The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


Vorsprung Durch Details …

So I have an Audi.

I know … I know … what a wanker.

Well as we all know, German cars are well known for their quality of engineering, but recently I saw something that showed me it’s not just engineering where they pay attention to detail.

Have a look at this …

Can you see?

It’s the colour of the screws.

Where most cars have 4 yellow screws in each corner of the rear number plate, Audi have used 2 – one black, one yellow – placed in the middle of the number plate and designed to make sure they perfectly match with the area they’re screwing into.

Black to match the colour of the letter of the registration number.
Yellow to match the background of the rear registration number.

It’s an incredibly small thing, but if they care about that, you can be sure they care about every detail in the car.

Which helps reinforce why German manufacturing is so highly revered.

Or said another way, why craft is proved by the small things, not just the big.



Why Car Ads Are Killing The Car Category …

I wrote about an old car ad recently, but I recently saw another one that reinforced how far that category of advertising has fallen over the years.

Look at it.

Ridiculous.

Noticeable.

Full of charm and character.

Pretty much sums up the 2CV.

When was the last time you saw a car ad like that?

Hell, when was the last time you saw any car ad that made you give a shit, fullstop?

Sure there’s Wieden’s – and one of my absolute faves – Born of Fire for Chrysler and BBH’s wonderful Audi Clowns … but they are the absolute exception in a World dominated with ‘aspirational lifestyle’ imagery, topped with a bland, meaningless version of Just Do It as an endline.

It’s so sad because cars offer so much more than status and lifestyle.

And yet, that seems to be all car manufacturers want to spout – which is weird for a whole host of reasons.

One is that the future of the category is under severe threat by a generation who not only favour other options, but are increasingly not even bothering to learn to drive.

Second is the World is waking up to the environmental damage cars do and yet the infrastructure for the alternative – electric vehicles – is still insanely poor.

Finally is the fact that companies are actively pushing to lower salaries and full-time staff while increasing zero hour contracts, so who the hell do they think will be able to afford the cars they make anyway?

All in all, the category is crying out for someone who will disrupt the industry.

From ownership to running costs to marketing and everything in-between.

There’s a couple of companies exploring the possibilities … Volvo in particular are being pragmatic in these spaces … but even that might not be enough when the car manufacturers talk to the same [old] people, in the same places, with the same premise.

The last time I saw a long term brand idea for a car manufacturer that genuinely injected freshness and authenticity into the category through their work was Crispin’s ‘Mini’ … and that was back in 2002!!!

So while I hate looking backward and think most of the industries problems are because they are obsessed with ‘progressing’ through the rear view mirror, where car ads are concerned, they might do themselves a favour if they chose reverse gear.



Interactive Print Ads …

Hello. Back again.

Sorry. Ha.

So I was looking through a bunch of old D&AD annuals and one thing that struck me was how brilliant print and outdoor ads once were.

Clear.

Powerful.

Crafted specifically for that medium.

But today, in these over-rational, client-directive days, they’ve become nothing more than brochures for product features.

OK, there’s still some that are fighting for the medium – there’s the McDonald’s work that recently came out of Leo Burnett London [which many people are hating on without realising their arguments often reinforce why they are so good] and Uncommon are using print and billboards in a way that reclaims their glory days – but generally, they’re a shadow of their previous self.

Which is why I like these Tesla ads that have recently come out …

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Clean.

Simple.

Uses the medium to convey a product truth … albeit in a mischievous way.

OK, so if I was being a dick, I could say that any electric car company could do this and their logo is still the most horrific, dated design I’ve seen in a long time … but it makes you smile, embraces the slightly cheeky tone of the brand, reminds people of some benefits they may not realises and doesn’t use the same ‘aspirational lifestyle imagery’ most car brands like to use.

Which makes me think print isn’t dead, it’s our imagination on how to use it that might be.



They Don’t Write Copy Like This Anymore …

… and they should, even if it’s about a terrible football team in an outer suburb.

Have a look at this …

How good is that?

No corporate, bland, fake-aspirational rubbish here … nope, just the sort of language a West Ham supporting, Dagenham-residing away-ground visiting fan would spout to their mates day in and day out.

Hell, it even talks about another brand [Persil], cheating the system, pub crawls, beer, alternative transport, violence and derogatory names for the are they come from. [Dagenham dustbin]

All this in a car ad. It’s amazing.

Given we live in an age where data is supposed to be able to tell us everything we need to know about a specific audience so we can create highly targeted communication just for them, this ad is more targeted than anything I’ve seen recently. And there’s two reasons for that …

The first is they acknowledge the role of the car is to transport people to-and-from locations. They don’t claim – as is the current fashion – that owning that car should be considered the pinnacle of their existence and achievements, it is simply a great way to go on journey’s to destinations where something they love takes place.

Refreshing.

The second is because instead of speaking in current favoured style of ‘corporate faceless brand to generic, middle-of-the-road, mass market audience who all aspire to live the same generic, bland aspirational lifestyle as one another’ … this speaks in the voice of ‘travelling footie fan to travelling footie fan’.

Our industry likes to talk a lot about authenticity, but it seems we have forgotten what that actually means.

This ad works because it speaks in the voice of where the car was [then] made and who [then] made the car.

Dagenham.

A proud, working class town where West Ham football club was the central pillar that fed the dreams, community and escape for the area … which is why even the endline, ‘spirit of the terraces’ is brilliant.

Of course it’s too ‘bloke’ focused and linking driving and drinking is never a smart thing to do – let alone the ‘service station fracas’ but when I – a Nottingham Forest supporting, West Ham hating bloke – see that ad, I feel something … imagine something … and that’s far more than I can say for most car advertising I’m exposed to these days.

And while the Ford Cortina was always designed to be a working class wagon, this ad makes it aspirational.

Not in terms of promising you a faceless, sophisticated life of beige bland … but because it owns who it is and is proud of it.

As I wrote a while back, when you own who you are, not only does it mean no one can own you, but you find you attract rather than have to continually chase.

Given the standard of current Ford ad, maybe they could do with going back to Dagenham.



You Can Do Whatever You Want As Long As It Is What We Want You To Do …

When I first came to London, I signed up for Zip Car.

To be honest, the process was a nightmare, but I thought it would be useful.

Was it?

Well, put it this way, we ended up buying out own car.

I’m sure Zip is useful for many people, but part of the problem for us was that there just weren’t many cars close to where we lived. What this meant was that if we wanted one, we probably would need a taxi to get to-and-from the car, which kind of defeats the purpose.

The reason I am saying this is that I just saw this ad for them on the tube.

While there were many things I found a bit bizarre about the ad – specifically the fact you’re sitting on the tube but it’s telling you to get a taxi – the bit that got me the most was in the body copy, where they say …

“… leave our car wherever you leave your inhibitions”.

And then, via the ever-useful *, they clarify this with the additional …

“… just make sure you leave your inhibitions in the ZipZone”.

So in essence, they’re trying to position themselves as the enabler of the spontaneous spirit but then have terms and conditions that mean you can only live that way if you’ve thought through your actions.

Or said another way, they want you to plan your spontaneity.

Idiots.