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The Top 10 Best Car Ads Ever

October 9, 2013

When it comes to adverts, car companies tend to lead the field. This isn’t surprising, given the amount of money the big manufacturers have to play around with and the fierce level of competition between the different brands. But with so many different car ads being thrown at us day-in-day-out, it can be easy for individual adverts to get lost in the noise. That’s why the very best car ads usually do things a little differently – do things to make themselves stand out. That’s what separates your run of the mill commercials from the best car ads of all time, for example:

Mazda: Zoom-Zoom

Brilliantly catchy, or annoying as hell? Either way the phrase “zoom-zoom”, which according to Mazda describes “the emotion of motion”, and the accompanying song “Zoom Zoom Zoom” quickly made its mark on the public consciousness when this ad launched in 2001. So successful has the slogan been that Mazda is still making use of it today, over a decade later.

Honda Accord: The Cog

Many of the most popular adverts have only the most tenuous link to the products they advertise. With a product as well-known as the Honda Accord, this isn’t necessarily a problem. The company’s 2003 advert ‘The Cog’ takes the idea of the sort of reliable, precision engineering Honda is known for and chooses to represent this through a Rube Goldberg style contraption. Seemingly made from the parts of a disassembled Accord, the contraption works to ultimately unveil the latest version of the iconic model, all ending with the tagline: “Isn’t it nice when things just work?”

Skoda Fabia: Cake

What does the Skoda Fabia have to do with cake? Well, not a lot really – but that didn’t stop the company basing this 2007 commercial around the idea of a team building a life-size replica of the last Fabia out of cake. Being honest, the concept doesn’t necessarily make the most sense, hanging as it does on the tagline “The new Fabia. Full of lovely stuff.” but it does display the sense of fun Skoda are known for in their adverts, and is certainly one of the more memorable efforts of recent years.

Chrysler 200: Eminem

In 2011 Chrysler took it upon themselves not just to advertise their company and its latest car, the Chrysler 200, but also to rehabilitate the image of an entire city − Detroit, the faded home of the American automotive industry. The advert stands out for its strong narration, powerful themes and, of course, the presence of Eminem who both stars in the advert and provides the background music.

Volkswagen Passat: The Force

In 2011 Volkswagen gave us possibly the sweetest and funniest car advert of all time. A child dressed as Darth Vader attempts to use the Force to manipulate various things, including a bowl of cereal and the family dog, only to fail each time, to the child’s evident and increasing disappointment. Finally, the miniature Dark Lord of the Sith attempts to use the Force on the Volkswagen Passat sitting on the drive and is rewarded with the lights flashing on, thanks to the remote control in Dad’s hand.

Audi: The Challenge

For years Audi has emblazoned its marketing with the phrase “Vorsprung durch Technik” meaning “advancement through technology”. That ethos makes a connection with science fiction obvious and inevitable. And who better to represent science fiction than Spock? And what’s better than Spock? Why, two Spocks, of course! Thus, 2013 gave us ‘The Challenge’ where, while cleverly avoiding any kind of copyright infringement, “old Spock” Leonard Nimoy and “new Spock” Zachary Quinto face-off in a race to the golf club, Nimoy struggling to make the journey in a Mercedes-Benz while Quinto breezes along in the new hi-tech Audi S7.

Citroen C4: Dancing Robot

A Citroen C4 turns into a robot, dances to some techno, then transforms back into a car. Blatant Transformers rip-off aside, there’s not much else going on here in this advert from 2005, but it remains a perennial favourite with viewers due to its simple sense of fun. After all, how many of us wouldn’t like to think that our humble car is secretly a Transformer?

Mercedes-Benz: “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me…”

When Janis Joplin recorded “Mercedes-Benz” in 1970, just a few days before her death, it was only a matter of time before the company would use the song for an advert. Surprising, then, that it took a whole 25 years before this happened, in 1995. The very simple arrangement, with various people giving lines of the song the a cappella treatment, gives the ad an almost hymn-like atmosphere.

Mercedes E55: The Beast

How better to represent the raw power of the Mercedes-Benz E55 than by having the engine transform into a literal beast which escapes the car and terrorises a woman in her home, while her husband shaves and brushes his teeth obliviously upstairs? This advert from 2008 sees the women fight off “the beast” and drive it back into the car, just in time for the carefree husband to wander into the garage and drive off. It’s a little hard to decide whether this ad is pro- or anti-feminism, but it’s certainly an innovative way to convey the power and excitement of a new car.

Nissan 300ZX: Toys

Let’s face it, Nissan aren’t the sexiest of manufacturers. Unless, apparently, you’re Barbie. This amusing advert from 1997 tells the story of an Action Man who takes his toy version of the Nissan 300ZX out for a spin to Barbie’s Dream Mansion, picks up the plastic babe and drives off while the cuckolded Ken looks on in horrified frustration. Dubious moral message about the sex life of toys aside, this ad does one thing perfectly − it makes the Nissan sports car look fun.

If we’re being honest, few of these adverts tell us anything directly about the cars featured in them, but that’s hardly the point. The intention is to make us smile, make us laugh, plug that tagline and, most importantly, get that ad under our skin and in the back of our heads.

Ultimately, the best car adverts are the ones which are so entertaining that they make us forget someone is trying to sell us something. On that count, all of these ads succeed brilliantly.

About The Author

Jon Le Roux is co-founder and company director of The Car Loan Warehouse. Being a mad engineering and motorsport enthusiast, I spend more hours than is healthy, watching, reading or talking about cars, boats, motorbikes…..basically anything with an engine.