Best and worst TV car ads of all time

Published: 06 May 2009

'Nicole?' 'Papa!'

'Everything we do is driven by you!'

'Vorsprung durch technik...'

All the above are phrases etched on the consciousness of viewers across Britain, whether they like cars or not. But could the golden age of car advertising be coming to an end?

The first thing a business will often cut back on in difficult times are PR and marketing activities. Could ‘viral’ advertising, where budgets are frequently smaller and vistas less broad, kill off the car ad?

We thought it time for some good old-fashioned nostalgia, so join us – in no particular order – in a tribute to the great car ads of the past 30 years. After we’ve given you inspiration, just let us know your favourites.

Oh, and just to keep you amused, we’ve added a few at the end that today would get some creative directors a written warning, others an investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and a current ad that whiffs of the finest gorgonzola.

We've thrown in a few funnies too.

The Greatest TV Car Ads

1 VW Golf Squeaky Earring

No banging dance tunes, no fancy CGI, no voiceover. It’s just a dose of subtle humour with a pervasive message – here’s a car to rely on.

2 Citroën C4 Transformer

The antithesis of the VW Golf ad with a soundtrack by Madonna producer Jacques Lu Cont and the sort of computer-generated wizardry normally associated with a Hollywood movie, but an ad that did wonders for Citroën’s image.

3 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Reincarnation

Cheating a bit here, as it’s an American TV ad, but if you love cars – which we guess you do – it’s difficult not to feel a little lump in the throat watching this. So good, it was nominated for an award at Cannes.

4 Ford Puma Steve McQueen

Granted, cars and Steve McQueen have become something of a motoring cliché, but by ’eck this pushed all the right buttons. Innovative and memorable in equal measures.

5 Ford RS2000 Rocky Theme

Bill Conti’s unforgettable theme for the Rocky movies, an authentic Philadelphian location plus loads of macho riveting, welding and wiping of metallic surfaces? What’s not to like?

6 Honda Mousetrap

Some car manufacturers just seem to get their advertising spot-on – we could probably do a whole separate blog on Honda, for example. The Impossible Dream ad doesn’t make it here as it’s not solely about cars. Instead relive the brilliance of this ad, one which like so many great examples of the art, uses music to stunning effect.

7 MG Metro Michael Barrymore

For this one, you have to rewire your perceptions for one minute, back to 1989 when Michael Barrymore’s lunatic-style shtick weren’t coloured by the complications of his recent personal life. Nearly as funny as the Noel Edmonds ad (see below), although this one was meant to make you laugh.

8 Audi RS4 Spider

One of those car ads that probably needed a movie-style rating attached to it. This is designed to scare the bejaysus out of you. Mind you, you should have seen it in the cinema…

9 Panama Cigars Ford Anglia Fandango

OK, you know what we wrote about the Honda Impossible Dream ad? Scrap that. This isn’t a car ad per se, but the car’s the star here. Once seen, not forgotten.

10 Metro Batman & Robin

Sometimes it’s important not to take yourself seriously – especially when it’s an MG Metro you are advertising. This one tapped into many a 20-something’s youth watching the Adam West-era Batman TV series, but it’s nearly ruined by the groansome pay-off line.

>> Click 'Next' to view the worst car commercials

The Worst TV Car Ads

Montego Blonde

Apparently, this ad was meant to be taken seriously. How many clichés and double-entendres can you spot in this ridiculous piece of sexist tosh? Look out for the petrol pump moment. And all for a Montego 1.6L…

Austin Rover, Noel Edmonds

A one-minute long, toe-curling cheesefest. 'The Austin Montego Estate – I think it’s the most stylish estate car ever designed! What’s more, it’s British,' deadpans Noel, several grand richer. Knowing what happened to Austin Rover next makes this even more embarrassing.

Triumph Acclaim

'The Triumph… Acclaim! The car that has been designed and built to be totally equipped for today’s driving!' Yes, 18 of the most ridiculous words uttered in a single sentence. Coincidentally, the marketing department of a company based in Longbridge were guilty for making this one, too.

Vauxhall Insignia Espionage

Sorry Vauxhall, we may have been mightily impressed by the Insignia itself, but someone’s been watching the Bourne movies back-to-back and too many episodes of 24. It’s an Insignia, not a new Aston Martin. Utter codswallop.

Ford, Brian May Driven By You

For some reason, the YouTube comments suggest that many people actually liked this awful piece of raaaaaawk-inspired tosh. Just to warn you, the Brian May guitar solo comes in around the 1min 5 seconds mark. Mute, immediately.

Or maybe the future is viral?

VW B******s

Maybe all is not lost, if this fantastic piece of viral marketing from VW is anything to go by. One word of warning: turn off the speakers if you are in an office location. Contains vaguely rude word...

>> So which are  your favourite and worst car ads of all time? Click 'Add your comment' below and let us know!



By Stephen Worthy