By on May 9, 2010

Automotive marketing – marketing in general, really – fascinates me. I have a business degree with a focus on marketing and spent many years studying the commercial machine of capitalism, along with the psychology behind getting you to buy. The whole thing is extremely thought-provoking (such as Mike Rowe) and often more than a little spooky. Such as a penis with warts …

Working the auto show floor gives me an intimate look at how each automotive company tweaks their experiential marketing plan every year. [Not to be confused with the more commonplace experimental marketing plan, ED.] Experiential marketing means you come and take part in it, as opposed to watching a commercial on TV. It can be an auto show, a ride and drive event, or a presence at a sponsored event like a concert, game, fashion show, festival, etc.
One of my favorite parts of each new auto show season is seeing how manufacturers have integrated their auto show presence – experiential marketing – with their other marketing efforts, specifically television and print advertising.
For example, Kia. While I still can’t get over the sex-toy-disguised-as-a-children’s-cartoon-character, they did well by placing cardboard cutouts of all the fun toys in that Super Bowl commercial. Attendees love taking pictures with the cutouts which are conveniently placed right next to a vehicle. Every photo of a character also has a Kia in it. Bam! Extra brand impression in your brain. I heard that someone tried to steal the sock monkey at the Chicago show, they loved it so much. It wasn’t me, I swear. (I couldn’t fit it in my purse.)

Toyota’s Avalon Lounge has a swingy retro feel that coordinates well with their new 40’s style Avalon commercials, while “Sultry Sienna” sung in front of the popular minivan complements the Swagger Wagon campaign. If they start rapping at the show next year I will die.

Since fire seems to be the new thing, though, perhaps they could recreate the Tundra commercial featuring the truck hauling a huge payload up a flaming Spiral of Death. Might need some outdoor real estate for that one, but everyone loves a nice fire.

But not everything would translate well between commercials and real life. Some of this stuff would totally wig me out. Like the Ford robot. I’m scared enough of that thing in a brightly-lit convention center. The last thing my sensitive nerves need is to be woken up at 3 AM by the laser eyes of that freaky thing in a commercial on TV. Imagine the nightmares.

Conversely, however, if Ford decided to bring my future baby daddy Mike Rowe to the auto show I would be happy to experientially market myself in his direction all day long. You want to get and keep a bunch of female car buyers in your display, Ford? Bring Mike Rowe. Trust me on this one. Brand impression galore. Put his voice in the SYNC system and women will bum rush Ford dealerships.

VW and their new spin on the punch buggy game is another one. I love the Stevie Wonder moment, but this just wouldn’t translate well at the auto show. Your entire visit in the VW booth would be one giant bruise. It would turn into a mosh pit. There would be blood all over their pretty white floor.

By the way, I’m just letting you know that if you meet me in person and you punch me because you see a Jetta, I’m going to slash your tires. Fair warning.

What are your favorite car commercials? How do you think they would translate at the auto show?

The Booth Babe is an anonymous auto show model who dishes about what really goes on behind the scenes. Read her blog at And if you treat her nicely, read her each Sunday at

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31 Comments on “The Booth Babe Chronicles: Punch Buggy Black And Blue...”

  • avatar

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    Thank you for your attention. Fire away.

  • avatar

    I actually love the Kia Sorento commercial featuring Muno from Yo Gabba Gabba. Having young kids, I never thought of him as looking like a sex toy, although now that you mention it…

    Anyhow, you say Mike Rowe, I say Jill Wagner. It’s all good.

  • avatar

    The orange “monster” toy in the Kia ad a sex toy?? Come on . . . like Freud said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. This current Kia ad along with the Soul ads with the hamsters are among the most amusing and effective car ads I’ve seen in a long time.

    And Mike Rowe appeals to men as well as women, just in a different way. He’s like the neighbor who comes over to help you put up a fence in your back yard or put some shelves up in your garage and then goes out for a beer with you afterward.

    Finally, the VW ad falls flat because the little game was never called “punch dub”. It was a very common practice in the back seat of our family car when I was a kid, but it was “slug bug”, guys.

    • 0 avatar

      Or “Punch Buggy”…and no other VWs qualified. As kids we tried to add the VW hippie van (my father’s right wing name for them) as five seconds of all you could dish out; kinda like modifying “free parking” in Monopoly. The parental units were not amused…

    • 0 avatar

      It’s funny, people I know with kids doesn’t see it until it’s pointed out to them and those without see it and are like “WTF?” It’s all about context, I guess.

    • 0 avatar

      We still play “Punch Bug” but our kids have opened it up to include alot more cars since aircooled VW Beetles are so rare around here these days…

      PunchBug or SlugBug is for any Beetle new or old.
      Focus Pocus
      Ranger Danger (anybody can say it, anyone else can deliver the blow, was my idea to let my then very young kids deliver a punch even if they couldn’t recognize them)
      Hummer Drummer
      ‘Stang Bang
      Fit Hit
      Cruiser (PT) Bruiser (not to be mistaken for an HHR)
      I’ve lobbied for CR-V Bee (sting) but our youngest says no… LOL!

      Anyhow we have fun with it when we travel. The kids will outgrow the fun any day now. I dread the coming teenage years. GRIN!

      As for the advertising – I try my best to ignore it all. I do like the VW ads the best. Most advertising is just making promises that ultimately I will decide are true or false. Shiny cars don’t impress me as much as durable cars with clever features that I like to drive. Commercials typically show me shiny cars on closed courses.

