When looking at the best ads and commercials of all time, a lot of car ads pop up. And it’s easy to see why.
In this list, we’ve got global brands like BMW, Honda, and Skoda – all of which have the resources to hire the best advertising agencies in the world. And while this isn’t always a recipe for success, it has led to some unforgettable work.
Let’s take a look at some of the best car ads across three key categories:
- Creative car ads
- Funny car ads
- Car print ads
Best creative car ads
From edge-of-your-seat action to innovative technology, car ads are some of the most creative commercials around.
Here’s a rundown of the best creative car ads:
- BMW – The Hire
- Honda – Cog
- Skoda – Cake
- Honda – The Impossible Dream
- Jeep – Parking Space
- Honda – The Other Side
- Audi R8 – New
1. BMW – The Hire
When I studied advertising at university, I gave a presentation about BMW’s The Hire campaign. Let me tell you why.
You know those typical car ads with the rolling hills, shiny paintwork, and shimmering lens flares? Yeah? Well, this is nothing like that.
Launched in 2001, The Hire is a series of eight online short films starring Clive Owen as The Driver. It also features guest appearances from Madonna, Forest Whitaker, and Don Cheadle (to name a few).
They’re written and directed by some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including:
- Alejandro González Iñárritu – director of Birdman and The Revenant
- Ang Lee – director of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Life of Pi
- Guy Ritchie – director of Snatch and Sherlock Holmes
- Tony Scott – director of Top Gun and True Romance
There are thieves, diamonds, and guns – and that’s all just in episode one! Each film has a unique story, but they’re all equally exhilarating.
And by subverting the car ad genre and creating content people actually want to watch, BMW became the king of cool.
2. Honda – Cog
Today, data tells us that we need a logo in the first three seconds of our ad if we want it to be successful. Honda may have something to say about that.
Back in 2003, Honda waited until the last three seconds of their two-minute ad to show their brand logo. And it’s probably the best example of the big reveal ever made.
Featuring an intricate chain reaction of cogs, bearings, and other car parts, Wieden+Kennedy’s masterpiece keeps you hooked as you wonder what’s going to happen next.
Then comes the killer strapline: “Isn’t it nice when things just… work?” Yes, for cars and commercials alike.
3. Skoda – Cake
Another brilliant example of the big reveal, this time from Skoda and their advertising agency, Fallon.
Launched in 2007, it features a team of industrial-scale bakers working together to create a massive cake – all to the tune of My Favorite Things by Julie Andrews.
As the car is revealed and the Skoda badge is carefully placed on the front, you’re left wondering: “A car… out of cake… why?”
Then comes the strapline: “The new Fabia. Full of lovely stuff.”
4. Honda – The Impossible Dream
This isn’t the first mention of Honda on this list. And it won’t be the last.
Another gem from Wieden+Kennedy, it opens with a man stepping out of his trailer and hopping on his mini bike.
As his journey plays out to the tune of The Impossible Dream by Andy Williams, we see an ever-escalating showcase of Honda’s heritage.
There’s a quad bike, a roadster, the NSX, and eventually even a powerboat. All coming together to perfectly land Honda’s brand message: “The Power of Dreams”.
5. Jeep – Parking Space
So far in this list of creative car ads, we’ve had cars under gunfire, cars taken apart, and cars made of cake. Now we have, well, no cars at all.
As part of a guerilla marketing stunt in Copenhagen, Jeep painted parking spaces in awkward spots around the city.
It’s cheap, fun, and delivers a clear message: Jeep’s cars can handle any terrain. What’s not to love?
6. Honda – The Other Side
This is the last entry for Honda, I promise. But god it’s good!
To showcase the new Civic and Type R, Wieden+Kennedy created an interactive film that lets you flip between two different narratives.
Wait, what? Yes, exactly.
The three-minute film opens with a dad picking his kids up from school. But when you press “R” on your keyboard, the story changes. Suddenly, you’re the driver for a robbery in a grittier story, this one set at night.
As you keep tapping “R” throughout the film, you notice that the framing for each narrative is almost identical. And it’s this incredible innovation that makes it one of the most creative car ads around.
Check out the case study below or watch the interactive version to try it for yourself.
7. Audi R8 – New
The Audi R8 is a car that’s unapologetically designed for petrol heads.
It’s fast, loud, and unmistakably beautiful. So what better way to promote it than by putting it on a rolling road and revving the absolute crap out of it?
Best funny car ads
Car ads aren’t always about dramatic storytelling, they can be fun too.
Here’s a rundown of the best funny car ads:
- Volkswagen – The Force
- Mercedes Benz – Chicken
- Volvo Trucks – Epic Split
- Hyundai – Dog
1. Volkswagen – The Force
Launched in February 2011 for the Super Bowl XLV, this commercial features a young boy strutting around dressed as Darth Vader.
He tries using the Force on everything he finds around the house, including an exercise bike, the dog, and even his sandwich. But nothing works.
That is, until his dad returns home in a shiny new Volkswagen Passat.
According to Time magazine, this ad changed Super Bowl commercials forever.
2. Mercedes-Benz – Chicken
Back in 2013, Mercedes-Benz launched a new feature called Magic Body Control. It was designed to keep the car stable and ensure optimum driving comfort.
But, as you can imagine, there’s nothing funny, exciting, or memorable about watching a car driving steadily down a road.
So what did they do? They used a flock of chickens to illustrate the point instead.
3. Volvo Trucks – The Epic Split
Here’s another example of how to showcase a boring feature in a funny way.
In 2013, Volvo launched Dynamic Steering, a new innovation that made their trucks easier to drive and more precise to steer.
To prove the point, they got Jean-Claude Van Damme to do the splits between two trucks as they gradually moved further apart.
And that, my friend, is how you top 100 million views on a car ad.
4. Hyundai – Dog
You see the image, you read the headline, and you get it.
Best car print ads
So far, most of our creative and funny car ads have been videos. Now, it’s time to look at some car print ads.
Here’s our roundup of the best car magazine ads over the years:
- Volkswagen – Lemon
- Volkswagen – Snowplow
- Porsche – Nobody’s Perfect
- Citroën – Faster Than A Ferrari
1. Volkswagen – Lemon
Written by the legendary Bill Bernbach of Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB), Lemon was part of Volkswagen’s Think Small campaign in 1960.
At a time when America was in love with Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler, Bernbach was challenged to help launch the Volkswagen Beetle to the US market.
He couldn’t compete on cool or looks. So instead he wrote a long copy ad to compete on quality.
2. Volkswagen – Snowplow
This entry from Volkswagen strikes the perfect balance between making you smile and making you think.
After a quick glance at the image and headline, you’re left wondering: “Good point, how does the man who drives the snowplow drive to the snowplow?”
The answer, of course, is by driving a Volkswagen.
3. Porsche – Nobody’s Perfect
Back in 1983, Porsche could have created an ad to say that they won the top eight places at Le Mans. But that wouldn’t have been very interesting.
Instead, they showed that they won nine out of 10 places, losing one of the top 10 spots to Sauber/BMW.
Why? Because it shows that they’re on a journey, just like you. They’re great, but they want you to know that they’re challenging themselves to become even better.
4. Citroën – Faster Than A Ferrari
Back in 1984, Citroën knew that their cars were pretty undesirable. So to make their audience feel better about buying one, they showed how the 2CV was better than a Ferrari, Rolls Royce, and Porsche.
The copy is fun, charming, and honest. And by the time you reach the strapline – “All you’ll ever need in a car” – it’s pretty hard to disagree.
How to speed up creative collaboration on car ads
Turning great ideas into amazing ads can be a long and exhausting process. Especially in the automobile industry where getting all the technical details right in your marketing campaigns is essential.
But investing in the right marketing approval software will help you make sure the process runs smoothly while being more productive and enjoyable.
With a marketing approval software like Filestage, your team won’t have to chase stakeholders for feedback, leaving them more time and energy to focus on the creative side of the process.
Filestage allows teams to share, discuss, and approve all their files, all in one place – including documents, images, videos, websites, and audio files.