pictured in this ad is the exact same guy: the mid-level manager who uses PowerPoint to make minutes drag on like geological epochs. He’s not The Man, but— in the world created by Ford’s marketers— The Man drives a Lincoln instead of one of those foreign jobs.
So, 30 years after Gates, Jobs, and Wozniak changed The Man’s dress code from oligarchic suits to not-quite-one-of-the-guys nerdwear, we’ve got the double disconnect of a car being pitched in a publication read by a demographic that mostly ignores Detroit cars, using what appear to be computer-generated images straight out of the notes gleaned from a focus group comprised of hyper-optimistic Las Vegas realtors.Of course, this got me to thinking about the only MKZ owner I’ve ever known, who actually is a 40-something business executive. In 2006, I was working as a tech writer at a software startup in California, and the founder (a super-geeked-out physics PhD with a Prius) decided he’d better hire what the investors call “adult supervision,” a genuine suit who could convince everyone that we were serious. This guy parked his brand-new MKZ between my battered P71 Crown Vic and the QA guy’s hooptie Porsche 924, and it became clear that he’d traded in his Lexus GS for the Lincoln because he’d believed the car writers when they broke out their “DETROIT IS BACK!” rubberstamps upon attending the no-doubt-luxurious MKZ launch, and he really wanted to buy American. He didn’t look much like the guys in the Economist ad, and he was more a low-drama administrator than the risk-taking maverick envisioned by those Vegas realtors, but at least he was the right age. He was disappointed by the MKZ— I can’t recall exactly why— but he was determined to give his Lincoln a chance. In my opinion, Ford’s marketers would be better off going with a focus group made up entirely of hair-transplanted strip-club owners from suburban Bakersfield; go for the semi-penumbral-economy bad boys!

1965 Lincoln Continental - Picture courtesy of Old Car Brochures LincolnEconomistAd-1280px LincolnEconomistAd-Close1-1280px LincolnEconomistAd-Close2-1280px Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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GM Is Back On Facebook http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/gm-is-back-on-facebook/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/gm-is-back-on-facebook/#comments Wed, 10 Apr 2013 17:06:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=484236

GM will resume advertising on Facebook, nearly a year after it ceased running ads on the social network.

The return to Facebook will also bring with it some new marketing strategies, as Automotive News reports. Chris Perry, Chevrolet’s head of U.S. marketing is quoted as saying

“Today, Chevrolet is launching an industry-first, ‘mobile-only’ pilot campaign for the Chevrolet Sonic that utilizes newly available targeting and measurement capabilities on Facebook.”

The issue of targeting and metrics is significant. As previously reported on TTAC, GM had expressed concerns regarding the efficacy of Facebook advertising. Simple tools like third party tracking apps for Facebook ads were not allowed on the social network, something that rightly aroused concerns from many marketers. While Facebook briefly allowed them as a beta project, the program was quickly shuttered – sources say that this was because it proved that Facebook ads weren’t really effective.

Word is that former CMO Joel Ewanick had the right idea about Facebook. Rather than emulate Ford and blindly chase meaningless online metrics like “impressions”, Ewanick took a critical view of many online marketing programs and questioned what kind of ROI they brought GM. But we also hear that the current crop of marketing guys are desperate to scrub any remnants of Ewanick’s legacy at GM, and the astute stand on Facebook marketing is a casualty of that. Perhaps things have changed at Facebook and their clients are more empowered with regards to transparency. Or maybe GM has decided to go down the typical road and use Facebook just because everyone else, and they don’t want to be left in the cold.

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Creators Of Controversial Ford Ad Dismissed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/creators-of-controversial-ford-ad-dismissed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/creators-of-controversial-ford-ad-dismissed/#comments Wed, 27 Mar 2013 16:07:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=482387

Ad Age is reporting that Ford’s advertising agency, JWT, has fired the ad agency staffers behind a pair of offensive ads showing bound and gagged women in the back of a Ford Figo hatchback. Ford is not, however, looking to change advertising companies over the fiasco. The images were created by JWT staffers in India and then uploaded to the ad agency’s website. Such ads are often created without client approval as a way for ad designers to bolster their portfolios and were never intended to become part of Ford’s official campaign to promote the Figo.

