Neil Christie writes:
Because of our work for Honda, Campaign magazine asked me to write a few words for a piece about the decline of car advertising. "Battered by a drawn-out drop in demand and reputation-obliterating scandals, the car industry has understandably lost its swagger," they said. John Townshend of Now wrote the main piece in the article, which appears in this week's issue. Here's my small sidebar:
Creative advertising as we knew it in the 20th century arguably originated with the classic DDB campaign for Volkswagen that began in the 1950s. It was witty, knowing, understated and highly effective. It raised our expectations for what car advertising could be and set a standard to which many sophisticated marketers aspired for the next fifty years.
In recent years, the European car industry has been through some challenging times. Declining sales, decreased budgets and increasingly centralised control have conspired to produce increasingly bland and conservative marketing. Even the VW badge has been tarnished by emissions scandals.
Crap, generic car campaigns have always been with us. But there used to be more of the glorious exceptions that captured the public’s imagination, built brands and sold cars: ‘The ultimate driving machine’, ‘Vorsprung durch technik’, “If only everything in life was as reliable’ and even, yes, ‘Papa? Nicole.’
New car sales have recently started to return to the levels reached prior to the financial crisis of 2008. The factors behind this recovery are economic – no-one’s claiming it’s due to brilliant marketing. It remains to be seen whether healthier sales will encourage a renaissance for marketing excellence.