5 of the best automotive advertising campaigns

The automotive industry is one of the biggest industries in the world. While the market is saturated, social, environmental and technological advancements and challenges are consistently redefining the way car manufacturers operate.

This means, if they get it right, companies have the opportunity to execute some of the best creative automotive advertising campaigns – which include full-scale marketing campaigns, and Digital PR campaigns.

And automotive advertising campaigns aren’t just limited to the big car manufacturing companies, there are also parking companies, the DVLA, car comparison sites, car insurance sites and more – all jumping on the bandwagon.

Some of these automotive advertising campaigns have even seen products created off the back of them, they’re clever and unique, and they have to be in order to stand out from the crowd.

The aim of these automotive advertising campaigns is to drive brand awareness, increase traffic and inbound links to sites, generate leads and sales and ultimately, get people talking.

We’ve rounded up six of the best automotive advertising campaigns to get your engines revving.

If you want to find out more about how a Digital PR strategy could work for your brand, which includes content marketing campaigns, call the Embryo office on 0161 327 2635, or email [email protected].

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What are five of the best automotive advertising campaigns?

1. Ford Mach-Eau

In 2021, Ford commissioned a survey in which 1 in 5 drivers said the smell of petrol is what they’d miss most when swapping to an electric vehicle. So, alongside the release of their all-electric Mustang Mach-E GT, Ford created a scent called Mach-Eau, to ‘usher these drivers into the future of driving through their sense of smell’.

Petrol apparently ranked as a more popular scent than wine and cheese, and almost identically to the smell of new books. Mach-Eau was developed by a specialist who looked into the chemicals emitted from car interiors, engines and petrol.

This included benzaldehyde, an almond-like scent given off by car interiors, and para-cresol which creates the rubbery scent of tyres. They were blended with ingredients like blue ginger, lavender, geranium and sandalwood that added metallic, smokey and further rubbery accents.

The brand debuted its fragrance at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, an annual event that many petrolheads attend. Ford capitalised on the public’s sense of smell – many of us don’t know why we love the smell of petrol, but we do. What the brand did not only normalised this, but gave drivers a way to make the switch to an EV, while still getting their fill of the smell of petrol.

Even if you didn’t want to buy the fragrance or an EV, you’d still be intrigued to smell the fragrance, and it was certainly a topic of conversation. It received press coverage on the likes of Forbes, too.

2. The Rage Yard: Take out your 2020 anger on scrap cars

A couple of years ago, Scrap Car Comparison ran a Digital PR campaign that advertised how members of the public could release the anger they built up in 2020 (Covid pandemic peak), by using scrap cars for destruction therapy, at The Rage Yard.

The company teamed up with Tanks-A-Lot in Northamptonshire to offer one lucky group the chance to ‘scrap their stress’, which involved shooting cars destined for the scrapheap with shotguns and crushing cars with tanks. The campaign ran in the form of a competition, with one winner (and their friends) selected at random.

A video asset was made and published on YouTube, and the cool thing about this campaign is that it sought to resonate with the public, and perhaps even invoke some emotion, which is the best way to get people’s attention. Scrap Car Comparison knew that many people did feel angry about the Covid pandemic and that it was a weird and horrible time for a lot of people.

By showcasing that people could release this specific anger, the campaign got people talking, all while promoting the brand.

The campaign was picked up by the press in the UK and internationally and gained more than 300 pieces of coverage. It was even covered by top-tier publications in the US, like Fox News.

3. #AutoTraderGoals

So far we’ve discussed a product being created and an experience being offered – but this world-famous campaign saw free cars given away when the World Cup was on in 2018. It’s an oldie, but a goldie, in the world of automotive advertising campaigns.

Car listings website Auto Trader launched a competition for a person to win a new motor each time England scored in the World Cup. To be in with a chance of winning one of four different cars, football fans had to tweet with #AutoTraderGoals after every goal.

The hashtag was trending on Twitter during every game, and drivers entered the competition more than 240,000 times. The brand apparently estimated no more than eight goals would be scored, but England surpassed that with 12 goals during the summer competition – with Harry Kane’s run to the Golden Boot proving costly for them.

But this was publicity in itself, and whether or not that was planned, we don’t know. They released a parody video of Auto Trader’s ‘financial director’, pleading for the public not to enter the competition, and wishing for England to lose.

Auto Trader ended up with a bill of £202,500. The competition itself, and the fact it cost more than the brand planned, was widely covered in the national press. But all this did was boost their brand awareness more. So while it might have trumped them for more than they bargained for, hopefully, it was all worth it in the end.

4. Mazda – Sound of Tomorrow

This campaign involved a competition, but one that was launched alongside a huge creative stunt, which allowed Mazda to reconnect with a younger audience.

It partnered with Tomorrowland, one of the world’s largest music festivals. Mazda built a giant record player, and used the Mazda Mx-5 as the needle of the turntable, to recreate the song Reality by Lost Frequencies.

They launched an online competition asking fans to try to recognise the song, with the winner receiving tickets to Tomorrowland.

Not only did this campaign reach young festival-goers, but it was also a way for Mazda to showcase the car’s impressive agility, and watching the car in action is quite spectacular.

5. DVLA – Hard to Hide Easy to Tax

Sometimes, you don’t need a big stunt or a videographer to make a campaign stick, because good old posters will do the trick.

In 2022, the DVLA launched an advertising campaign in the highest road tax-evading areas in the UK – reminding motorists of the real risk of failing to tax their vehicles on time.

The message to motorists was clear – if you don’t tax your vehicle on time, the DVLA will take action – ‘tax it, don’t risk it’.

They used a picture of a car parked on a road and covered in traffic cones, which obviously, is a sight not to be missed. It was a simple yet effective way of conveying the message ‘hard to hide, easy to tax’ – letting drivers know that if they don’t tax their vehicles they’ll stick out like a sore thumb.

The adverts ran on radio, poster sites, social media, digital channels and in print. The social media engagement was reported to be very good, particularly on Facebook, and the campaign was covered widely in the press.

Want great campaigns?

If you want to find out more about how a Digital PR strategy could work for your brand, or any other services like SEO or PPC, call the Embryo office on 0161 327 2635, or email [email protected].

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