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These Car Ads Changed Advertising! | WheelHouse

These Car Ads Changed Advertising! | WheelHouse

– “Zoom Zoom,” you know as Mazda. “Let’s Go Places,” that’s Toyota. “The Ultimate Driving
Machine” can only be BMW. How do we know this? Because thanks to advertising, it’s been planted in our brains. No doubt, car ads are everywhere, pervasive and persuasive. So how did we get from
modest newspaper ads run off a printing press to all the press you could want on your favorite car at the tap of an app? And why is Matthew
McConaughey talking to himself in a Lincoln Navigator? Where is this headed
and where has it been? Today, we’re exploring
the history of car ads. Since the first automobile
rolled off the assembly line, there have been
advertisements to sell them. In the early days of selling cars, convincing people to get behind the wheel of this newfangled horseless contraption without fear of premature death was the main goal. The ads were basic black and white prints that emphasized the automobile as the ultimate in luxury and convenience. The very first car advertisement was done by the Winton
motor company in 1898 with a headline that simply stated, “Dispense with a horse.” As the popularity of cars increased, ads turned to extravagant illustrations and bold slogans to compete
for drivers’ attention. The message shifted from safety to emphasizing easy mobility and where the car could take you, into the secluded woods, to a neighborhood bar
to meet someone special, or the opportunity to make a
dramatic exit if the need be. You know when we wrote
that, it sounded fine, but when I say it out loud, it just sounds like we’re selling the car to a serial killer. Henry Ford capitalized on this concept of go anywhere and do anything when he introduced the Model T in 1908. The first ad appeared in Life Magazine, and while there were other
better known competitors like Oldsmobile, Cadillac, and Packard, their ads pitched expensive brands that spoke to wealthy Americans, you know, the Great Gatsby types. But Ford believed that not just the rich but all Americans wanted
their own automobile. His Model T ad said things like, “A car for the multitudes” and “High price quality
in a low price car.” Because the Ford motor company
mastered mass production to a tee. – To a tee. Are you kidding me? The car, it’s called that. – How’d you not know that shit? – What’s going on? Because the Ford motor company
mastered mass production to a tee, Ford was able
to keep the price down at just $850, about $20,000 today. And that was the biggest
selling point, the price. The strategy of targeting
the common man paid off, and within the first year,
Ford sold 10,000 Model Ts. Ford’s pitch to the average person revolutionized the nature
of American society. Middle income families
gained a new mobility and life was no longer
centered around your home and neighborhood. People could escape their small town and see the rest of the country. A newfound freedom was
born with Ford’s simple appeal to the masses. By the 1920s, car ads
reflected the optimism and freewheeling sign of the times. As a result of this carefree decade, consumers hungered for more than just a sturdy and affordable car. They wanted style, speed,
and luxury to boot. With the passing of the 19th Amendment, women finally got the right to vote. As a result, the 1920s and ’30s saw advertisers specifically
targeting women in their ads. The concept of being in
control of your own destiny was a prevalent theme. This continued throughout World War II, when men were fighting on the battlefield and women filled the labor force. The ad guys were fully on board with selling to the ladies, but sometimes a heavy dose of chauvinism was thrown in with the pitch. A 1940 Buick advertisement proclaimed, “Weep no more, ladies. “Now there’s a big car
even you can drive.” The ad went on to state
that the Buick’s interior was roomy enough to hold a tea party. Nothing wrong with that. That’s not weird at all. During the postwar years, tons of suburbs popped up in America, creating a driving force
behind a major car boom. People commuting back and forth from work in the cities needed a car, and it was nirvana for advertisers. 1950s car advertising was all about showing off a car’s features
and its great designs. By this time, American car
brands had hit their stride, and consumers were
familiar with the models, so advertisers relied on that familiarity to cut to the chase. Pages in magazines were
stuffed with polished images. Add to the mix, a little
invention called television, and car advertisers had another
method to reach consumers in a big way. Traditional media like radio,
magazines, and newspapers were still important in
the early part of the ’50s, but television was quickly
becoming the cornerstone of many advertisers’ national media plans. The advertisers’ goal in the 1950s was to link car ownership with the idea of
comfortable suburban living. Some ’50s TV commercials
offered cute, rhyming jingles like “See the USA in your Chevrolet,” but others went right for the jugular to get your attention. In car crazed southern California, automobile pitchmen were nutty and berserk figures on TV screens. One guy named Cal Worthington stood taller and lasted longer than any of these other deranged dudes. Sporting a Stetson hat and speaking with a twangy Oklahoma drawl, he broke the mold when it came
to outlandish car salesmen, willing to do anything to
get you in the showroom. While some guys posed with cute puppies to get customers on the lot, Cal upped the ante and
had a menagerie of furry, exotic sidekicks. Actually, they were zoo animals, and he always announced them as his fictitious dog, Spot. By the mid-1950s, cars beat packaged goods and cigarettes as the most
heavily advertised products. Everything was going great
for American automakers and the ad men hired to
sell their latest models. Then, in 1960, it all changed when one ad hit like a bolt of lightning. Overnight, Volkswagen’s
Think Small campaign had the American public talking about the tiny German made Beetle. This campaign catapulted Volkswagen into the stratosphere of car advertising. Teenagers ripped it out of magazines and pinned it on their walls. And the ad guys on Madison
Avenue viewed it with suspicion and jealousy. It was a game changer for
an ad industry that had, until that time, hammered customers with over the top, extravagant claims of how their product changed their life. Volkswagen’s approach was creative, subtle, and self-deprecating. Think Small and Lemon campaigns and others that followed
didn’t talk down to consumers and appealed to their intelligence. Volkswagen’s honest and simple campaign fit right in with the
changing times of the ’60s, where youth culture was becoming a force, and a rebellion against mass
consumerism was taking shape. Advertisers were soon
following Volkswagen’s lead, trashing overhyped sales pitches for more playful campaigns
that stressed individuality rather than conformity. Marketing and advertising pros considered the Think Small campaign the
gold standard of advertising. Volkswagen Beetle sales grew
