Advertisers have a nifty array of selling techniques at their disposal. In the car industry it’s all about getting their product noticed in a market where competition is fierce. Any good company can pull off a good advertising campaign but only a great marketer can achieve a great campaign. This is where the publicity stunt takes centre place.
Below I present some of my favourite car publicity stunts starting with one that had seriously untapped potential.
AUSTIN A40 ROADSTER
Way back in 1951 (before electric cars) Leonard Lord (Austin’s chairman) bet Alan Hess (of Austin’s publicity department) that he couldn’t do a round-the world-drive in 30 days. Well, Hess took on the wager and made the trip in only 21 days. An amazing feat but what I think is more amazing that it never got the publicity it deserved and it had no obvious benefits to sales. Argh!
Back to more recent times and, in Spring 2010, Audi decide to demonstrate that although the new A1 hatch is larger than its predecessor it’s just as manoeuvrable. Picture the scene; Cinquantenaire Park, Brussels and a fire red A1 is about to pull off some flashy moves doing a quarter-pipe skateboarder-style.
So the new model is funky, great to handle and ideal for city driving? Well, it might be, but considering the driver managed to spectacularly turn the car onto its side neither the public not the world’s press would find out!
Hey! Just a minute! I thought this was about the best car publicity stunts? Okay, guys, I hear you.
Can I get into your good books with this one? It’s 2008 and a certain car company started one of the coolest viral marketing campaigns ever. The stunt wasn’t just a one-off event but a series that slowly built up interest, piquing curiosity until eventually culminating in the payoff. This was the ‘Faceless People’ campaign. Starting with Wimbledon before appearing at the Henley Regatta and Harrods the masked couple sparked fierce speculation and wild rumours and eventually the truth was announced. It was for the new Lotus Eagle sports car.
And the car in question:
In January 2010 a Fiat city car held the Pink My Ride stunt, a clever play on words of the popular Pimp My Ride TV show. The aim was to create the longest advert ever where artist, David Sheath, would paint a white Fiat 500 bright pink using only nail varnish. Entrants would star in the advert alongside David and do a little of the painting themselves.
CHEVROLET AVEO 5
General Motors’ UK division wanted to promote their new Chevy as an inexpensive runaround. Cue, the billboard poster in desirable New Oxford Street, London and the 20,000 pennies glued to the picture of the car. This interactive billboard saw massive passerby attention and the pennies lasted less than 30 minutes!
Wind the clock back a few years to 2006 and VW is promoting the pulling power of its latest Sports Utility Vehicle, the Touareg (named after Saharan nomads and pronounced Twar-Regg). On a runway at the Dunsfold Aerodrome (yes, the location of the Top Gear test track) they hooked up its specially reinforced chassis to the undercarriage of a Boeing 747-200 Jumbo Jet. The V10 TDi, itself weighing 7 tonnes in order not to tip back over, managed to wow the crowd and towed the Jumbo down the runway.
An impressive sight to be sure would have been more impressive had the Jumbo’s brakes been on but never mind. Not long later this feat was surpassed; embarrassingly by a man during his successful Guinness Book of Records attempt.
PROTON SATRIA NEO
The launch of the new Satria (Malay for Warrior) Neo was a welcome sight for Proton rally fans. The road car version, the S2000, was pitted against a Robinson R44 helicopter in what was to be an unusual drag race. The Neo’s 2.0 litre engine develops an impressive 280bhp, a tad higher that the chopper’s 243hp and it came as little surprise when the Neo won by several metres.
In 2010 Vauxhall painted a Corsa in Bingo call sheet design complete with 2,000 bingo balls glued to the frame. The roof was even adapted to hold the bingo cage. The car was awarded to a Manchester church.
One of the most exclusive cars ever with a production run of only 20 was for this carbon-fibre bodied beauty. This publicity stunt was to raise profile of the brand rather than to sell more vehicles.
The Marina Militare Italiana (the Italian Marines) proudly carried out a spectacular display of flying the Reventon in to Turin by helicopter before landing it on the roof of the Lingotto building. The Reventon is the most expensive Lamborghini (and that’s saying something) of all time with a price tag of £1.2m.