Vauxhall, ‘Once Driven Forever Smitten’.
As an ad-slogan, it never really sounded right to me, carrying within it a sense of deadlines unmet and frantic solutions cobbled together. It also suggested not so much an ad-agency creative team out of ideas, more a client without a clue.
Yet somehow this series of cheesy TV ads featuring a clichéd Griff Rhys Jones, risible attempts at humour and a tired old Eric Clapton guitar riff successfully codified Vauxhall’s drab suburban image, one they still struggle to outgrow. These weren’t great cars and they were even worse ads. Actually, most Vauxhall ads are – perhaps in some parallel universe they’re actually meant to be.
So lets attempt to drill down into the whole ‘Once Driven, Forever Smitten’ concept for a moment. You drive a Vauxhall – any Vauxhall and that’s it, every other car is ruined for you now. Like some kind of automotive crack addict, you trawl the highways and byways searching for the next hit. Corsa, Astra, Vectra. Need more of that Luton high? Time to graduate to Omega, or maybe even Calibra. They’ve got you now. Hook, line and Senator.
Thing is, although ‘Smitten’ is most frequently used to describe someone in love, it can also embody something a good deal more malevolent. The definition of Smite is to smear, strike hard, visit with disaster, to kill even. Substitute any of the above and it’s a very different tagline now: ‘Once Driven Forever Visited Disastrously.’ As a catchy slogan, it probably leaves something to be desired, but given the marque’s somewhat variable quality at the time; I daresay a number of Vauxhall owners could ruefully attest to an essential truth within.