Hansy Mannil Jul 10, 2023

In 2011, the most expensive car ad of all time was produced at a cost of more than $12 million. Yet even that was just a fraction of the $22 billion car manufacturers spent on advertising in 2015 (that's almost double the GDP of Jamaica!).

With that kind of money, it's no surprise car companies have created some of the most memorable ads ever made. But not all car ads are memorable for the right reasons.

From epic, two-minute masterpieces to the ad for the worst selling car of all time;

Enjoy this look back at car ads we can't forget!

The Most Expensive Ad

Chrysler's 'Imported from Detroit' (2011)

It's enough to get you feeling sentimental about the city you didn't grow up in.

Gritty yet eminent (Eminem-ent?), witness The Motor City's favourite child telling the world that Chrysler was still a symbol of American industry and home-grown luxury.

It was a risk - an expensive risk - but this ad was the risk that Chrysler bet much of its future on.

So did it pay off?

If exposure and eyeballs were the goal, then Chrysler got what it paid for.

Airing during the Super Bowl – in the company of the ad world's best and brightest – Chrysler managed to come out the clear winner of the year. Immediately following the ads screening, there was a 267% increase in traffic to the Chrysler website and Chrysler 200 was the second most searched term on Google.

The total cost of the ad: $12 million.

The Ad For The Worst-Selling Car Of All Time

Ford's 'Edsel' (1958)

It looks pretty cool, but selling only 2,848 cars in 1960, the Ford Edsel goes down in history as one of the world's worst selling cars of all time.

So was it a bad ad, or just a bad car?

There's nothing particularly bad about how Ford chose to market its Edsel. The devil was, as it so often is, in the details.

The Edsel required premium fuel in a time of economic recession. Further compounding its woes, Ford Edsel's were being shipped out to customers before they'd been properly finished on the assembly line. The Edsel was in trouble from the start.

After three facelifts and over $400m invested in the car (roughly $4b in this day and age) garnered only 110,000 cars sold worldwide, Ford threw in the towel and the Edsel became a moment in time the brand would rather forget.

However with only 6,000 Edsel's in existence today, they can go for as much as $100,000. So you might say the unsellable car had the last laugh.

The World's First Ever Car Ad

Winton Motor Carriage Company (1898)

How do you sell something that hasn't existed until now?

The fact that travel no longer required an equine engine was the ultimate selling point for The Winton Motor Carriage.

The ad had everything a modern car ad has today; low mileage costs to spruik, lightning-fast speed, and a picture of the driver with a good-looking lady on his arm.

The 606-Take Ad

Honda's 'Cog' (2006)

There are few ads as enthralling from the first second to the last as Honda's 'Cog' advertisement.

Honda threw the norms of car advertising out the window when, in 2003, it produced the now-famous 120-second long commercial to promote the seventh-generation Accord series of cars.

Director Antoine Bardou-Jacquet opted to use as few computer enhancements as possible, resulting in a monumental 606 takes over four days of filming.

The final result: a classic in the annals of car commercial history.

Isn't it nice when advertising just works?

The Unapproved Ad

Definitely not VW's 'Terrorist Polo' (2005)

If we're talking famous car commercials, we have to acknowledge the infamous among them.

The tagline?

'Polo. Small but tough'.

The creative vision?

A 'terrorist' drives a Volkswagen Polo to a busy street and detonates a bomb that is strapped to his chest. To no great effect outside the car, of course, as the Polo is…

Ah yes. Small but tough.

Get it?

It's low-brow, at best, but there's no disputing it was impactful.

The story goes it was created 'on spec' by a pair of young ad executives hoping to gain a little traction with an engaging concept.

VW were outraged, and immediately made attempts to distance the brand from the piece, but it was too late - the video had gone viral.

For all its notoriety, the video is a reflection of the new media landscape in which brands like VW were challenged to manage their public image.

The 'Own Your Reputation' Ad

Volvo's 'Bloody Volvo Driver' series (2003)

In a bold move initiated by then-Volvo Managing Director, Matt Braid, the brand revitalised their image in Australia with the iconic 'Bloody Volvo Driver' series of advertisements.

Before 2003, a 'Volvo driver' was the quick characterisation of any erratic, dangerous or generally bad driver. People in Volvos were especially culpable, but the label really worked for anyone who was displeasing their fellow motorists.

The commercial took the phrase straight from the Australian vernacular and into their 2003 campaign series. Some ads were simply about owning the phrase, while others showcased the vehicle's features, inviting the public to 'Become a bloody Volvo driver'.

After the ad aired, the number of people considering buying a Volvo rose from 22% to 34%, and sales increased by 31.7% on the previous year.

Suddenly, it wasn't so bad to be a 'bloody Volvo driver'. Only in Australia.

The Most Inappropriate

VW's 'Sooner or Later' (1964)

1960's advertising. Sexist. Crude. History.

'Nuff said.

Thanks Don Draper.

If a car commercial has got your heart set on a new set of wheels (or a classic, older set of wheels), let us help you find a great deal on finance. Call 1300 STRATTON (1300 787 288) or get an online quote and we'll work on making it yours!

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