into the hundreds of thousands throughout the 1960s, and by 1970s, sales had topped out at over 570,000 in the US. In the 1980s, with the
stock market riding high and the rise of Yuppies
and Gordon Gekko-type corporate raiders now part of the culture, what you drove was seen
as a status symbol. If you were driving a
Lamborghini or a Porsche, then you had made it. As a result of the climate, consumers were seeing more
higher class and foreign car ads. The downside was that car ads in the ’80s had become pretty cookie
cutter in their presentation. A cabin so quiet you can hear a pin drop and a relaxed, practically comatose driver at ease behind the wheel was par for the course
in a car commercial. Breaking from the
monotony was one campaign that showed a little fish in a big pond can compete with the
sharks, my favorite animal. With the goal of boosting sales in the US, in 1986, the Japanese
car manufacturer Isuzu launched their Joe Isuzu commercial. Armed with only a limited budget, the campaign surprised everyone
with its unique approach and became a wild success. A fictional car salesman who
oozed the smarmy demeanor and lied through his fake smile face made outlandish claims about
the abilities of the Isuzu. Isuzu really leaned into the fact that car ads often
exaggerated the product, and people were refreshed by the honesty. This comic take on the
shady salesman cliche was a hit with consumers. But there was one little problem, he was more popular than the car. Except for an immediate
18% spike in sales, Isuzu’s success was short lived. Ads that followed attempted to highlight more features of the car and
put it back in the spotlight. But for audiences, the true
star was always Joe Isuzu. The campaign was retired in 1990 with a tough lesson learned, don’t let the messenger
outshine the message. What advertisers had discovered is that celebrity endorsements, particularly car endorsements,
can be a major crapshoot. Choose the right star
and it can create a buzz, boost sales, and even bolster the brand. Pick the wrong personality, and an automaker might turn off customers and lose millions of
dollars in the process. For example, wanting to
court a younger demographic, Chrysler hired Celine Dion to
the tune of 14 million dollars as spokeswoman for their 2002 Pacifica because that made sense. Dealers only sold around 4,000 Pacificas after the ad campaign began in stark contrast to the
projected 60,000 units. Yikes. One lesson the ad industry knows well is that a spot during the Super Bowl is the Holy Grail for advertisers. It’s a cardinal rule that advertisers keep their new campaigns under wraps to avoid spoiling the big reveal, but for the 2011 Super
Bowl, Volkswagen was stuck between a rock and a hard place. It had bought two 30-second
spots for the big day, one showing off the new Jetta and the other for the new Passat. The spot called The Force
for the Passat model featured a little boy
dressed up as Darth Vader. However, there was also
a 60-second version that the Deutsch ad team
who created the spot felt was much stronger. Unfortunately, it was too long
to run during the Super Bowl, so in an attempt to stand out and get as much mileage as possible, Deutsch made the bold move of
posting The Force on YouTube the Wednesday before the game. By early the next morning,
the spot had 1.8 million hits. It scored 17 million
views before the coin toss at game time on Sunday. To date, The Force has racked
up 61 million views on YouTube and is the most shared
Super Bowl ad of all time. Of all the ads that run
during the Super Bowl, it’s the car industry that’s
been the single largest advertising category every year since 2010 with advertisers willing
to pay a steep price for a 30-second spot. This year, it was 5.5
million dollars on average. It’s obvious having your commercial play during the Super Bowl is a big deal, but here’s something interesting. 2017 Super Bowl was
wall-to-wall car commercials. This year, only seven brands ran a spot. So where did they go? Online. Turns out The Force
commercial was just a preview of things to come for
advertising and the Internet. Social media has exploded in recent years, and being savvy about the
various digital platforms is a must-have skill
for advertisers to have in their toolbox. Social media marketing
has become the pillar of the advertising industry, and the car business
is the leading charger. Pretty much every brand
has an online presence, and it’s become a huge tool for generating hype for a new car. The Dodge Demon, the 2024
Bronco, and the new Supra have all used teaser campaigns to get people stoked for
their upcoming release. The conversation between
users and car brands has gotten so fluid over social media that in 2016, one guy in
Spain posted a hashtag buy a car on Twitter challenge to see if any manufacturer
would sell him a vehicle over the social network. Nissan answered his challenge and gave him a tour of
the new Nissan X-Trail with the Periscope app. The guy then asked his followers if he should buy it and they said yes. So he did, naturally. Wow, this guy bought a car, even picked it up at Spain headquarters without even going to the dealership. The future is so full of potential. This could totally change
the way we buy cars. It’s a brave new world when it comes to automotive advertising. Unlike in the past where
car advertising was focused strictly on what the car
could do for the consumer, today, it’s about what the
car can do to the consumer. When Matthew McConaughey
conducts an orchestra of his surroundings behind
the wheel of a stationary Lincoln Navigator or
stands next to a sleek Lincoln Continental in the
shimmering shallow water on a glacial plain in Iceland, these images are evocative. Car advertisers are
appealing to your senses. They’re going for the
right side of your brain, that emotional, creative
chunk of gray matter. It’s miles away from the paint by numbers, logical left brain side of the lump that ads of the 1950s tapped into. Things are moving at such
lightning quick speeds. Who knows? Five years from now,
taking a virtual test drive on your iPhone might seem as old school as looking at a print ad in a newspaper. A big thank you to Honey
for sponsoring this episode of WheelHouse. Honey is a free browser extension that helps you get the best deal anytime you buy something online. I had to replace my
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install Honey on your browser, and it’s free. Honey works silently in the
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try all known coupon codes for that store. If Honey finds a code that works, it will apply the one that saves you the most money to your card. Honey does everything
for you, it’s that easy. If you don’t have Honey installed already, you’re literally passing up free money, so hit that link below
and get Honey today. Remember, it’s all free, takes two clicks, and saves you cash. We look at weird stuff in car culture and history every week, so make sure you hit that
yellow Subscribe button right around here so you
never miss an episode. If you want to know more about Henry Ford, check out this episode of WheelHouse or check out this episode of Up to Speed. Be nice. See you next time.

