– 30 January 2013


The last couple of weeks have been saturated with the drama of the ANC/FNB debate, resulting in heavy and heated discourse on the issue. That’s why it was such a delight when the latest CAR Magazine advert landed in my inbox.

If there’s one thing that effectively diffuses political drama it is satire, and CAR Magazine’s parody of the FNB’s controversial campaign does this with clever copy that will give lovers of radio a reason to smile when they hear the spot. The ad opens with the dulcet tones of an accent that’s very at home in South Africa. “There will be a day…” the ad sounds with serious music playing the background that sets up the scene for an announcement of some gravitas. “… a day when every car magazine throughout this magnificent land will come with a free, full-colour poster of the McLaren MP4-12C Spider.”

“There will be a day…” the ad continues in solemn timbre, its tongue firmly in its cheek, “when CAR Magazine will give its readers an exclusive preview of BMW’s new four series, with special emphasis on the M4. That day is today, and tomorrow, and the day after, and every day until March, because you can get all of this, and much, much more in the February issue of CAR Magazine. On sale today.” The ad ends with the voice over becoming more hopeful and wistful, and the music ending on an up-beat tenor.

The ad is very smart for a number of reasons. Firstly it intuitively gets the fact that when people are down because of the political context they are in, humour is the best weapon for breaking through that mood. CAR Magazine really hits the money – you think you’re going to hear yet another FNB ad that will mentally pull you back into the whole debate fracas, but hey. This ad is going somewhere else and it immediately draws attention because of that.

Now, I don’t think it isn’t that we don’t care about issues of the freedom of speech or caring about our country enough to help; it is just that the FNB debate has saturated our media, which can cause a kind of consumer fatigue. The ad breaks this fatigue with wit, which is both refreshing and uplifting. Nothing like a good chuckle to make people feel better because laughter releases feel-good chemicals in our brains, which is why people appreciate laughter.

Then there’s the fact that CAR Magazine really understands its audience and what it wants in a good read. And so it should. At a time when magazines have been bleeding or dying, CAR Magazine has thrived. The periodical first launched early in 1957 and today is the market leader – it is acknowledged as the authority on cars locally and is much loved by its readers who are avid motoring enthusiasts.

As of November 2011, CAR had a circulation of 72,578 and readership of just over 1,250,000. That’s the kind of traction many other magazineswould sell its mother for, and its social media reach is impressive too. The media brand’s Facebook site has close on 37,000 members and when I looked at it this morning some 1,000 were conversing on the page, which indicates a high level of activity. On Twitter @CARmagSA has just over 5,000 followers, while the magazine’s Associate editor, Ian McLaren reaches an audience of 1,307, and Editor Hannes Oosthuizen has over 4500 followers*.

So what’s the secret sauce? The first think, as I’ve said, is that the title knows its audience like the back of their hand, as is well indicated in the radio ad. The McLaren MP4-12C Spider is pure porn in motoring terms. If you’ve read any reviews on this little baby, you’ll realise it’s the kind of car that would make a car fanatic take the photograph of his wife out a frame, and replace it with a pic of the Spider. In other words, it’s the ultimate centre spread and has even made car journos go all gaga and write headlines like: “The McLaren Spider gives our reviewer the ride of a lifetime” and “McLaren MP4-12C Spider: Is this supercar perfection?”

Similarly, an exclusive preview of the BMW’s new four series is another CAR lover’s wet dream. The much anticipated BMW 4 Series Coupe was launched at the Detroit Motor Show just over two weeks ago, so having a local scoop on what is one of the biggest international car stories of the year, is a major coup. Hats off toRamsayMedia, agency Bester Burke and the CAR team for showing other local magazines that have lost their way in a tired print market what can really be done when you know your audience.


Listen to the ad here>>>