With sexual assaults very much in the news in India the ad could not have been released at a worse tim. One of the images show former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who was center of a storm of controversy regarding his alleged sexual adventures, with several women bound and gagged in the back of the car . A similar image shows reality TV star Paris Hilton with her reality rivals, the Kardashians, in a similar situation.

Although they bear no responsibility for the ads, Ford has added its apologies to those of the ad agency.

 

http://adage.com/article/global-news/jwt-india-sacks-staffers-responsible-offensive-ford-ad/240555/

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So You Want To Set A World Record? Get Your Soldering Iron http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/so-you-want-to-set-a-world-record-get-your-soldering-iron/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/so-you-want-to-set-a-world-record-get-your-soldering-iron/#comments Fri, 22 Feb 2013 16:40:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=478600

Do you want to set a new world record and get you name into the Guinness Book? Nothing easier than that. Simply build a billboard with more than 183,024 LEDs and measuring over 28.0 meters in length and 6.2 meters in height, thereby exceeding a surface area of 174 sqm, and the world record for the largest illuminated advertising sign (indoors) will be yours. Until you do that, the record holder will be Nissan.

As part of its worldwide brand campaign that focuses on airports, and that apparently tries to SHIFT_ harried flyers into cars, Nissan put the monster billboard into Terminal 3 of Dubai Airport. It shows the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt. The Olympic sprinter, himself 1.95m tall, had to crouch to fit on the world’s largest indoor poster.

Bolt himself was unimpressed: ”I continue breaking world records, because that’s what I do.”

(Slow newsday at The Nikkei[sub]. Nissan released the story two weeks ago. O.K., we also overlooked it.)

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Here Comes The Pun: Volkswagen Takes Its Tops Off http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/here-comes-the-pun-volkswagen-takes-its-tops-off/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/here-comes-the-pun-volkswagen-takes-its-tops-off/#comments Tue, 05 Feb 2013 12:11:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=476395

It is good to hear that bad puns have survived a decade of uptight up-positioning at Volkswagen, and are alive and well. You had me worried, friends. Under the tagline  “As sun as possible”, Volkswagen starts a digital campaign that brings the new Beetle Cabriolet to the Interwebs.

Werner Butter, for many years Creative Director at Volkswagen’s Doyle Dane Bernbach agency, and father of many advertising classics for Volkswagen, once told me, entre nous copywriters: “I’d rather lose a good friend than give up on a bad pun.”  Then he winked at me with his one good eye. Werner died in 2009, but the spirit of wonderful bad puns lives on, thank God.

“Like Father – Like Sun” headlines one ad (after I edited it slightly, Volkswagen, take note.)  And the puns, they keep on coming. The digital campaign has six young influencers trendsetters share their experiences during a tour of Hawaii in the new Beetle Cabriolet. On the same occasion, the Beetle website is being re-launched and there are new pun-ny advertising motifs for print media.

Strand! Sonne! Mehr!

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Question Of The Day: What If You Created Your Very Own… Car Commercial? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/question-of-the-day-what-if-you-created-your-very-own-car-commercial/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/question-of-the-day-what-if-you-created-your-very-own-car-commercial/#comments Fri, 01 Feb 2013 17:34:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=476044 Click here to view the embedded video.

Back in my college days, it seemed like every single Chrysler commercial featured a car that would morph from the old model into the new model.

Minivan morph. Neon morph. Intrepid morph. The technological transitions were quite well done, and I always enjoyed a commercial that reminded me of the movie “Terminator 2.”

But then I had a few ideas of my own…

While trapped in a long boring 300+ person lecture class, I began crafting my own Chrysler commercial using a variety of doodles and ramblings.

“Why not use the opening theme to the Asia song, “Only Time Will Tell? I always liked that song!” said the 20 year old me.

