Theme : Brochures – Introduction

The Editor considers this Month’s theme.

Image : Citroënët
Image : Citroënët

Once upon a time the juvenile car lover in the UK looked towards Autumn as a period of plenty. For that was Motor Show time, when a glut of exciting new cars was guaranteed to surprise and delight. And if that car lover was fortunate, they travelled to Earls Court or, later, the NEC to attend the British International Motor Show. For many, great as the opportunity was to be able to see these new models in the metal, just as fine was the fact that they could struggle back home laden with a selection of lush brochures.

Such trophies were hugely important be they measured by exclusivity, thanks to the good nature of a salesman on the Alvis stand, or just weight, thanks to collecting an example of every BMC badge-engineered variation. And the beauty of the brochure was that, long after its subject had turned to rust and the mechanicals disintegrated, somewhere in a drawer the brochure remained, still almost pristine, still making the same wide-eyed promises.

The Brochure is not yet dead, but it surely will be soon. Go into many car showrooms and the printed matter on offer is far from lavish and any request for more information is as likely to be met with the polite invitation to ‘visit our website’. In a few years time, the Brochure will have gone the way of the magneto, the opening quarterlight, the overrider and the bonnet mascot.

Naturally we at DTW view this as a pity. Useful as the Online Configurator can be to marshalling your thoughts, nothing beats a combination of dry facts and meaningless boasts, complemented with the most optimistic illustrations of the vehicle in question, all wrapped up in several full-colour pages of a nicely coated 170gsm paper.

So in this short month we intend taking a long look at The Brochure. But will we be making a purchase?

7 thoughts on “Theme : Brochures – Introduction”

  1. The collection of brochures involved a plastic bag from one of the stands: into it would go 2.7 kilos of dense, glossy publicity material.
    Some manufacturers produced quarterly magazines with title like “Wolseley World” or “High Life” and you’d be confronted by well-known authors writing promos styled carefully to look like reviews. Setright used to write for an Alfa Romeo “magazine”, for example. I suppose they all still do this. It makes you wonder about their independence. A 900 word blurb about driving in the Cotswolds in a new Triumph 3000 must be worth a thousand quid, for a day’s work. Why risk easy money like that by writing in Automotor that the 3000 is a bag of bolts with terminal oversteer?

  2. This reminds me that the legendery Archie Vicar used to earn a tidy living writing bland copy for promotional publications. He wrote for Standard, Wolseley, Alvis, Humber and Thrupp and Maberley among many others. One review printed in a motoring magazine was simply the same copy as appeared in a Wolseley brochure but with the criticism added. Nobody seemed to mind in those days.
    I believe Simon Kearne has also dabbled in brochure writing. These things are always anonymous but I suspect the 1973 Wolseley range brochure “a rise in the standard of living” was one of his.

    1. Richard. Modesty precludes me from listing my back catalogue of catalogues. However, of late the work has tailed off. I seem to have obtained some undeserved notoriety in the PR world after I submitted a proposal to Mercedes UK entitled ‘Understated Elegance’. An irate call started with the words “are you taking the piss, or what?”. Unfortunately I gave as good as I received. Word spreads fast and I have become somewhat of a pariah. Hence my need to accept your penny (and not much more).

  3. Well, I would certainly consider writing up a nice article for Mercedes World or BMW World – basically whoever wants to send me for four days to the Berner Oberland to discover the joys of their fine motor cars and put down in writing the unflinching, unalloyed truth about how good their cars are in actual fact. I can produce good clean copy very quickly. 2000 words in 24 hours is no bother.

  4. Wouldn’t it be lovely though if we could be given back genuine surprise and delight? These car shows are now global and rotate in pretty quick succession so the teaser shots soon become production models. I can’t be the only one with severe marketing overload? p.s. , we’re in France and have just seen my first 3008. I now know they have not one (the original shiny chocolate) but two appalling colours (a muddy green-y beige-y something).

    1. Hello Martin:
      It seems that no car emerges as a total surpise, does it? It seems like the yet-to-be-sold Alfa Romeo Giulia is now three years out of the starting gate. When it´s two years on sale it will seem stale and we will have writes moaning for four years how Alfa´s ageing Giulia needs to be replaced.
      I can´t agree with you on the colours. I tend to be a bit of a fundamentalist on this: anything that is not black, white or metallic grey is an improvement. Colours are a personal choice so you´re free not to pick them. I quite like seeing these ambiguous colours. The greeny beige sounds intriguing. It gives the car some visual interest. And note, Hyundai seem to have done very nicely with their large palette of colours for the i20 in Europe. I seem them in all the shades not just white and black and metallic grey. Customers have little to go on in this sector and having an extra paint colour might swing it for a sale in some cases.

    2. Whatever it is, it’s probably not available in the UK.

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