Both these ads stand out from the pack because they’re short, funny, and have minimal dialogue, which makes them easy to follow and easy to broadcast globally. But that got me thinking — what are some of the best car ads ever made?
#1: Porsche 911 Carrera, 2008
My all-time favorite ad has got to be this one from Porsche. It’s actually more of a small infomercial since it lasts a full three minutes, which is one of my favorite parts about the ad — it takes its time, builds a story, and completely takes you back in time — to your childhood when you first started fantasizing about your dream cars.
The ad is super effective because it connects with you as if you are looking at your own story. From a marketing standpoint, this nostalgia is a brilliant tactic since the target audience for Porsches are the wealthy, most of whom are retired. What better way to capture their attention than to remind them of their lifelong dreams?
#2: Honda’s “Cog”, 2003
My second, all-time favorite comes from Honda, back from 2003 and is titled “Cog”. This ad feels computer-generated till you learn that it is 100% real and came together in two cuts after much experimentation and planning. I am fascinated by the sheer audacity of the undertaking which take us inside the car, unlike ever before. The complexity of the ad aptly represents not just how complex a car is but also the engineering and creative spirit of Honda.
And once again, there is dialogue only at the very end which let this ad go viral worldwide and win pretty much every marketing award of its time.
#3: Forza Motorsport’s “Filmspeed”, 2013
I found my final favorite at a talk, hosted at Stanford, by Jeff Zwart. If you Google that name, you will see that he has directed some famous car ads including this one, an ad that’s not about a particular car but about a racing game on the Xbox called Forza.
What I find amusing is how they bring a video game to life in the real world by driving a car on a race-track instead of the other way around.
The attention to detail is mind-boggling though. The ad involved setting up 680 screenshots of the game at the edge of a racetrack. They anchored sandbags at the base of each poster to keep it from moving about in the wind and they had to be black to minimize visibility. A driver then raced past them in a McLaren MP4-12C, at a high speed and at a maintained distance to match the camera’s frame-rate of 30 frames per second with the number of posters going by — so the video could come to life. Hence the name, “Filmspeed”. And let’s not forget the recording car racing in parallel with the McLaren to shoot the actual ad. An epic ad even if you’re not into cars!
Inspired by some of these classics, we produced an ad that we’re really proud of as well. We hope it inspires you to get out there and own the adventure!