Home » What Car Advertising Campaigns Have Stuck With You (For Better or Worse)?

What Car Advertising Campaigns Have Stuck With You (For Better or Worse)?

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Back in the pre-internet days, when television and print ads were king, car manufacturers (or more accurately, their ad agencies) worked tirelessly to develop campaigns that would stick with potential customers by relentlessly pummeling them with relevant slogans, jingles, and tag lines. It worked: Many of us find ourselves recalling long-defunct commercial themes without even trying, and surely we’ve all dropped car-ad catchphrases as pop-culture references a time or two. Oh what a feeling, Toyota, anyone? Or maybe it was a high-concept presentation that did the trick. Ford really went in for this type of thing, with insane truck demonstrations and stunts like the Tempo loop.

Coordinated marketing is still very much a thing, of course, but the brain-searing effect is blunted by the mind-boggling number of platforms and channels and personalities we consume media from – not to mention the ability to skip ads entirely when we do encounter them. So we expect you’ll respond with oldies for this edition of Autopian Asks, wherein we query you thusly:

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

What car advertising campaigns have stuck with you (for better or worse)?

Also, have any commercials and/or ads ever influenced your buying decision? Consciously, that is– who knows what kind of subliminal hijinks are going on!

To the comments!

[Editor’s Note: For me, it’s gotta be the Ford Commercials showing F-Series machines carrying and towing the competition up a boulder-hill (Peter alluded to these in his lede):

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I just haven’t been able to get that image out of my head for over a decade! -DT]. 

Autopian Answers Transp

Yesterday we asked for your feedback on car-feature subscriptions, and lot of you are not fans. Surprise level: zero. However, mature adults that you are, concessions were readily made for the idea that some updatable features do require time and expense to be updated by the manufacturer, and thus a subscription plan for a reasonable fee makes sense. But paying to turn on physical components already in the car? Do Not Want.

ExParrot nails it quite succinctly:

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Hardware should never be a subscription, unless it too is regularly changed out.
In short, if I’m going to continually pay a subscription, the manufacturer should be continually incurring cost for the service that is provided.

Or, if you prefer a little more color, Granulated MC is less restrained. GTFO indeed!

Software is expensive to write. Paying something after I bought the car for a new application running on the same hardware is fair … [but] paying to activate equipment that’s already in the car and completely disabled until I subscribe? GTFOtta here. That’s 100% profiteering. The hardware is there. You paid for it. Charging me extra for something you disabled because you can is a protection racket.

Ruivo will not haul your junk, you hear that manufacturers?!

Don’t paywall stuff that I can’t remove, change, or use an alternative. Want to charge me for the equivalent of an ECU remap? Open that platform to competitors, so I can have a choice. Charge me for heated seats? Allow me to remove your hardware – or, better yet, allow me to operate the thing myself. If I have the hardware on my car, that I paid for, but I’m not allowed to use it, it isn’t really mine, it is the manufacturer’s – so please collect your junk, I don’t want to haul it around.

All you responses were and are great, of course. Keep ’em coming! And special extra thanks to Members! If you haven’t joined yet, please consider becoming an official Autopian Member today.

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Mercedes Streeter
Mercedes Streeter
1 year ago

I have this ad stuck in my head, so now I’m forcing it on all of you:

GET ON YOUR PONTIAC AND RIIIIIIIIIIDE!!!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h__l_HLlN5g

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
1 year ago

They should be ashamed of themselves for putting that generation LeMans in that ad. The only excitement that car would generate would be when you floored it at the start of the on ramp, and you studied the traffic you were about to merge into, then just started praying.

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
1 year ago

Love it! That’s awesome…I miss Pontiac!!!

