By on June 5, 2019

Corporate missteps requiring an apology — an increasingly common phenomenon in our current outraged era — usually follow a well-worn path. The CEO will issue a statement to the media and public apologizing for dastardly malfeasance and skullduggery (or offending a Twitter user), following it up with a statement posted to the company’s webpage and social media accounts. There will be appeals for forgiveness, perhaps tearful ones, at tense shareholder meetings — especially if the company is Japanese.

Following that, a burst of newfound goodwill appears to repair a tarnished brand.

But what if serious misdeeds, even those resulting in arrests and billions of dollars in fines, could be used to market a new product? Volkswagen went there. (Read More…)

By on February 25, 2019

For a brand that probably once caught the eye of Woodrow Wilson, there’s a late adolescent feeling to Cadillac’s current existence that belies its century-long history. Having run away from mom and dad to find itself among the towers of Manhattan, General Motors’ luxury division is heading home for a rest — newly matured, a new mentor in tow, and packing a couple of extra crossovers.

Completing the makeover, Cadillac tossed its “Dare Greatly” tagline in the trash, debuting new messaging during its Oscar night ad campaign. But does the new campaign “Rise Above” the criticisms flung at its predecessor? (Read More…)

By on February 4, 2019

Image: Unifor/YouTube

There’s no love lost between General Motors and Canadian Detroit Three autoworkers union Unifor. The former plans to shutter the historic Oshawa Assembly plant in Ontario this year, the latter would prefer it didn’t. It would also prefer some product to build there.

Amid the turmoil surrounding GM’s wide-ranging cost-cutting efforts, Unifor released a commercial Sunday slamming GM for abandoning both its workforce and consumers. The title of the ad? “GM leaves Canadians Out In the Cold.”

GM’s message to Unifor? Cool it. (Read More…)

By on February 3, 2019

Wipe that wing sauce and queso off of your chin. And put a coaster under that beer! It’s time for the Super Bowl – and, for those of you without any rooting interest whatsoever in either team, it’s time for Super Bowl commercials!

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By on February 1, 2019

It’s time for that great celebration of Americana — the fifty-third Super Bowl. Sunday night, Patriots fans and Patriots haters will come together to watch the season’s championship game, against… a team from Los Angeles? Am I reading that right?

For the rest of us, the Super Bowl is basically a better Thanksgiving. Gorging oneself is expected, of course, but there are fewer awkward conversations with the great-grandmother or that weird racist uncle. And we get to watch TV.

Yeah, for me, the commercials are the best part. It’s an opportunity to celebrate excellence in short-form storytelling — while selling something. Like each of the last several years, I’ll be watching the game with my laptop in my, well, lap, updating a post every time a new car commercial appears. However, many of those commercials have already been teased or released outright prior to the game, and that’s where this preview comes in.

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By on January 29, 2019

Maybe that headline’s too harsh, but have you seen a recent Cadillac commercial? If nothing comes to mind, that merely illustrates the brand’s problem. The bulk of its marketing efforts are, in this writer’s opinion, boring, forgettable, and uninspired. Just showing that a crossover can drive sedately down a dry, urban street isn’t enough to get audiences jazzed over a purchase. A Trabant can drive down a street and, yes, people can be merry and youthful inside it. (Odds are against it, but it could happen.)

Scroll down to see one of the brand’s latest, this one for its new XT4 compact. You won’t thank me.

Let’s face it — most of Cadillac’s ads could cure sleep apnea, leaving sufferers refreshed and alert the next morning. It was against this grim marketing backdrop that, while viewing a news spot from last night’s Great Lakes region snowstorm, I watched a random driver create the best ad Cadillac never paid for. (Read More…)

By on November 7, 2018

2018 Nissan LEAF SL

The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), like the fictional “phone cops” of WKRP fame, seem to be everywhere in that country, keeping tabs on everyone’s every move. As we told you last month, in the UK, commercials are not even allowed to show frustrated office workers getting behind the wheel of a Ford Mustang, even if they’re shown driving sedately once the car leaves the garage. Dangerous influences lurk everywhere.

Britain’s ad cops are at it again, only this time there’s some meat on the bones of the complaint. Automakers often play fast and loose when it comes to describing the capabilities of autonomous vehicle functions, but electric vehicles are another area fraught with potential misleading info. Throw pricing and fuel economy into that group, too. Nissan recently ran afoul of ASA watchdogs after one of its ads suggested owners could partly recharge their vehicles in a hurry. Of course, this is technically a true statement.

What resulted was essentially a battle over the word “could.” (Read More…)

By on October 24, 2018

Image: 2018 Ford Mustang

While I certainly don’t question their dedication to preserving freedom, one wonders what the Allied soldiers crossing the Channel in 1944 would have thought about the United Kingdom of 2018.

Let’s just say that British law is somewhat strict — especially in minor, unlikely areas of life. Going by the select media reports that make their way stateside as online outrage food, it would seem that, according to British lawmakers, danger lurks everywhere in a land where people once treated nightly bombing raids as a mundane form of weather.

Thanks to this new culture of safety and tolerance, a culture where the police encourages people to report when they’ve been offended on Twitter, car commercials can be pulled from airwaves after generating the wrong kind of feelings in certain viewers. (Read More…)

By on October 18, 2018

2018 Chrysler Pacifica S Appearance Package, Image: FCA

Of all the automakers embroiled in the Mad Men-era rush to plumb the psyches of American car buyers, Chrysler’s Dodge division stood head and shoulders above the rest in one key marketing element: sex. It sells, apparently, and Chrysler Corp. made sure to instill a little bit of it, overtly or subconsciously, into its print and TV advertising. As the circa ’66-67 “Dodge Rebellion” campaign gave way to 1968-70’s “Dodge Fever” gambit, the impact of the counterculture movement and America’s rapidly liberalizing attitudes soon became apparent in Dodge’s ad copy.

