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Car Adverts: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Car Adverts: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

While clipboard-clutching engineers in white coats may spend thousands of hours and millions of pounds toiling and tinkering away to create the perfect new automobile, there is one often overlooked aspect of rolling out a new car: the advertising. How a car is perceived is absolutely crucial to its success. A strong advert can spread news like wildfire, and rocket the car into the limelight. Get it wrong, however, and your lovingly crafted new vehicle may end up a laughing stock.

We’ve compiled a list of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the car advertising world. Before we descend into the murky depths of 1980’s celebrity endorsements, we’ll start with some of the better ads. These are some of the most inspiring, witty, and innovative advertisements that the automotive industry has to offer. Take notes – this is how its done.

The Good

“The Transformer” Citroen C4

In 2004, when animated Transformers where just a glint in Michael Bays eye, a 30 second advert appeared on television. Viewers watched a humble Citroen C4 quietly sitting in an empty car park. Suddenly, as an electronic beat fades in, the car sprouts limbs, stretches, and bursts into spontaneous breakdancing, before hopping back into unassuming car form. Not bad, Citroen. The C4 Transformer was a truly unique thing  an advert that viewers actively wanted to watch.


“The Sculptor” Peugeot 206

In a busy Indian marketplace, a young man stares longingly at a banged up Hindustan Ambassador. Suddenly struck by an idea, he beats the car to a pulp. After a welding/hammering montage that the A Team would be proud of, it is revealed that he has pummelled his battered old Ambassador into a (still fairly battered) Peugeot 206. The extremely cool slow-mo cruise at the end is what makes this advert a classic.


“The Cog” Honda Accord

An absolute marvel of minutely detailed chain reactions, The Cog features a succession of various Honda parts rolling, flexing, bouncing and clicking in a domino effect, ultimately switching on a booming sound system and rolling an immaculate Accord into view as a flag unfurls behind. The astonishing display cost £1 million to make, over seven months of production. Seven months for a 120 second clip. Imagine the party they must have thrown when they finally got the take.


“There Is Definitely An Attraction Here” Hyundai i10

Hyundai have nailed it with their new series of adverts, featuring the hapless George, a salesman who is harassed by various oddball customers. The tone is brilliantly British and the dialogue is dry, witty and reminiscent of the best UK sitcoms. The key to the success of these adverts is the bizarre opening quotes at the start of each video. The ‘3 minutes earlier’ is a genius method to keep audiences watching and guessing.


The Bad

There are loads more beautifully shot and expertly executed car adverts out there, but we all know the adverts you really want to see: the eye-gougingly terrible ones. You’re in luck, because we have plenty.

“Papi” featuring Jennifer Lopez, Fiat 500

A baffled looking Jennifer Lopez drives through streets packed with hysteric people, leaping out of the way of her car as she swerves all over the pavement. Is Jennifer Lopez being chased by crazed fans? Is she the last survivor of a zombie apocalypse? Has she gone spontaneously blind at the wheel? Whatever it was, it doesnt seem to matter, because by the end of the 30 second advert she’s busy body popping atop her Fiat 500 as legions of (undead?) fans lay writhing at her feet.


Celine Dion, 1990 Plymouth Sundance Dodge Shadow

A yellow jumpsuit clad Celine Dion dances like a dad at a wedding around the boxy Dodge Shadow as a French voiceover shouts at us. Her dance move repertoire includes a rhythmic shoulder shrug, putting her hands in the air a bit, a slight upward nod, and a slow creeping walk. It gets weirder still, as she winks at us before removing a child booster seat from inside the car and dances off into the distance clutching it. The car sits idle for a moment, before rocketing off screen at a 0-60 of about a tenth of a second.


The Ugly

Now we reach the deepest circles of advertising nonsense. Brace yourself.

Grace Jones, Citroen CX

It’s hard to know where to begin with this one. The disembodied head of Grace Jones sits in the desert. It rotates, its mouth opens mechanically, and a Citroen CX drives out. The CX is driven by Grace Jones. She winds the window down and sings aggressively at the camera. Then she drives back into her own gaping mouth. It’s hard to know exactly what emotional response Citroen intended the advert to evoke, but we can bet it wasnt unadulterated, raw terror.


Black Gold 280 ZX, Datsun

You’ve got to love a car advert where a gospel choir warbles the car’s name over a disco soundtrack. The Datsun Black Gold prowls onto the screen like a panther, mist swirling around its wheels, as a meaty voiceover purrs the name. A beautiful woman turns her head and gazes coolly at us. An immaculately permed man with a moustache that would make Tom Selleck hang his head in shame pouts seductively at the camera. The two kiss passionately in the car as we are blinded by lens flares. As the gospel choir reaches a crescendo, shrieking the cars name, it roars away into the desert. Black Gold. Is it weird that we actually want one now?