Growing up, I thought car commercials were the worst.
They were on all the time and I found it extremely annoying to have something I could not even legally do constantly advertised to me.
The commercials were also rather boring and featured the car driving around on some non-descript road or desert really fast and turning with reckless abandon.
Pretty compelling stuff, amiright?
Wrong. Those were trash.
At the basis of these advertisements was one simple message: Hey, look how fun this car is to drive! Look how shiny it is! Look at these buttons dammit!!!
But today, the messaging in car commercials has shifted drastically. Rather than focusing on the car itself, there are tons of automobile companies who are now pushing the idea that a car isn’t what you’re buying. Instead, you’re buying where that car will take you.
In other words, the car is now a means to an end.
Let’s take Honda’s recent ad, the #300ftChallenge with Chris Burkard, as an example.
Okay, so I know this TV spot has a bit of a “we live in a society” kinda thing to it, but 300 feet is actually quite shocking.
And the message here is totally different than those older commercials we saw. Here, the ad and Burkard himself are saying, hey, look where this car can take you. What great feats can you accomplish in your new Honda?
As you’ll see, this is far from the only car commercial within the last few years that has really pushed on this idea.
So, what gives with this shift?
Well, the answer is pretty simple: Younger car buyers, specifically millennials, care more about experiences than possessions.
In fact, a study back in 2016 from the Harris Group found that 72% of millennials would prefer to open their wallet for an experience than on a material thing.
72%!!!!! That’s insane!!!
And there is no doubt that this preference for experiences over things has made its way into the automobile industry.
So, there you have it. It may just be as simple as that. If you really want to strike a chord with the millennial market, figure out how to sell them on the experience of your product.
Yes, that may be a bit of a generalization, but this isn’t a market research paper so I say one source of data is enough.
Let’s take a look at some other car companies that are trying to grab millennial’s attention with their recent ads.
Call of the Road – Subaru Forester (2019)
Subaru is definitely one of the earliest adopters of the ‘experience’ messaging platform.
In this commercial, they actually bring attention to the fact that a car is a thing — with the wife asking, “Well now what the hell do we do with this expensive vehicle we just bought that just sits there in the driveway?” (loosely quoted).
“How about a bigger dog?” the husband responds. Because you know, millennials f*cking love dogs.
“Road trip,” she says back. Because you know, millennials f*cking love road trips.
Why not both?!
And off they go — with their, now, two dogs — on an excursion that features hiking, camping, woods, and hot chili.
Overall message: Get a Subura and you’ll have the trip of a lifetime.
Dream Bigger – Mazda (2019)
In this spot by Mazda, an alarmingly calm woman is whisked away by a red balloon into the air and over beautiful scenery as she holds on for dear life.
“What a second,” you say to yourself, “Is this some type of insurance commercial? What is going on here?”
And then she goes straight through a tunnel and out the other side. But as she emerges, she is now in a car!
Ahhhhh, the balloon was a metaphor this whole time.
She stops overlooking a gorgeous lake and the commercial is over.
Overall message: Get a Mazda and you’ll see the world in a whole new way.
The Get Away Car – Volvo (2017)
I’m a fan of all of these commercials, but this one, in particular, is really well done — if not a bit overly dramatic for a car advertisement. But still, really great stuff here.
As we grow older, it’s important not to forget about your passions. You should always try and make time for the activities and hobbies that you enjoy and that help define who you are.
Purchasing a Volvo will help you do just that. I guess. Apparently, it’s just that simple.
Overall Message: Stop being such a loser, get a Volvo, and start doing cool shit again!
Luxury Should Be Lived In — Infiniti (2019)
Pretty basic stuff here — a compilation of this couple’s new Infiniti taking them on all these adventures.
But, this commercial also leads to one of the more hilarious Youtube comment threads I’ve seen:
As John Mulaney once said, “Now, we don’t have to unpack AWL of that,” so we are just going to move on.
Overall message: Get out and see some stuff in the new Infiniti.
Lucky, Lucky Me – Hyundai (2019)
This is another ad I really like.
It’s got a fun, active vibe to it and I like there approach with the messaging. We see the guy everyone wants to be: a beautiful family, great clothes, a nice car, a job that utilizes sticky notes.
He’s got it all!
But, he has a lot of responsibilities and is a busy guy, and he still wants time to go for runs, hang out with his kid, and grab lunch together with the family.
That’s where Hyundai comes in.
Overall message: Buy a Hyundai and your life will still be hectic, but your new car will help you through it all.