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:

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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
TOSSABL
TOSSABL
1 year ago

The old VW ad asking, “What does the snowplow driver drive?”

>as I wrote that , I realized it may have been only print, and the fact that I had a framed page carefully cut from a magazine on my wall for a couple decades may have convinced my brain that it was broadcast. Still love it

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
1 year ago

The Honda Element ad on the beach with the crab. I like to peench.

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
1 year ago

To this day, I still pinch my wife’s bottom and say, “I peench.”

UK2TX2CA
UK2TX2CA
1 year ago

VW Unpimp Your Auto with Peter Stormare saying “Oh Snap”.

BetterThanAverageJoe
BetterThanAverageJoe
1 year ago
Reply to  UK2TX2CA

Exactly what I came to say

Guillaume Maurice
Guillaume Maurice
1 year ago

The Citroën one with Grace Jones.

Brooks Fancher
Brooks Fancher
1 year ago

Fahrvergnugen!

Rollin Hand
Rollin Hand
1 year ago

The one that sticks for me has always been “Have you driven a Fooooooord…late-ly?!?” Of course it was always on an ad for some Godawful malaise-mobile, but it stuck.

The there was the late, great Lee Iacocca telling me “if you can find a better car, buy it.” My car history involves no K-Cars. Of course I knew people with them, and I always told them ” the K stands for Kwality!”

VW dropping a Beetle from a great height to introduce the Corrado was cool.

And every single car ad campaign in “Crazy People” was brilliant.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago
Reply to  Rollin Hand

Along those lines, the most crazy Chrysler ad of all time for my money has to be the one with…Neil Armstrong.

Yep, him. He was hugely publicity-shy for the rest of his life after the landing, but I guess out of a sense of patriotism, he appeared in a ’79 ad that felt more like a ’50s ad – no flash, just a guy in a suit standing there talking about engineering.

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
1 year ago
Reply to  Rollin Hand

“Crazy People”! Yes!

“Volvo: They’re boxy, but they’re good.”

“Jaguar: For wealthy men who like getting handjobs from women they don’t know.”

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
1 year ago

Surprised nobody’s mentioned it yet, but the mid-’90s Nissan 300Z ad with the toys is perhaps one of the best overall single ad packages I’ve ever seen and is completely unforgettable.

Pitch perfect use of Van Halen. You always imagined Barbie’s tastes in men ran to something significantly more masculine than Ken. A wonderful nod to the marque’s founder. And most of all, the idea that sportscars could be pitched as cool and fun instead of edgy and menacing all the time.

Lincoln Clown CaR
Lincoln Clown CaR
1 year ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

I loved all of the Z commercials. Especially when they ended with the typewriter “Z” hitting the screen.

LongCoolLincoln
LongCoolLincoln
1 year ago

In fifth grade, we had a sex ed unit, and at the end we were allowed to submit questions anonymously that we wanted the teacher to answer. Not sure why she didn’t just toss it aside, but she did answer my question: “Have you driven a Ford…lately?” (She had not.)

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago

Joe Isuzu the best one him catching and passing some German dudes in a bmw on the autobahn and them freaking out they cant lose him. Then right beside him toot toot a wsve with a smile then bye bye. and Chevy Like a Rock. Wasnt it oh what a feeling to drive Toyota?

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
1 year ago

The VW “Safe Happens” ads just came to mind too. I remember there was some criticism of how realistic/dramatic they were. They even seemed to poke back at the criticism in one ad where two women were in a VW, talking about the ads, and one of them saying “I think they went too far” before they got t-boned:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pr2RYxnpBlI

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago

Hey was the Ted Kennedy would have been president by now if he drove a VW A real ad or a spoof?

Lokki
Lokki
1 year ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

It was a spoof ad by the Magazine The National Lampoon. Neither the Kennedy family nor Volkswagen were very amused…

“A $30‐million defamation and copyright‐infringement suit by Volkswagen against National Lampoon, a satirical magazine, was settled yesterday [29 October 1973] by an agreement that included a recall of 135,000 copies of a special issue that attempted to spoof Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s 1969 Chappaquiddick accident.

Lawyers for Volkswagenverk and Volkswagen of America, Inc., signed the agreement with counsel for National Lampoon less than a week after the auto maker filed a Federal court suit calling a mock advertisement of a Volkswagen in water “tasteless publication of tragic mishap.”

Here’s a copy of the ad itself:

https://in.thptnganamst.edu.vn/update-42-image-if-ted-kennedy-drove-a-volkswagen/

Last edited 1 year ago by Lokki
Ncbrit
Ncbrit
1 year ago

The absolutely mad and unforgettable Grace Jones Citroen CX ad of course.

Dug Deep
Dug Deep
1 year ago

Not a car ad, but sort of transportation. Ever since I was little I loved the ad where Santa rides a Norelco sleigh. As a result, this middle aged dude has been using one since college.
https://youtu.be/DlZNPjdzTrE

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago
Reply to  Dug Deep

Not just using he was so impressed he bought the company.

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

two words: Toyota Jan

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago

Toyota thon? What is Jan? Where is Marsha?

Data
Data
1 year ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Marsha, Marsha, Marsha.

NebraskaStig
NebraskaStig
1 year ago
Reply to  Mr Sarcastic

Toyota Juan. Someone doesn’t shop for our neighbor’s Hilux deals apparently

Dennis Birtcher
Dennis Birtcher
1 year ago

Since the correct answer (Like a Rock) has already been said, I’ll throw out one the internet seems to have largely forgotten, but has been living in my head the last 25 years.

