Want your brand to stand out? Take a page from these brilliant TV spots.
Automakers shell out billions of dollars on TV commercials every year. Here’s a little secret. To break through the clutter, you don’t need a bodacious budget. You need a big idea. These great car commercials endure because they’re unexpected, entertaining and simple. An automotive supplier’s advertising should be, too. Sit back, take a joyride on YouTube and get inspired.
12. Audi “Old Luxury”
This commercial is a kindred spirit to this blog—shaking up the old guard with something new. Audi parodies The Godfather’s famous horse head scene, providing a serious wake-up call for old-school luxury brands like Jaguar and Bentley.
11. Volkswagen “The Force”
Kids are cute. Kids in Darth Vader costumes are cuter. In this spot, a young boy tries moving objects using the Force. Nothing works. That is, until he comes face-to-face with a VW Passat. The spot made its debut during the 2011 Super Bowl.
10. Smart “Backseat”
This commercial for the smart fortwo launched in Germany in 2006. It features a series of classic movie moments where the back seat is home to some unsavory characters. Even by European standards, it’s a little out there, but sometimes that’s what’s necessary to get your point across.
9. Nissan “Toys”
Remember Nissan’s “Enjoy the Ride” campaign back in the ‘90s? The commercials that all ended with a cameo from Nissan’s legendary Mr. K? The first spot features G.I. Joe racing through a home in a toy 300ZX to pick up Barbie, leaving Ken in the dust.
8. Dodge “Man’s Last Stand”
It pays to know your audience. Here’s a tongue-in-cheek deep-dive into a man’s psyche, with a rallying cry to drive the car you want to drive. Bonus points for a voiceover by Michael C. Hall (Dexter).
7. Volkswagen “Snow Plow”
“Have you ever wondered how the man who drives the snowplow drives to the snowplow?” One of the best advertising lines ever. A timeless commercial, from the legendary VW campaign of the Mad Men era. Think your product has challenges? The Volkswagen Beetle was a slow, ugly, post-WWII German car. Through breakthrough advertising, (here’s another classic spot), it became an American icon.
6. Volkswagen “Pink Moon”
A super simple premise, executed to perfection. Four young people drive at night with their VW Cabriolet’s top down and decide to skip a loud party to look at the moon from the road. Gives me the warm and fuzzies every time.
5. Nissan “Polar Bear”
A polar bear on a melting ice flow heads south, wandering the countryside, until he reaches a city. The spot finishes with the bear in the suburbs, confronting the owner of a Nissan LEAF electric car. I won’t spoil the ending.
4. Jeep “Snow Covered”
What do all car commercials do? Show the car. In this spot from 1994, a Jeep tunnels through snow, completely buried. I remember seeing this commercial at a Detroit advertising show and thinking, “Damn, I wish I thought of that.” It went on to win the Cannes Grand Prix award.
3. Chrysler “Born of Fire”
When times were tough for the automotive industry, this ad shined a light on Detroit’s fighting spirit. Making its debut for the Super Bowl in 2011, the two-minute ad starred Eminem and “Imported from Detroit” became a local point of pride.
2. Saturn “Sheet Metal”
The award for best opening scene of a commercial goes to … Saturn. This spot shows people acting like cars on the road, with simple piano music. If you tell the world you’re “A different kind of company, a different kind of car,” your advertising better be unique, too. Mission accomplished.
1. Honda “Cog”
Okay, automotive part suppliers, this one’s for you. This stunning Rube Goldberg sequence, consisting of car parts, was done in a single take without any CGI. It’s everything I love in one spot. Simple, intriguing—and doesn’t reveal the vehicle until the very end.