Last year, automotive companies spent more than $20 billion dollars on advertising.
And what did they get for all that cash?
Endless shots of sports cars speeding through S-turns, SUVs bouncing up rocky trails or through deep snow, and pretty cars posed in gleaming show rooms. And interior shots of polished wood panels, cool-looking dashboards, and comfortable leather seats with plenty of head- and legroom.
The ads look so much alike partly because the cars look so much alike.
If you’ve seen one, you’ve just about seen them all. If it weren’t for the logo, you’d be hard pressed to identify the car.
It’s not that these are bad ads. They look great. They sound great.
But they all look the same. Cadillac. Infiniti. Lexus.
There’s rarely a story. So it’s tough to make an emotional connection.
They’re all about features. No real reason to buy. So they don’t break through.
Good auto advertising is hard. When cars look the same, share the same price points, and try to appeal to the same consumers, it’s no surprise that the advertising is so similar. And forgettable.
But not all car advertising is bland.
Occasionally a brand breaks through the clutter with a compelling story that drives home a unique brand position and reason to buy.
Check out this spot (it’s a few years old) that beautifully tells a value-based story about the VW Jetta.
Beautifully shot, nice soundtrack, and a great story.
More recently, Toyota did a good job breaking through the mini-van clutter with it’s Swagger Wagon campaign. Each individual spot is a unique twist on how one of the car’s features makes life better for the self-centered owners. I like the back-up camera spot:
The campaign was supported with longer-form videos online, including this hip-hop video featuring the Sienna parents.
Note that video has more than 7.5 million views on YouTube. Not bad for a car ad (compare that to the Cadillac ad above which only has about 170,000 hits). Want the MP3 for your iPod? Me neither, but it’s available here.
And speaking of hip-hop videos, there’s the KIA Soul Hamsters.
It seems you either love it or hate them.
I hate them.
Partly because I don’t get it. Partly because the music is bad. And again, what’s the story? Where’s the reason to buy?
But then I’m not a hamster or a hip-hop artist, so clearly I’m not in the target demo. I’d rather get with a toaster that drives.
It does deserve some credit, though, for being different enough to get noticed. Now if KIA would get to work on the story…