It'll buff out
It'll buff out
1 year ago

I remember this ad from back in the day. Brings back memories of my ’89 Firebird Formula. Red, 5 speed manual, T-Tops and 305 screaming cubic inches of throttle body fuel injected mayhem. With the exception of the Mustang GT (and the Camaro version), it really was the only mainstream “performance” car you could buy, back then. I mean it made, like 140 hp, and would actually smoke a tire. That was pretty bad ass, for a new car in the mid 80s….I had no idea that there was an actual 3 minute long song.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago

Pontiac had some real bangers. I grew up in the “wider is better” era, haha. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWYpv4jDSjk

Last edited 1 year ago by Stef Schrader
Idiot_with_a_garage
Idiot_with_a_garage
1 year ago

The Mk5 VW Gti commercials where the german engineers “un-pimp” cars.

Bucko
Bucko
1 year ago

I came here to add this one. Unpimp Your Auto
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1MNEqCr748

Jason Douglas
Jason Douglas
1 year ago

Yes, Peter Stormare was fantastic in those. I remember the commercials because of him for than for VW.

Leroy Brown
Leroy Brown
1 year ago

2012 Chevrolet Apocalypse Super Bowl Commercial

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5p7gci569hc

Eduardo Silva
Eduardo Silva
1 year ago

This absolute classic from Brazilian Fiat, with the catchiest song ever put on a car ad. It is such a classic that people are actually AI upscaling it for modern times:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dm0ytuBj1ac

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago
Reply to  Eduardo Silva

Okay what the fuck youtube? I have to watch a commercial before i get to watch a commercial? That is seriously messed up. Also ax is in Spanish so the song sucked and i couldnt understand a word.

Chris D
Chris D
1 year ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Not Spanish, it’s in Portuguese. (You couldn’t understand “Fool around… by the sea!” ??)

Chronometric
Chronometric
1 year ago

Zoom Zoom.

CatMan
CatMan
1 year ago

Canyonero!

Can you name the truck with four wheel drive, Smells like a steak and seats thirty five? Canyonero! Canyonero! Well, it goes real slow with the hammer down, It’s the country-fried truck endorsed by a clown, Canyonero! Canyonero!

The Simpsons – Canyonero – YouTube

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago
Reply to  CatMan

Unexplained fires are a matter for the courts. Canyon-ero!

Drew
Drew
1 year ago
Reply to  CatMan

Every three row SUV is a Canyonero to me and probably always will be. Most of my friends get the reference, so they just let me use that to refer to their Explorers or whatever.

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
1 year ago

Good memorable: Any early 00s Mitsubishi ads.

Indifferent memorable: Though I was young I do remember the Toyota “Everyday People” campaign. That tune would have been amusing to splice over the video of the dealership employees fighting a couple weeks ago.

Bad memorable: Buick having the same Matt & Kim song in the background for years. Do something different already! Really it’s not as much the song’s fault, it’s just the cherry on top for the overly frequent ads and the annoying cheeky attempt at humor.

Does product placement count? IIRC New Girl had lines written in the script about Fords they were in that was pretty cringey. I never watched Bones but I think there was a similar thing with the Prius.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
1 year ago

If I recall, New Girl spent some time trying to sell the Flex, which Ford was I suppose trying to sell to young people that liked being the designated driver? Instead of marketing it to families? Pretty weird.

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
1 year ago

I do think Schmidt had a Flex at one point, which seemed a little out of place but whatever. The most egregious one was an episode that might have aired after the Super Bowl where they went to a party or something and were talking about the Fusion Hybrid they were in. That was my first exposure to the show really and might have delayed my actually watching it for a bit.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago

I like when a show’s pilot doesn’t have any sponsors, so characters drive whatever, but then by the time it gets picked up and there’s a second episode, everyone jarringly has new cars.

The Hawaii 5-0 reboot memorably did this. McGarrett’s Mustang suddenly changes to a Camaro, his old Mercury Parklane Brougham (supposedly his dad’s old car, the same model the original McGarrett drove) is downplayed, and every other cast member is driving brand-new Chevys.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Sorry the awesome show Eureka was without a doubt the show with the most plugs, placements etc so much so it was campy. Like Star Trek with product placement

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 year ago

Terminator III had serious Toyota product placement. The female terminator steals a Lexus SC430 and gets pulled over with “hey you in the Lexus,” and the good guys drive the crap out of an unbreakable Tacoma.