Start with a nice five second aerial zoom-in on Chrysler’s new Auburn Hills R&D facility. Then when they get the cowbell going on at second six, start taking close-ups of angles on the new vehicles with alternating shots in color and black and white.

Right around second eight, you get five or six new vehicles doing a turn-in on a race track with the waterspin effect that was all the rage for that time.

Finally, you would have a single car drive towards the camera and morph into all the new Chrysler models that were coming out. The difficulty of morphing a Viper GTS into a minivan didn’t quite register with me at that point.

After all, I was fantasizing away my time in the lecture hall. Nothing more than playing the bored version of a Monday morning quarterback.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Enthusiasts are a love it or hate it group. Zen inspired waterfalls are not our thing. Humor can be a bit touchy for those with passion, and few things receive more contention than a car commercial that doesn’t tell us about the car.

Or maybe not? Advertising is often times about the power of nuance. A seduction by a multitude of clever manipulations within a thirty second time period. Come to think of it, an auto auctioneer in my B2B wholesale auction world,  and the advertising executive of the modern day,  have far more in common than I would ever comfortably admit to.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The power to create the urgency to buy is a rare gift. So tell me about yours! Is there a commercial you had crafted up in your mind in between watching talking hamsters and truck happy dogs? If not, any favorites?

Friday is still a long day at this point. So feel free to expound on all things commercial.

 

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Tales From The Cooler: Is Mercedes-Benz All Washed Upton? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/tales-from-the-cooler-is-mercedes-benz-all-washed-upton/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/tales-from-the-cooler-is-mercedes-benz-all-washed-upton/#comments Thu, 24 Jan 2013 16:45:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=474985

Our Managing Editor is losing sleep over the imminent collapse of the BMW and Mercedes-Benz brand images due to their upcoming sub-$30,000 models. When you are finished with your 27th viewing of Benz’s sneak peek at their Super Bowl ad above, let’s discuss. 

For those of you staid, get-off-my-lawn, traditional German car owners like myself, you probably don’t know that the girl washing the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA is named Kate Upton. She is an actress or something. All I know is the ad will certainly raise awareness of the Daimler brand and piqué the curiosity of Derek’ s Gen Why peers about the new class of budget-priced Benz automobiles. I think the pitch works, no matter your age. If Mercedes-Benz can throw in a Last Time Buyer’s financing program, I might even purchase a CLA.

The video is almost as sexy as the granddaddy of all car washing scenes, the one featuring Joy Harmon hosing down a coupe in the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke. (The star of the movie, Paul Newman, was also an accomplished race car driver.)

So will this blatant pandering to the next generation of Mercedes-Benz owners help or hurt the brand?

 

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Is VW’s Target Audience Beta Males or Alpha Females? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/is-vws-target-audience-beta-males-or-alpha-females/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/is-vws-target-audience-beta-males-or-alpha-females/#comments Thu, 24 Jan 2013 13:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=474903  

Click here to view the embedded video.

Considering that it seems as though every other commercial on television follows the doofus male wise female plot, the new VW Passat commercial released just in time for the run up to the Super Bowl is hardly the most egregiously misandrist (yes, Virginia, despite what your spellchecker says, it is a word). With a tagline of “Pass down something he will be grateful for”, the ad shows a father in a shirt and tie teaching his son how to throw a baseball, in front of a Passat sitting in their driveway. Completely clueless about the mechanics of throwing overhand, but convinced of his knowledge of the subject, dad has form that makes “throwing like a girl” a compliment by comparison. He looks like a cross between someone putting shot and a gooney bird trying to land. The son dutifully imitates dad’s form, but with a skeptical look on his face. Neither can get the ball anywhere near the target.  I’m not sure the ad is on target either.