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100 thoughts on “These Car Ads Changed Advertising! | WheelHouse

  1. What about the first Infinity ad- which sold thousands of cars without even showing it?!

    Or, one of my favs, the 'There's only one Jeep' ad that also didn't show the car- only a moving bump under a smowdrift!?

    One more- Farfegnugen!

  2. Unless laws change in the U.S., it's unlikely we'll ever have the ability to buy a car directly from the factory without seeing a dealer.

  3. So no mention of how Tesla sells their cars online and with virtually no paid advertisement whatsoever and they still had the best selling car in 2018 @ over 500,000 units of the Model 3? Seems like you guys missed the boat on that one there.

  4. I mean Buick’s are the slightly bigoted grandpa car, imagine grandpa driving by in a Buick park ave yellin “what the hell is wrong with you!”

  5. The 60s and early 70s VW ads were-are-by far the best ad campaign of all time. Nothing else is even close.

    A later VW commercial-late 90s-that was good IMO was the one for the u remarkable Cabrio but featuring almost zero speaking but Nick Drakes Pink Moon playing.

    Joe Isuzu was good also and so was the Mazda campaign featuring James Garner.

  6. a classic ad from when Cadillac was still the standard of the world

  7. These beats you guys use are frickin’ dope – make a mixtape or at least provide a song list please.

  8. I'm gonna go ahead and say that automakers do not really seem to be leading the way for social media marketing…
    I don't do marketing myself, but I work in the same space as social media marketing… and although we don't deal with any automakers ourselves, from what I see, they tend to leave less impact on social media than other players… especially compared to fashion brands, gaming, film, and even airlines.

  9. 13:09 looking fit and slim in that NAVY BLUR Donut t-shirt way to go.
    13:10 Looking kind of plump there in your GRAY Donut t-shirt.

    How the hell did you get fatter in just ONE god damn SECOND!

  10. where's 80's mercedes benz ad with totaled w126 s-classe? it's as much classic as beetle ad and lately volvo trucks

  11. music just a bit too loud. when laying in my bed i hear the bass over the voice. EDIT: nevermind. its already a year old

  12. hands down best car advertisement was when OJ ran from the cops in a ford bronco. unintentional but iconic

  13. I have a 1976 KZ440 and I'd found an old ad with one in front of a Beetle that says "think smaller". Now I get it

  14. Hitler had a portrait of Henry Ford in his office, due to all the help American companies and banks gave to the early nazi party.

  15. Volkswagen is the king of car ads. The Das Auto ones for the mk5 GTi were hilarious. And I loved the one for the mk5 Rabbit reboot where all the Rabbits are all over some small village, and they show a white, a black and a silver one drive into a tunnel, then a monochrome Harlequin one pops back out.

  16. “Chevy has won the JD Power: Initial Quality award 4 years in a ro-“
    “What even is JD powah? Sounds like a pown stah, JD Powahammah, JD Powarod” -Mahk

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