The wonderful world of advertising has been integral to the motor industry throughout its history but Iain P W Robertson wonders whether the present creatively ‘smart’ approach is actually just a bit too clever for its own good…

Chatting with The Queen Bee just the other day, I discovered that the good lady is actually seeking to replace her existing mode of transport. While Shanks and his ponies might lose a sale, a car company somewhere runs the risk of adding another registration to its growing list. However, nothing is ever as simple, or straightforward, as it might at first appear.

smokemirrorsLyn, for it is she, opined that some car advertisements, not just on the telly, were so suspect in their offerings that it was well nigh impossible to tell what the brand was, let alone the model being pushed. When I started to look for specific cars during the increasingly frequent ad-slots that we have to tolerate on the independent channels (I normally flick to the Beeb to avoid them…great consumer, eh?), I discovered that she had a point.

Some of the latest Mercedes-Benz adverts are so geared towards the motor industry’s favourite buzzword of the past decade – ‘lifestyle’ – that they have all but forgotten to place the car in the frame. Even the more blatant promotional efforts, such as those for the recent and least costly A-Class, spend so much time wringing the neck out the car and its stunt occupants that you are torn between the confusion of it being for a BMW 1-Series, or some innocuous Japanese hatchback in a blink-and-you-miss-it, 28-seconds exhibition.

Peugeot’s latest 308 exposé is lost in a flurry of mountainous hairpins and Gallic back-doubles, with an echoing ‘just add fuel’ thrust in for good measure. To be frank, I do not know what Ford is advertising in its Transit Connect slots (the company’s small-ish van); bromance, or frugality? Trust me, it is hard to tell, with an apparently tearful ‘father‘ and ‘son’ wringing out the emotions for at least 23 of the 28 seconds that ‘god‘ provides. While Skoda was bad enough with its car-from-cake construction, a few years ago, the middle of last year highlighted customised perambulators, fire-breathing lawnmowers, scarily huge ice-cream vending vans and tricycles that would have your leg off, if you looked at them the wrong way, all for the new and thoroughly mainstream Octavia. Vauxhall’s Adam, Nissan’s Qashqai, Renault’s Captur, Alfa Romeo’s Giulietta, Jaguar’s F-type and Volvo’s V40 all feature Cecil B de Mille-quality, half-minute dramas, yet the poor viewer is still bamboozled by them.

Perhaps the carmakers are all a bit jaded after six years of painful recovery, even though they still insist on registering cars themselves on the last day of every month, which makes tomfoolery of the actual sales figures that they insist on using in their media releases that they hope we shall all use at some point in our journalistic scrawlings. Or maybe it is that they just do not know what message to put across, because their advertising spend is now so fragmented by over 500 channels, that they have lost their sometime good sense of humour, in favour of a bout of ‘anality’.

Conclusion: Stop it! Get back to reality. Some of the motor industry’s staunchest critics might have less to complain about, were the industry to highlight that its cars are now safer, cleaner, greener and more frugal than they have ever been and that vehicle users/operators should not be at the butt-end of every governmental means to raise more taxation revenue. Oh, yes, and tell us, carmakers, just what you are selling in the adverts. You know it makes sense.

About Iain P W Robertson

Frequently being told to 'go forth and multiply', Iain P W Robertson's automotive wisdom is based on almost forty years in the business, across all aspects from sport to production, at the highest levels. He likes dogs and drives a Suzuki (not related).