This isn’t VW’s first attempt at a little father-son humor. Their “Darth Vader” Super Bowl ad last year was found to be endearing by millions (though I thought it had a touch of cruelty in it), and a number of people see warm humor and not misandry in the current Passat ad. On the other hand, that’s not a universal assessment and the negative reaction to the commercial by some has me asking the question: just who is Volkswagen trying to sell Passats to with this ad in the first place?  There also appears to be some pushback from men who don’t like patronizing companies that patronize or demean them. Rather than sell them Passats, the commercial might be harming the VW brand with men.

Dr. Helen Smith is a Tennessee based child psychologist who works with violent teens. Her husband Glenn Reynolds is a law professor in Knoxville. Dr. Helen, as she apparently prefers to be called, is that rara avis, a woman who not only likes men, but is willing in these oh so PC days, to swim against the stream of so-called gender feminism and actually decry male bashing.

A reader sent Dr. Smith a note about the commercial, prompting her post, Can dads do anything right?, asking her readers how they think the ad portrays men and boys. Of more relevance to TTAC and our audience here is the comment her original correspondent made, “I have no idea how this will sell cars, or to whom.”

To be sure, not all of the reactions, from men as well as women, have been negative. In a 100+ comment long reply thread to Smith’s posting of the ad, a number of people found the ad inoffensive, even humorous. A few people were happy that the ad showed a father and son actually engaged with each other (lo how the might have fallen). Still, many men, and even some women were offended at the portrayal of yet another incompetent father. Even more interesting to me as a car guy was the number of people who reacted by saying that they were so offended by the ad that they will no longer even consider buying a Passat or other VW product. It reminded me of how some folks like to use the term Government Motors in describing why they won’t buy that company’s products. Actually, at least a couple of the comments say they won’t buy GM products and now they’ll do the same with VWs.

Now I’m sure that some of you are saying, “so what if some troglodyte right wingers are offended? Times have changed. White males aren’t in charge anymore. Who cares what a bunch of bitter clingers say?”

Who cares? Ferdinand Piech maybe, though he might be too arrogant to notice. The United States is a key market in Piech’s delusion of grandeur plans for VW’s multimillion unit expansion by the end of the decade, and while marketing consumer goods in America does tend to target women, who are indeed the deciders in the vast majority of consumer purchase decision in the U.S., the single most important part of the North American light vehicle market, pickup trucks,  is almost exclusively marketed to men. VW isn’t the only company that knows that boys imitate their fathers. Unlike the boy in that Silverado ad, though,  the boy in the VW ad doesn’t play with a toy truck. Volkswagen doesn’t sell pickup trucks in the US market.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Perhaps the VW brand is deliberately avoiding a big burly male marketing image, showing men being domestic, not quite so aggressively male, because their product line is directed at women and domesticated males. When was the last time you saw a Volkwagen commercial that touted one of their cars as a canyon carving autobahn brenner? Maybe, at least in North America, Audi is VAG’s brand for masculine alphas and VW is their car for women and beta providers with adolescent rockstar fantasies.

So what do you think? Does the ad offend you. Do you think it will cost VW sales?

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks – RJS

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A Broughamic Treasury of Chrysler New Yorker Commercials http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/a-broughamic-treasury-of-chrysler-new-yorker-commercials/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/a-broughamic-treasury-of-chrysler-new-yorker-commercials/#comments Fri, 09 Nov 2012 17:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=466370 The Chrysler New Yorker went through many variations during the television era, from Warsaw Pact-crushing expression of capitalist triumph to Slant-Six-powered Dodge Diplomat sibling to snazzy-looking LH. Along the way, Chrysler’s marketers created a series of TV ads that now tell the Thirty Years of New Yorker story. Let’s check out a sampling of those ads.


1965: 18 feet of comfort. Two tons of security.


1969: The possible dream.


1973: Just like the Apollo Lunar Module, complete with digital clock!


1976: According to Jack Jones, “Torsion quiet ride, comfort as you drive.”


1977: Jack Jones is back. “Gleaming luxury. All a car can be.”


1983: Ricardo Montalban says it’s the most technologically advanced Chrysler ever built.