  • avatar

    True story: My boss tried to teach his kids the “slug bug” game using the VW New Beetles. Sadly the youngest (he’s 4) can’t tell the difference between a New Beetle, PT Cruiser, and HHR so he’s constantly punching his older brother. :) With him I guess it’s just a game of “slug cause I saw a retro design.”

    • 0 avatar

      Good grief Danny, offer to step in and help!!!

      Educate that child, I know you can!!!

      If you need help, you have my email…


  • avatar

    The VW ads don’t resonate with me. The game was always about Beetles, not the other VW models. It seems like a total reach, and falls flat in my opinion.

  • avatar

    I love the ad with the sock monkey getting the tattoo, and I love the ad with the hamster wheels waiting at the train crossing. I laugh every time they air.

    I have no idea what cars they advertise. Then again, I can’t remember who won the superbowl either.

  • avatar

    Loved the sex toy take. Perhaps even though we disagree on most things, we might be equally distorted mentally.

    Maybe…probably not close.

    This twisted, confused, booze soaked and damaged mind of mine makes it hard for me to not strike out at people.
    Especially when I think they are playing me for stupid.
    I think the Ford ads do this.

    Perhaps because they are aiming at the likes of my wife.
    But we pass like ships in the night through hallways! And she sits and watches Nancy Grace scream at the camera and watched every second/minute/week/month of the Princes Diana burial/anointment.

    Bless her…really.

    But this is TTAC.
    So I wanna pitch yet another small bitch…a degree in business with a side dish of marketing doesn’t help with auto analysis.

  • avatar

    I had to listen to a 2-minute video of Mike Rowe shilling the F150 about 300 times while doing setup of one of my company’s products at a couple of Ford shows. I hate him now.

    The other thing that amused me with multiple viewings were Ford’s F150 big-screen videos. The first time you see them you don’t notice it, but after the 20th time, it’s pretty much just, TOUGH! TOUGH TRUCK! MEN! MEN WORKING! WORKING WITH A TRUCK! CHAINS! BIG CHAINS! BIG MEN WITH BIG CHAINS! MEN RELEASING LOADS! MEN WITH HAMMERS! HAMMERS, CHAINS, AND LOADS! BIG SWEATY MEN! WORKING SWEATY MEN WITH CHAINS AND LOADS!


  • avatar

    LOL loved the article. Hands down fav’s are the Kia “How you like me now?” ads and the Cadillac “When you turn your car on, does it return the favor?” Pretty sure that was last nudge that prompted the replacement of my mom’s older CTS…. they ordered the exact one off that ad. PS – that giant red bumpy thing is toooootally a dildo. As in the kids found it and played with it having no idea what it was…. Another LOL at the multiple M Rowe shout outs. Agree with the other poster that he appeals to men, too. Neighborly, dudely, and just plain manly in an era where most “hunks” on TV and movies are kind of like girls with penises. Oh, almost forgot, I do like the new classy Avalon ads, too.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 @ Greigert

      I thought the Cadillac “When you turn your car on, does it return the favor?” campaign was brilliant. Subtle, yet at the same time forceful. I don’t know why Cadillac’s marketing arm didn’t expand that particular campaign (oh yeah, wait, Susan Docherty, ’nuff said). It caught my wife’s attention, and in a big way; almost a “conquest” ad, because she watched it intently each time it aired, and she appreciated what it was trying to sell/tell her, and this is a woman who could really care less about most cars. She is now very aware of the CTS and SRX, and isn’t that the intent?

  • avatar

    I used to think that Mike Rowe was the fiendish creation of mad scientists at FoMoCo, until I later found out he already had an established career in television before those ads (just not the kind of TV that I watch).

    While it is true that both men and women can appreciate what he does, I think there is a difference. A man’s response is “Hey this guy is pretty charismatic, but I’m still not buying a Ford”. A woman will follow her [censored] straight to the Ford dealership.

  • avatar

    For a true ’40’s vibe, the Avalon commercials need everyone to be dragging on unfiltered Camels. Oh, right. No lighters or ashtrays in modern cars.

  • avatar

    I’m not really in the market for a Ford, but I think the Ford campaign with Rowe works. It has a simple, upbeat product positive message.

    If we are going to start adding celeberity voices to SYNC I vote for Patrick “Make it So” Stewart and Ashley Judd.

  • avatar

    I think Ford is doing a good job with their commercials. I don’t like all of them, but it’s nice to see a company that doesn’t put down their competitors. I also like the Lincoln ‘star ship’ commercials; subtle but effective. I wish they’d show the Town Car though, you’d never know it’s still available!

  • avatar

    How about Adam Carolla as an automotive pitch man?

    Well why not? He knows how to build all kinds of things, he loves cars, and brings his unique sense of the funny.
    Plus his last name is a car.

    Although he would have to curtail his usual frank discussions of his masturbatory habits.

  • avatar

    This Avalon song sure beats the heck out of that Volt dance thingy…

  • avatar
    Joshua Johnson

    I believe Jaguar’s “Gorgeous” campaign best conveyed the mystique that the brand evokes:

  • avatar

    I was pleased as can be to hear that Ms. Booth Babe has a desire for a guy like Mike Rowe. Mike to me is an every man’s man. He’s not even close to perfect in the looks department, but he’s a guy you could do a day’s work with and drink a beer with afterward. I feel as though I am that kind of guy. Wife says I am attractive. I question her taste in men. But if a girl like booth babe can find Mike Rowe attractive, perhaps I’ll start believing my wife.

    Thanks for giving us middle aged men hope!! God love ya!

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Any chance Farago will come back? This place is being driven straight into the ditch. Sad.

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