Just as the choice of car tells a lot about its owner, car advertising can say a great deal about its subject’s sensitivities.
Here we have the BMW 3 series, hitherto known as the Dreier or 3er in its home market – before it was recently rechristened ‘The 3’, because nothing rolls off the German tongue with quite as much aplomb as a ‘TH’.
Like the car’s overstyled appearance, this tv spot tries hard to impress. There’s not just a J-turn and some driving through what appears to be deserted LA, but smartphones and animated graphics feature heavily too – after all, driving isn’t really what cars are all about these days.
And then there’s the dancing. Probably a routine an advertising agency talent scout came across during last year’s edition of Burning Man. Part robo dance, part moonwalk, it’s clearly eye catching and memorable. How it relates to ‘The 3’ is another question?
And then there’s the Volvo V60. A spectacular car in the sense that it does without any of ‘The 3’s’ aesthetic shoutiness and about 80% fewer creases on its sheetmetal.
Similarly, the Volvo’s advert not only features a noted absence of freakish dancing or smartphones, but stylised-yet-relatable real life situations. Obviously, the people featured are among the better looking specimens of humanity and not many estate car owners would actually choose to sleep in their car. But still, the world shown in the Volvo advert is emotionally relatable, as is the idea of the car being either part of the family or a useful servant to it.
Even disregarding Volvo’s choice of featuring not just mixed race couples (just as BMW does), but also same sex ones, the Swedish brand’s muted, yet assured self-image appears far more in keeping with the times than BMW’s pseudo bravado.
While BMW tries to impress, Volvo tries to accommodate. Where BMW’s message is muddled, Volvo’s is crystal clear.
Like design, advertising can be an astoundingly telling reflection of any company’s spirit. In one case, its about a brand whose humility doesn’t feel false. And in the other, about a brand that is utterly confused.