It’s a late 90’s GM commercial. They’re touting the safety advantages of daytime running lights and how it’s a new thing you’ll be seeing more of or something like that. It ends with exchange:

Guy on the sidewalk, shouting over to a driver: “Hey, you’re lights are on”

Lady driving some sort of GM vehicle: “I know!”

And the guy looks bewildered. That’s not a normal response. This commercial single-handedly set my brain to thinking DRLs are stupid and unnecessary outside of, oh, the Nordic countries or Canada. Fantastic work GM.

Data
Data
1 year ago

I also remember when GM was touting daytime running lights. They had a guy talking about how they made your vehicle more visible. At one point he standing on the road in the shade and he says “I’m the car.” Then there is a jump cut where he is replaced with a car with DRL’s to demonstrate the improved visibility DRL’s provide.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago
Reply to  Data

Maybe the laws should be changed and pedestrians should be required to have running lights 24/7. Because the car doesnt need to be seen the doppy doof on his cellphone walking out in traffic needs this.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
1 year ago

“FUCK YOU BALTIMORE!”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sZuN0xXWLc

Also the stupid Mazda “ZUM ZUM ZUM” marketing crap has also stuck in my head… unfortunately. I remember one year at the Toronto Auto show, the Mazda both had that shit playing LOUD continuously. It must have been driving the people that worked there mad.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago

Screw you! I forgot all about that and you put it back in my head. Lol

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago

I say this as the Grand Poobah of the She-Woman Miata Haters Club: Zoom-Zoom was brilliant. It really set apart Mazda from all the other brands out there and gave it a real identity as a performance brand for those looking for fun.

GO BACK TO THAT, MAZDA.

Dwegmull
Dwegmull
1 year ago

La beauté sauvage !
https://youtu.be/TKNMTAAAUbE

Bob Rolke
Bob Rolke
1 year ago

I miss the Joe Isuzu adds. I don’t know if it was where I was in my life or if they were great, but I can never forget them.

ColoradoFX4
ColoradoFX4
1 year ago
Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
1 year ago

The Nick Drake “Pink Moon” VW Cabrio commercial from… that late 90’s? Pretty sure. Any time I hear that song I think about the Cabrio? This is the only time I ever think about the Cabrio.

Wednesday181
Wednesday181
1 year ago

This was going to be the one I mentioned too. Especially since it came out just as I was finishing up high school and had more interest in going out for long night drives instead of hitting up the party scene. Never had an interest in that car, but the ad has stuck with me for decades. (VW in general had a string of music-based golden commercials around that era too, whoever was doing their campaign work was pumping out the hits.)

Phyrkrakr
Phyrkrakr
1 year ago
Reply to  Wednesday181

Yeah, like that one for the Jetta or the Golf where everything on the street synced up with the tune on the stereo. That one blew me away.

Data
Data
1 year ago
Reply to  Phyrkrakr

If I recall, the artist for the song in that commercial was Master Cylinder.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s_YKU6uTH8Q

Dug Deep
Dug Deep
1 year ago
Reply to  Wednesday181

I think you could actually download the mp3 from the VW website

Carter Young
Carter Young
1 year ago

The National Lampoon spoof print ad:

If Ted Kennedy Drove A Volkswagen, He’d Be President Today.

It floats.
The way our body is built, we’d be surprised if it didn’t.
The sheet of flat steel that goes underneath every Volkswagen keeps out water, as well as dirt and salt and other nasty things that eat away at the underside of a car. So it’s watertight at the bottom.
And everybody knows it’s easier to shut the door on a Volkswagen after you’ve rolled down the window a little. That proves it’s practically airtight on top.
If it was a boat, we could call it the Water Bug. But it’s not a boat, it’s a car.
And, like Mary Jo Kopechne, it’s only 99 and 44/100 percent pure.
So it won’t stay afloat forever. Just long enough.
Poor Teddy.
If he’d been smart enough to buy a Volkswagen, he’d never would have gotten into hot water.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
1 year ago
Reply to  Carter Young

I remembered the ad couldn’t remember ad or spoof. I guess the honesty and correctness should have told me spoof.

JumboG
JumboG
1 year ago
Reply to  Carter Young

If it were a boat, they would call it the Schwimmwagen. Because they did.

Shooting Brake
Shooting Brake
1 year ago
EXL500
EXL500
1 year ago
Reply to  Shooting Brake

I learned to drive on a 1968 Rebel 660 2-door. Handsome car, but a beast with power nothing.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago

It’s the First Chevy of the Eighties! It’s the first Chevy of it’s kind! Come into your Chevy dealer for a Citation demonstration

Also, slightly off topic, does anyone remember a Toyota What a Feeling ad that had an extended version of the song, with the full model lineup featured? I recall it having an actor portraying Mr. Scrooge interested in the Corolla Tercel because of its miserly fuel economy, and also a bunch of body builders lifting the car’s front up to show off the FWD or something. Doesn’t seem to be on the Internet, and I’m not currently on pills, so I’m pretty sure it existed.

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
1 year ago

Zoom, zoom, zoom…. Yeah zoom zoom zoom

Edit: and the one I referenced today – Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet!

Last edited 1 year ago by Mark Tucker
Carguy2219
Carguy2219
1 year ago

Mooy Akelia Moo Moo…behold the Isuzu Pup, about five dollars (He’s lying).

The Joe Isuzu commercials still stick with me after all these years.

BlueBlurr1565
BlueBlurr1565
1 year ago

When I can’t sleep, it’s because I can’t stop thinking about what the guy in the Dodge Magnum commercial would be doing with an amp, guitar, surfboard, ladder, and twelve 2×4’s.

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