cars, automotive advertising, car ads, DriveWrite Automotive, car blog, motoring blog

Cars & Advertising: Make It Stop.

A company has employed professional man-candy Johnny Depp to be ‘The Face Of’ a scent for men. In it he encounters a commuting buffalo, does some digging and and stands in the wilderness with a thousand-yard stare. What does this tell you other than the advertising ‘executive’ who came up with this tosh presumably has a mentality that makes Ronnie Pickering seem like a dangerous intellectual. Welcome to the world of advertising.

Certainly there are some inventive televised campaigns to flog stuff we don’t need but most of them are either trivial, annoying, vulgar – and I’m talking about the fat pole-dancing builder series among others – or insulting to men. All men, in the eyes of the advertising world, are feckless, hen-pecked, thick as mince, bro-hugging, beer-swilling, infantile cretins. All women are the opposite. Well, thanks very much but we don’t need reminding.

Also they should be made to stop stealing great rock and pop songs just to promote their rotten goods or services. Have you seen that ad for Amazon with the ‘granddad’ pushing that weird-looking kid on a swing? Granny has to rush him a leaf-blower to get the swing moving. Meanwhile the completely inappropriate music is ‘I’m A Man’ by the Spencer Davies Group. If you were a real man you would push the swing yourself you lazy perisher. Get some exercise.

And then there are cars. I am sure we are all used to car adverts being pretentious or ridiculous. They’ve been pretentious for years, and have got steadily worse as time has gone on. A car is a piece of machinery built to do a job. It does not have mystical powers that will make your miserable life suddenly get better. It does not mean that all the passengers will instantly become more vibrant, beautiful and up for it. Nothing will change except your bank balance.

‘Leave the parking to the car so that you can get on with the important things’, says one ad. So what does that mean? I can stop on the High Street right outside Costa and nip in for a much needed brew? The car will park itself in a bay and then put an exorbitant amount of money in a slot, grab the ticket and tuck it under its own windscreen?

There are countless ads like this on television right now, all trying to sell us the automated, lifestyle qualities of cars, but a car isn’t really a ‘lifestyle’ choice for most folk is it? For most people the car they buy is the car that they can afford to pay for, run and insure. It will likely come from a small selection that fit the parameters set not by some mythical lifestyle but by real life. It’s the promotion of wishful thinking. The advertising of ‘if only’…

I can tell you that the car I yearn for tragically costs £86,000. The car I own – and which does all that is required of it – cost some £60k less, new. It has not changed my life. When I buy a car I want it to look good – no one buys an ugly car for pleasure – but after that I am concerned about the practicalities. How much will the road tax be? How quickly does it accelerate? Is it as safe as it can be for children to ride in? Can I get family luggage in the boot? And so on. After most ads today, I would be none the wiser.

Successful companies deliver jobs, globally. No right-thinking person has a problem with fair profit. Without commerce we would still be living in ditches. Cars are useful, versatile, convenient, sometimes works of art and are cleaner and more efficient than they have ever been. The problem comes in the manner in which they are sold.

Of course, advertising has always been so. Smoking makes you popular and sexually alluring. Be the housewife of the year thanks to this cooker. Today it is worse. Many of the current ads are puerile and insult the intelligence. How many people really care that you can open a boot by waggling your foot underneath the car?

When Dacia first went mainstream they advertised their motors for what they were. Decent, various, budget-priced transport. Sadly they too have now begun to succumb to the temptation (and pinch a Queen hit) as in ‘another one buys a Duster’.

A Ferrari sells itself; a regulation hatchback doesn’t. It is perfectly understandable that one car maker wants to trump another but the fact is, in the mainstream, economies-of-scale vehicle world, they are all much the same beneath the hype. Why not simply tell us what your product is and what it can do in a straightforward way without all the manufacturer hyperbole and let us decide which one we want based upon our budget and preferences?

It would be nice to think that the global car buyer is not seen as being universally gullible or stupid or thought to believe that a specific car will make life better. The current crop of increasingly preposterous ads suggests otherwise, alas.

Geoff Maxted