Duke of Kent
Duke of Kent
1 year ago

This isn’t a “campaign” — just a single ad spot. And it’s not an earworm like many commercials. But it’s meaningful to me, and as auto enthusiasts, I think it’ll resonate with many here as well. It’s an old Mercedes Benz commercial that’s comprised of photos of people posing with their cars over the decades. It ends with the simple tagline: “No one ever poses with their toaster.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJ_euljNc38

It really emphasizes the special place cars have in our hearts. They’re not just machines. They’re more than that.

DubblewhopperInDubblejeopardy
DubblewhopperInDubblejeopardy
1 year ago

“It’s Back, Big is back, because bigger is better, 6000 SUX, an American tradition….”

8.2 MPG

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago

But does it come with a Blaupunkt?

Data
Data
1 year ago

I’D BUY THAT FOR A DOLLAR!

Jason Douglas
Jason Douglas
1 year ago

Something with reclining leather seats, that goes really fast, and gets really shitty gas mileage!

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago

Who would have a sucks model?

EXL500
EXL500
1 year ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

As a second vehicle to their TRD?

Sklooner
Sklooner
1 year ago

The Trunk Monkey

Emil Minty
Emil Minty
1 year ago

Until Ferrari builds a wagon . . . (And then that happened, and now an SUV).

I dug the commercials, and my mom had a 740 turbo wagon, so it all came together.

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=457766575920663

Last edited 1 year ago by Emil Minty
FloridaNative
FloridaNative
1 year ago
Reply to  Emil Minty

The Volvo one I liked was a print ad featuring a Lamborghini Countach towing a moving trailer compared with a Volvo wagon.

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_leoGYAeiH44/SqB-9n91RMI/AAAAAAAAG7Q/k2oWUbVypWI/s1600-h/volvo+lamborghini+ad.png

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
1 year ago

Only Mustang Makes It Happen from 1968. Also Ford racing jingle. “When was the last time, you drove the kind of car that brings the road alive?” Find them on YouTube. Try to get them out of your head.

Ben
Ben
1 year ago

How is David old enough to remember an ad from 1985? I’m a fair amount older than him and I’d never seen it before.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago
Reply to  Ben

Hell i was 22 what are you trying to say? But we can watch stuff on tv that was taped even before we were born.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago

We Build Excitement…Pontiac.

An ’80s classic: lots of neon, always synth/guitar music, urban night shots with reflections from standing water, and usually black with red accents cars.

The Michael Mann aesthetic applied to a car company. Coooool.

Last edited 1 year ago by Jack Trade
Luxobarge
Luxobarge
1 year ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Peak ’80s.

Citrus
Citrus
1 year ago

The Plymouth Turismo Duster cocaine factory ad has possibly the catchiest song ever written referencing an ’80s Chrysler and this is a category with “If I had $1,000,000” in it.

Citrus
Citrus
1 year ago
Reply to  Citrus
Chronometric
Chronometric
1 year ago
Reply to  Citrus

That is some peak 80s shit right there.

Bizness Comma Nunya
Bizness Comma Nunya
1 year ago
Reply to  Citrus

hahahah “cocaine factory”… that’s pretty accurate. I’ve never seen this before, and now I will never forget it.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago

Me either but now I love it. And a time when it was normal to show people in cars with manual transmissions no less.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago
Reply to  Citrus

Hey dress up guys in the female outfits and you got the next bud light comnercial.

Boulevard_Yachtsman
Boulevard_Yachtsman
1 year ago
Reply to  Citrus

That was amazing – thanks for sharing! I can’t believe I never saw it. My first “real” car was an ’85 Turismo Duster, and I can emphatically say that sport-look K-car did not live up anywhere near to the promise of this add. It was in fact, glacially slow, and shit broke on it weekly. At least this appeared to be manual version. Mine had the three-speed auto. Out of the 70+ cars I’ve owned, it’s still one of my least-favorite. It’s replacement was a ’79 Volare Duster with a slant-six, and it was a massive improvement on the ’85.

Chris Stevenson
Chris Stevenson
1 year ago

Taurus! For us! Have you driven a Ford lately? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFzqZxGcNHI

Also, it wasn’t a whole campaign, but I love the VW Pink Moon ad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-kqUkZnDcM

Data
Data
1 year ago

Yes, the VW Milky Way ad featuring Nick Drake’s Pink Moon is perfection.

VW’s ad agency was really firing on all cylinders during that time. Amusing commercials featuring the New Beetle or one for the Jetta where the music synch’s up with everything happening around the car as a couple drives through town.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
1 year ago

Yes, there for a while in the early 00’s there was a trend across OEMs to have car commercials with very good music in them. In those heady Napster/Kazaa days, I even had a folder in my music downloads library labeled ‘car commercial music’. Pink Moon was in there, as well as ‘horn dog’ by Overseer (Mitsubishi commercial) – and I know there were more besides that I’m now forgetting.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

I still feel weird if that “Without You” song comes on in the Lancer. It’s a banger! But it’s THE dancing in the Eclipse song, and it just feels a little too on the nose.

OnlyFlans
OnlyFlans
1 year ago

The Honda “faces” commercials. It creeped me out then, and still creeps me out now, mostly because it looks like something AI generated but years ahead of it’s time:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SyJowlA0eOU

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 year ago

My Three Sons Chevrolet ads. Bizarre and on the tube.

Data
Data
1 year ago

Chevy, Chevy, Astro, Astro

An Acura commercial showing an Integra on an orange Hot Wheels track. Not since Hot Wheel have cars been this much fun. Track sold separately.

As mentioned in the article, the Oh what a feeling Toyota and Ford trucks towing anything and everything up a mountain.

Joe Isuzu. I drove this up here.

Data
Data
1 year ago
Reply to  Data

OH and the VW “Milky Way” Commercial. It was perfect.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPBrN3qJGqs

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
1 year ago
Reply to  Data

Joe Isuzu!

You, my friend, are more than welcome on my lawn.

Anthony Magagnoli
Anthony Magagnoli
1 year ago

A print ad for the Porsche Boxster that said, “The more kids you have, the more practical it becomes”.
I now own a 981 Boxster S. Not specifically due to this ad, but it did always stick with me (for ~20 years!).

Evan Donahue
Evan Donahue
1 year ago

Dogs. Love. Trucks.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago
Reply to  Evan Donahue

oh my gosh, YES

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
1 year ago

Joe Isuzu, end of story

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 year ago

FORD has a better idea. (show light bulb in ad copy)

Paul B
Paul B
1 year ago

Not for a car, but for a dealer here in Montreal:

Two-Five! Two-Five! We have a winner!

You need to be old to remember it.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul B

Oh, gosh—if local dealerships count, count me in as an ABSOLUTE HATER of the Scott Elder ads here. It went from being a sketchy buy-here-pay-here kind of lot to being the only local Mitsu franchise left, and I still have not done business there because the commercials are just too damn irritating. They’re all Scott Elder yelling. They’re frequent as hell. They’re not even original—I think there’s a John Oliver segment about scripts that dealerships use all over the place for ads—Scott Elder’s yelling voice is just uniquely grating. I hate them so much. I need Mitsubishi parts, too! The Lancer is not immune to problems! It’s a 13-year-old car now! But I would rather order offline or from another dealership than bother with Elder. The commercials are THAT annoying.

The only thing that comes close in sheer throw-my-radio-into-the-lake irritation are the parody Dubya/Bill Clinton radio scripts that dealerships use en masse. Talk about dead memes. Those parodies are so dead Elon Musk won’t even retweet ’em.

On the bizarrely memorable but endearing side, there was also a weird one that ran when I lived in Wichita Falls that tried to do a take on the Budweiser frog ads. In practice, it was four dudes in frog (…maybe even Ninja Turtle?) masks individually saying “Four” “Star” “Auto” “Mall” in kind of a low, ribbity voice. It was so low-rent, low-effort and corny that it was weirdly great. It became a running joke in my family for a little while. If anyone could find that commercial from the mid-’90s, gosh, they’d be my hero right about now.

V10omous
V10omous
1 year ago

LIIIIIIKE A ROCCCCKKKK…..OOOHHHHHH LIKE A ROCK

Steve
Steve
1 year ago
Reply to  V10omous

That was the first thing that came to mind for me. K1500 bouncing around all over some boulders and then through a construction site.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve

And getting ca. 22 tons of sand dumped in the bed from 50 ft in the air, with the camera cutting just in time so you don’t see that the truck was totally crushed and totalled

NewBalanceExtraWide
NewBalanceExtraWide
1 year ago
Reply to  V10omous

I keep seeing a current ad in the same vein where a woman sings about having a heart like a truck… Such a weird image. It reminds me of when there was a song that was apparently about a guy singing to a woman having a body like a back road, but I always heard it as “a body like a backhoe”

Detroit-Lightning
Detroit-Lightning
1 year ago
Reply to  V10omous

100%

Chronometric
Chronometric
1 year ago
Reply to  V10omous

The film shot across the front of the truck has the absolute perfect amount of vibration, like a massive weight that is just slightly perturbed by the chaos around it. Kudos to the videographer.

FloridaNative
FloridaNative
1 year ago
Reply to  V10omous

First one that came to my mind as well.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago
Reply to  V10omous

I can’t think about it without thinking of the “Arrested Development” take on it. “Solid as a rock!”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9v3sAck-QQ

(…the joke being that it sounds like “Iraq” and the family biz did business with Saddam Hussein, oof.)

NewBalanceExtraWide
NewBalanceExtraWide
1 year ago

For me, it is the longevity of Toyota’s Jan. Laurel Coppock really scored a great role here- she’s a comedic actress who is now forever the face of Toyota. I have this weird pattern recognition glitch that makes me recognize commercial actors way too often, and when they are integrated into a long-lived character, it’s kind of amazing. Yeah, Progressive’s Flo is a more realized example, but Jan just won’t go quietly into the night, no matter what.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
1 year ago

There’s a whole cadre of Flos/Jans out there. “Lily” from AT&T is the obvious one, but also the whacky Wendy’s crew featuring yet another dark brunette. And now Flo has a whole entourage of fellow apron-wearers like “Jamie” and “Mara”.
Don’t even get me started on “Doug”, who I’d beat up instantly just for being so damned annoying.

NewBalanceExtraWide
NewBalanceExtraWide
1 year ago

I held hope that the ad execs would make Mara the sarcastic voice of Progressive, burnt out and shitting on every positive insurance message. Maybe someday we’ll get Dark Mara spreading dystopian advertising across the airwaves.

The Artist Formerly Known as the Uncouth Sloth
The Artist Formerly Known as the Uncouth Sloth
1 year ago

I thought Mara already was Dark Mara?

Data
Data
1 year ago

Are we talking about Emu and Doug? Liberty Liberty Liberty…

Chris with bad opinions
Chris with bad opinions
1 year ago
Reply to  Data

Or, as I maturely call them: Limu Emu and Douche.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago

Ugh, Flo is so annoying. I can’t even pinpoint why. Overuse, maybe? That’s one of the most annoying parts.

The Artist Formerly Known as the Uncouth Sloth
The Artist Formerly Known as the Uncouth Sloth
1 year ago

that’s my kink. Hand me your keys, Laurel/Jan.

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