By on April 19, 2013

Sweet, sweet publicity. Although I am loathe to admit it, I am a sucker for a slick ad campaign. Those catchy jingles, perfectly posed photos, and quick camera cuts work their way into my psyche and demand that I throw down my hard earned cash for something I may not need, but God how I want it! Done right, an ad campaign can have a lasting effect on me – I’m not sure if Bertel is to blame, but does anyone else remember when Volkswagen used Elvis Presley’s “Devil In Disguise” to promote their GTI? I sure do- too bad I can’t find it on you tube! So let’s talk car ads – here are some of the greatest car ads of all time:

Nissan 300ZX

Nissan had a real string of clever commercials in the early 1990s. I think the company really understood that people weren’t buying some of their cars on cost or features, they were buying them because they were some of the coolest cars going. The above ads spring right from the mind of every boy who ever owned a classic GI Joe.

Isuzu Impulse

Joe Isuzu was the pitchman in one of the most popular TV commercial series of the 1980s. You may or may not know it, but not everything he says is the truth…

Dodge Shadow

Today computerized graphics and morphing from one shape into another is old hat, but way back in 1987 that technology didn’t exist. This commercial was incredible and it drew a direct line between the legendary Dodge Dart of the past and the new, modern K car based Shadow. It got my attention for sure, this commercial is the reason I got my ass down to the local Dodge dealership when I went looking for my first brand new car.

Mercury Cougar

This is one of the earliest car commercials I can remember from my childhood. Back then I was more interested in the cat than I was the car (or the woman.) I guess it’s a sign of my age that today I am more interested in the car than I am the cat (or the woman.)

Bonus: American Home Direct

This is actually a Japanese advertisement for life insurance but it is a touching story about a man, his cars and how his life’s priorities change as he moves through life. Keep your handkerchief handy for this, it’s a beautiful, touching ad featuring some cool classic Japanese cars. (Big thanks to Japanese Nostalgic Car for turning me onto this a couple of months ago.)

There you have it, food for thought. As always, your own contributions and suggestions are more than welcome. Also, if you have better internet sleuthing skils than I, feel free to find that Golf GTI Elvis ad I mentioned!

Thomas M Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

39 Comments on “Selling Snake Oil: Great Automotve Ads Of The Past...”

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    Any collection of car commercials that fails to include the Subaru sumo wrestlers is incomplete. The looks on the faces of my in-laws when they first saw that was priceless.

    Also, that Nissan ad always cheesed me off, since the 300ZX was no longer offered in North America when they made that commercial. I found it less promotional, and more of a giant middle finger.

  • avatar
    Felis Concolor

    Long before I saw the official Nissan ad, I was treated to the more memorable parody. In it, Joe departs with Ken in the Z’s passenger seat, with the slogan altered to “Change Your Ride.”

  • avatar

    Adding a couple more…

  • avatar

    Farrah had her hair toned down to play up the glove soft vinyl and opera windows. Can’t say it didn’t work. I saw plenty of them back then.

  • avatar

    Jack Somack, of the Alka Seltzer spicy meatball ad, teaches driving in an AMC Rebel. It’s a great comedy short. AMC’s ad agency hired great talent, I’ve spotted Richard Dreyfuss and Robert DeNiro in their ads.

    I’ve also found an ad with the Three Stooges (late version) pitching Simoniz.

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    Also, for all those familiar with Japanese culture:

    The Toyota Doraemon commercials:

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I really liked that insurance commercial, and probably could have understood everything in it without the subtitles. It was beautiful…

  • avatar

    The Nissan “Low Rider” commercial makes me laugh my azz off everytime. The very best commercials of all time were the “trunk monkey” ones. Anything with a monkey in it has to be funny…

  • avatar

    Another Nissan commericial from the 90’s

    and my first car – 92 Sentra SE-R

    • 0 avatar

      I bought a Nissan Maxima based on this commercial alone.

      Nothing outstanding, it just sold me. Glad I did, great car

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    The Patrick Stewart Porsche commercials were also pretty good. There was one about a 911-induced family dispute which was great, and this one was pretty good:

    And I forgot a couple of good BMW ones:

    The M3 motor:

    and The Hire series of online movies. The Driver is brilliant:

    • 0 avatar

      patrick stewart did a series of 993 adds, i think even some were for dealer only

      here’s another porsche ad

      i like how they end that ad… “the 911 is the purest expression of what we (porsche ag) are”

      so whats a cayenne? panamera?

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    And I can’t believe I forgot this Peugeot ad!!!!

  • avatar

    Not sure if there was or is a specific timeframe for all of these, but the best car commercial EVER was the Ford GT super bowl commercial. I still get goose bumps just remembering it.

  • avatar

    You don’t need to understand Japanese to understand this one!

    I also liked the 300ZX Twin Turbo commercial aired only once in the US- great, but man, what turbo lag! :)

  • avatar

    Volvo used “Devil in Disguise” in the ad for the 1992 850 GLT, but it was definitely not Elvis singing.

    Ford’s Sportka commercials always tickled my funny bone.

  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    On a Saturday morning, this breakfast-inspired gymkhana from Subaru Spain really speaks to my mood…

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    Thomas, thanks for that Japanese ad. It’s beautiful and show how life is a circle, I still remember my dad driving his Dart GT, Range Rover or Caprice vividly.

    Back on topic…

    Audi A4, Rubik cube

    Chrysler’s “Coming home”

    Cheesy end line… can’t forget the image of Washington driving a muscle car like a boss.

    VE Holden Ute.

    Ford Falcon Ecoboost, never seen it on TV. Toadster, this ad will cause you nightmares.

    Bertel posted this one a while ago

    VW Passat, Darth Vader. It always reminds me my little one.

    Sounds like a Golf *rolleyes*. No competitor product seems to have been used here.

    Some Venezuelan ads:

    Genuino Chevrolet.

    Bronco launch

    For Marcelo, this story ended in tears

    Renault Twingo, this is a brilliant one

    Neon launch. This car sold like hotcakes, both gens.

    With this ad, “the engine that thinks” GM launched its first EFI engine in Venezuela. I think it was the first OEM.

  • avatar

    My favorite is Lexus’ Moments ad.

  • avatar
    Compaq Deskpro

    The Mercury Cougar commercial was brilliant. They were actually advertising the badge engineering!

  • avatar

    Love Affair

  • avatar

    Toyota New Zealand does some great ads.
    and an Australian Hilux ad
    and the incredibly popular AAMI car insurance ad’s.

    • 0 avatar
      Athos Nobile

      I saw the Hilux one.

      To understand the AAMI Bali one, you need to follow the whole Rhonda (and her convertible Astra) story. The latest 40 years one is the best one I’ve seen yet.

  • avatar
    Austin Greene

    I never thought that a car ad, let alone one in a language and culture foreign to my own, could bring mr to tears.

    But it did.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • detlump: Really, if you develop a flexible EV platform, it doesn’t really matter what the body on top of it is...
  • bpscarguy: EBFlex, AND…. the 6 cyl engine in the Jeep (which is what we would get) is the same engine we...
  • kcflyer: Bad time to be buying just about anything right now. Fed tells up inflation is at 4%. That is a laughably...
  • jack4x: Seems like spring would be peak selling months for sporty cars. I wonder what this list looks like in...
  • slavuta: “broken record”.. I like it Don’t melt, Luisa

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber