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Automotive advertisers need to lift their game

More than half a million new vehicles were sold in SA in 2018, generating sales revenues of R503bn. The automotive sector is highly lucrative, and the competition for market share is fierce. Effective advertising strategies in this competitive landscape are therefore critical, yet the majority of recent automotive advertising, according to a recent AdForum, appears to be missing the mark.

The Financial Mail AdForum events, in association with Ornico Group showcase a selection of recently frequently flighted commercials in a particular sector.

The panel of experts included Deon Wiggett, founder and creative director of Fairly Famous; Brenda Khumalo, client lead at Wunderman SA; Mongezi Mtati, marketing manager at Ornico; and John Davenport, chief creative officer at Havas. The panel was facilitated by Phumi Mashigo, founding partner of Ignitive.

Automotive AdForum

AdForum with Ornico and Financial Mail

The panel and audience agreed that a number of recently flighted automotive television commercials simply didn’t make the cut – one of these being Audi’s latest offering. While the visuals were interesting, it was a missed opportunity for a local insight and ended up being wallpaper, said Khumalo.

The commercial could just as easily have been an ad for Samsung, said Davenport. He said the ad failed to ensure the brand resonated with young people and to differentiate this model from its competitors. Wiggett agreed, adding that it’s an illogical sequence of events, and that it felt as though the ad had been dumped on an unsuspecting SA audience.

A BMW commercial, an international ad with a local voiceover, didn’t fare much better, eliciting mostly red cards from the audience. It lacked a local insight, said Khumalo. Davenport said it was trying too hard to be young and cool, and that BMW had done better before.

Delightful commercials for Kia and VW illustrate that it is possible to make car ads that resonate with audiences

Car ads were not only about brand affinity but also about extrinsics, said Wiggett. As a result of alignments and cost-cutting, more and more brands were doing this kind of work and some of them could actually get away with it. “This is a bit of a crappy ad, but we love the brand,” he said.

Mtati questioned how unique this particular model was in its price category. He maintained that the ad translated well and pointed out that the idea – an app that opens a car door – could be taken further on digital.

A Ford Everest commercial was widely panned. The panel agreed it was generic and questioned who the target market was. However, Davenport argued that not having an idea was better than having a bad idea. “This commercial is almost like a brochure for TV. There is a place for it,” he said.

A Hyundai commercial elicited the first vaguely positive responses, with both the audience and panel appreciating the human story and the fact that the commercial was shot in SA using local actors.

“I loved the music and the story, but the commercial failed to close the loop,” said Khumalo.

“I quite like the ad, but where it goes wrong is in the payoff line,” said Davenport, suggesting that the payoff line should have focused on the car phone feature. It’s a cool story but not particularly memorable, said Mtati. The storytelling was awful, said Wiggett.

A Kia commercial resonated with both the panel and the audience, who appreciated the humorous storyline and the fact that it was locally made. “Compared to previous ads this one did everything right: it was cute, it was local, and it leaves the viewer with a smile,” said Khumalo.

Wiggett agreed that it was an enchanting ad, poking just enough fun at everybody so that nobody felt bad. The performances were spot-on. The ad illustrated Kia Motors’ commitment to the local market, he said.

A Mahindra commercial featuring a farmer and a lamb was lambasted, with the panel calling it a spectacularly bad ad that tried but failed to tick all the boxes.

A Mazda ad received a muted audience response. “Not every ad can be spectacular. There is a space for simple, hardworking communication like this,” said Davenport.

The other panelists disagreed, arguing that they expect more entertainment, some kind of a story, and a reason to like the brand – none of which were provided.

Nobody felt very strongly about a Nissan Micra ad – not even the younger audience members that this commercial supposedly targets. The commercial was just a little too bland, said Davenport.

A Toyota Hilux commercial received a more positive response with some green cards. The commercial, said Mtati, put the Hilux in different contexts which most people could relate to.

A commercial for Volkswagen’s Kombi was extremely well received and a highlight of the AdForum. “Give this agency a Bell’s,” said Khumalo, echoing the views of all the panellists. “Very local, very South African, a cute story illustrating that this vehicle is good for family and good for business. It’s memorable and spot-on. I loved it.”

To download Ornico’s research on recent automotive advertising, click here.

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