1984: Where an electronic cockpit helps keep you secure. Where you sit in the lap of luxury.


1985: Señor Montalban, en México, dice “Silencioso y civilizado.”


1986: Ricardo returns, gloating that the Turbo New Yorker caught the competition sleeping.


1987: The thrust of turbo power.


1988: Corinthian Leather.


1989: ¡El valor de la calidad!


1990: Eat at Killer Joe’s.


1991: Cheaper than a Cadillac!


1993: The car that proves you can have everything.


1994: An eloquent expression of form following function.


1995: Not to be confused with El Intrepid.

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*Ars Gratia Pecuniae: Artist Liu Bolin, Who Normally Makes Himself Disappear, Makes Ford Fusion Stand Out http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/ars-gratia-pecuniae-artist-liu-bolin-who-normally-makes-himself-disappear-makes-ford-fusion-stand-out/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/ars-gratia-pecuniae-artist-liu-bolin-who-normally-makes-himself-disappear-makes-ford-fusion-stand-out/#comments Mon, 29 Oct 2012 12:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=465084 Chinese performance and graphic artist Liu Bolin is known as the invisible man. He has himself photographed after he’s dressed and painted himself to almost completely blend into the background.  Besides any deeper philosophical implications about the state of man in his work, the photographs are visually arresting and wryly clever. Someone at Ford or their ad agency must also be clever because they got an inspired idea: hire Bolin to make the dramatically styled 2013 Ford Fusion stand out in consumers’ minds by painting the Fusion’s competitors into the background. I think it’s a brilliant concept, but then I’ve used the portmanteau Camcordata myself to describe the relatively indistinguishable cars in the midsize sedan market. Making the Fusion’s competitors literally blend into the background effectively gets the message across that the Fusion is different. Do you agree?

All rights Liu Bolin.

Andy Warhol painted pictures of soup cans. Liu Bolin paints himself as soup cans.

Art and commerce have always been inextricably linked. In recent years collectors of fine automotive art have started to appreciate the original commercial art used in advertising, like Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman drew for Pontiac in the 1960s, and there are the famous BMW art cars, but it’s really an old tradition. When the great (and large, too) 1910 Oldsmobile Limited, rolling 42s, was able to beat out the 20th Century Limited train in a race from Albany to New York City, the Oldsmobile company commissioned artist William Harnden Foster to paint what has become known as Setting The Pace. They continued to use it and updated versions (as car models changed) of the painting for over a decade. The company also distributed lithographic copies on canvas known as “oiliographs”. One copy is in the collection of the National Automotive History Collection of the Detroit Public Library, donated by Oldsmobile. Last year one of those oiliograph prints sold at Bonhams for $1,464 (including premium). That’s more than a lot of actual Oldsmobiles are worth.

William Harnden Foster is still appreciated as an artist. His paintings sell from the mid four to the high five figures. In general, Bolin’s  prints are not worth quite as much as Foster’s works, but they do have a ready market and sell for thousands of dollars each. A Liu Bolin commission for something like the Ford ad shoot must cost many times that amount.

So why would Ford take the expense of paying Bolin’s commission to hand paint the other cars and the cost of setting up the photo shoots when it all could have  been done digitally (as opposed to manually – but then he’s using his digits when he paints isn’t he?) with some CGI effects?  According to Bolin, passion and authenticity.

“My work can be done on the computer without the use of paint, but computers cannot convey emotions. That is something that the artist captures with his paintbrush.”

Working with a famous artist can also give a company a touch of class. Besides, not every automotive and advertising executive wants to hang around jocks. Some have a taste for fine art as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if executives at Ford (or their ad agency) ended up with signed and numbered prints of the finished ad shoots.

Since we’re discussing the intersection where Art  Hwy meets Commerce Rd, it should come as no surprise that Ford has also posted  a “making of” video of Bolin setting up and painting the installations on YouTube . They also issued a press release.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Ford press release here.

*Tip O’ the hat to the late, great Stan Freberg.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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