It was this era in Chrysler’s marketing history that spawned what’s arguably the most sexist (and psychosexual) car ad ever printed: Dodge’s 1969 Charger R/T ad, titled “The Eternal Triangle.”

These were sexy times for America, but even sexier times for Dodge, which had clearly grown too hot under the collar. The onset of the 1970s saw the brand put the tie-dyed shirt and address book in storage, trading its hedonistic copy for the far tamer “Dodge Material” campaign, and the rest is history (some of it quite embarrassing). Given this rich marketing heritage, it’s nice to see Chrysler attempt to spice up a family-oriented minivan with sex. (Read More…)

By on September 25, 2018

GM marketplace

General Motors has begun surveying how its drivers experience in-car multimedia, specifically the radio, as part of its new strategy to track customer habits and maximize the profitability of information. With 4G LTE WiFi connectivity now featured inside millions of GM vehicles, the automaker believes technology can be used to fine tune its future marketing strategies.

While an invaluable insight tool for advertisers, it’s also the perfect example of the kind of thing we’ve been complaining about for the last couple of years. General Motors is leaning into Big Data as hard as possible, meaning your personal information could soon be on the line — if it isn’t already.  (Read More…)

By on August 26, 2018

The benign mental illness that is pet ownership leaves those affected by it perpetually concerned with the well-being of non-human animals. Creatures are fed, groomed, and spoken to in pleasant tones as frequently as possible to ensure their existence is as stress free and safe as possible. Knowing that pets cannot reside in your lap while you’re driving — no matter how much you’d like for them to — Land Rover figures they can still ride in the lap of luxury and is offering a series of dog-focused accessories.

This is a one-two punch from the brand, as it allows for Land Rover to sell marked-up items to dog owners (which account for roughly half its customers) while also including those lovable little scamps in their marketing materials. Subaru has been working the dog angle for some time now and it has resulted in some of the most viral car-ads of the 21st century while simultaneously helping to solidify its friendly persona.

Clearly aware of this, Land Rover created a one-minute advertisement featuring the products and encouraged viewers to share it. In the clip, two dogs arrive in the back of a Discovery and attempt to impress a third dog they’d both like to have sex with. Don’t worry, the only action they show are of the new products being used.  (Read More…)

By on August 22, 2018

You aren’t going to see a lot of televised commercials for the BMW M2 Competition, as it’s an enthusiast car of the highest magnitude. A thirty-second spot in the middle of a popular sitcom doesn’t provide adequate time to run through a laundry list of performance specs for car nerds, and the blanketed marketing approach wouldn’t really be cost-effective, anyway. BMW needs a surgical strike, something viral that can be passed around the internet between the sort of people that actually might consider owning an M2.

That’s what makes its new marketing campaign for the model so good. Outside of offering the most fun you can have inside a car while wearing pants, the M2 isn’t setting any automotive records. It is, however, taking a stab at world records set by humans. Earlier this month, the automaker hooked up a laser to the front of the vehicle to see how many balloons it could pop in a single minute. A week later, it released another video in which it attempted to cut down 116 straw poles with a samurai sword.

We don’t need to tell you that attaching lasers and swords to a car’s exterior is very awesome. And it’s that feeling — like the whole ad campaign was dreamed up by an eight-year-old — that makes for an appealing gimmick.  (Read More…)

By on August 17, 2018

Toyota/Youtube

If it wasn’t for celebrity ad appearances, I wouldn’t know that Jim Rockford James Garner thinks the Mazda 626 is a great buy, or that Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling chooses the Ford LTD over all other domestic two-door hardtops, simply for the cabin noise level. Meanwhile, red-blooded males across America still can’t shake those recurring thoughts of the Mercury Milan AWD V6.

We owe a great debt to Hollywood.

And Toyota now owes a big, fat check to Chuck Norris, a 78-year-old man famous for driving a Dodge Ram pickup in a show where violent men routinely and inexplicably dropped their guns in order to engage each other with fists. The automaker gets playful in its latest spot for a truck it can’t help but sell boatloads of. (Read More…)

By on August 14, 2018

As part of its penance for pumping untold amounts of smog-causing pollutants into America’s air over the span of roughly six years, Volkswagen paid a steep price. Yes, there was the financial cost of the diesel scandal — a price tag topping $20 billion, covering fines, buybacks, repairs, etc. Then there was the shame, with VW execs issuing public apologies so frequently, you’d think they were congressmen.

As fines and public apologies aren’t that uncommon in the automotive sphere, it’s the third act that must really grind the gears of execs in Wolfsburg. The automaker now has to do something no self-respecting car company would ever do: It has to showcase another company’s products, and not in a bad light. (Read More…)

By on July 23, 2018

Honda has launched a new media campaign for the Insight, a model that stages its third reappearance for the 2019 model year. The media push frames other hybrids as ugly, boring vehicles you have to settle for in order to gain superior fuel economy. There’s a social media initiative that transforms everyday objects into something more interesting and a television spot where other vehicles mill around while covered in bubble letters that spell out “blah” or “meh,” with horns and engine noises to match.

But the whole ad seems counterintuitive. The Insight ditched its funky wheel coverings after the first generation, which was followed by the loss of the glass-back hatch. Now it’s a pretty normal looking vehicle. You might even mistake it for a miniature Honda Accord.

That’s not an insult; the Accord isn’t a bad looking vehicle, but it also blends in easily with traffic. A large part of that is due to its popularity, but it still calls into question the whole premise of the ad — which serves to portray other hybrids as mundane.  (Read More…)

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