It was the year 2000 and according to the predictions from 1970 we’d have been traveling on hover-speeders and wearing metallic-nylon bodysuits. Somehow that didn’t pan out. For Rover, it was still 1959 though.
For your education and general knowledge, today’s item on advertising is an example of exploiting the customer’s worst instincts and distracting them from the selling point. This was done not only by the form of the ad as conceived, but simply by ensuring the message was concealed by the centre fold of the magazine. ‘Rime eef’, it reads.
In the ad – admittedly it’s technically well done – a Rover 45 is placed on a polystyrene tray, wrapped in cellophane and labelled 100% Prime Beef. There’s a Union Flag to make the point – this is British and not, for example, German. The advert dates from May. Rover was still owned by BMW, just. The sell off was in train at the time of press.
The Rover 45 had been relaunched at the start of the year and the new versions were styled to draw on the Rover cues of Englishness, tradition, chrome and leather. The pity here is that in emphasizing the car’s Britishness, its John Bull beefy wholesomeness, they smothered the key feature of the car: it had a 2.0 V6 engine serving up 155 bhp. Among the class of mainstream V6 saloons, it was the cheapest by a good several thousand pounds. This was a real sales proposition that could be backed up by fact. The resultant car was also rated for being nicely refined and a pleasant vehicle to own so there was substance in the concept.
What ought to have been a strategically helpful ad to remind buyers of the Rover 45’s key attributes turned out to be a distracting gimmick. For those unconvinced of Rover’s bloodline, the fact the 45 was derived from Rover 400 and the Honda Civic before that could not be forgotten. And for those who liked Rover anyway, it was the 2.0 V6 and refined ride that were going to be selling points. Rover ought to have been spelling that out loudly as the reason not to go for a Ford, Vauxhall, Peugeot or Citroen. Instead this data is hidden in the corner in nearly illegible grey text on a greyish background.
It’s been 14 years since I last did any serious thinking about the Rover 45. Even if I reckon the Ford Focus is in every measurable way a better car, I can’t help feeling a warm regard towards Rover’s attempt to put V6 power into a lower-medium sized car. If you squint it offers up a mini-Jaguar experience that only the X-type (yet to come) was going to top.