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Marketers Hit the Gas on Auto Campaigns

The auto industry is finally healing, which is likely to have a positive economic impact over the next few quarters, says The Washington Post. The normalization of auto production and sales couldn’t be coming at a better time, providing a much needed boost to the economy this year and restoring new car sales to pre-pandemic levels. US drivers are hitting the road, despite current gas prices, and automotive marketers are helping to fuel consumer demand with new, innovative campaigns. Here are a few. 

Driving into the Future
The Lexus RX isn’t a new car. It hit markets 20 years ago and quickly became the brand’s top-seller, with a fifth-generation model now on the streets. To honor that heritage while celebrating future drivers, Lexus recently launched its ambitious “Never Lose Your Edge” campaign that includes six original spots airing on linear TV,  CTV, digital channels, and out-of-home. The hero ad, “Unfollow,” is intended for general markets and takes inspiration from The Wizard of Oz. It’s about “taking the road less traveled, not doing what’s expected but taking bold new turns,” said Lisa McQueen, Lexus media manager.  The additional five spots, focus on specific demographics, including Black audiences (“Quiet Night”), Hispanic drivers (“Radio Duel”) and members of the LGBTQ community (“Extra”), plus an ad (“See the Future”) that features the first woman of Indian descent to earn the Miss Great Britain title. A final spot (“Drive Within Us”) starring actor Daniel Dae Kim and his son Zander Kim wraps up overall messaging by focusing on the importance of past and future generations coming together to create a better tomorrow.  

The Hyundai Motor Company has been a top player for decades and now ranks as the third-largest carmaker by volume in the world.  Yet many people still don’t know how to correctly pronounce the brand’s name. Hyundai set out to correct this with a funny 40-second spot, “New Dawn,” that aims to teach Brits the proper pronunciation—“Hyun-day”—while simultaneously building awareness for the new all-electric IONIQ 5 model. The spot sees various potential car buyers searching for dealerships via voice technology, but ending up in odd places due to how they’re incorrectly saying Hyundai, like a salon called High ‘N’ Dye and an eatery called High-End Pie. “The complication came in how we were going to do it without really upsetting a lot of people, without being patronizing or talking down to them,” said Dom Sweeney, head of creative at Innocean UK. “You can’t take yourself too seriously because otherwise it can come across badly.” The effort seemingly worked: A week after its release, the film had a 44% View Through Rate (VTR) on YouTube and 26% ad recall, the brand’s highest numbers to date. 

Electric Vehicles Speed onto the Scene
Acura’s new brand campaign, “New World. Same Energy.” spotlights the company’s mission of working toward a sustainable tomorrow. It includes plans by parent company Honda to be carbon neutral by 2050, along with the introduction of Acura’s first EV models, the 2024 ZDX and ZDX Type S. A 60-second hero spot debuted at the recent Sundance Film Festival in Utah, where the brand returned for its 13th year as an official event sponsor. The high-octane ad, created by music-video director Dave Meyers, is a vibrant ride through various metaverse worlds—which all converge in the EV-verse.

Volkswagen brought back a beloved character from a 2010 Dutch commercial to help introduce its new ID.4 GTX electric model. Known as the “Dutch daredevil Granny,” she first won hearts by starring in the “Buying a Volkswagen from an Old Lady” campaign, which still ranks as the manufacturer’s most popular. The latest installment from Team Voltage at DDB Berlin includes a hero spot called “Bring Back the Energy,” which starts with the same woman selling her old Volkswagen model—then immediately mourning its loss. She bakes car-shaped cookies and stares longingly at a photo of herself beside the car, but the spot ends on a happy note when she takes a new ID.4 GTX model for a wild test-drive.

Although the market still has a way to go before rebounding to pre-Covid levels, J.D. power expects a gradual return. We’ll be keeping our eye on how the auto industry and its marketing campaigns continue to evolve as brands shift from fossil-fueled vehicles toward electric, and as the innovative features that emerge with connected cars aim to improve the experience for both drivers and passengers.