Best and Worst Car Ads of 2008


There is so much incredibly bad car advertising out there that it’s difficult to choose the year’s worst. Good car ads, on the other hand, are rare. I think that’s because car ads depend on formulas, no matter what the medium. Local TV spots have some clown, often the owner, shilling product at top volume. Display ads in the Sunday papers all look pretty much alike.

The ad agency I once owned got hired by a local Mercedes dealer to produce “something new, something creative” for his print advertising. We did and got fired in a month.

The Worst
So car ads have become kind of a joke in some quarters. But it’s always fun to see what new lows dealers and manufacturers have reached. You probably have already made your own choices, but here are mine.

Honoring Volkswagen for by far the worst, most tasteless ad ever:

Honoring purveyors of car insurance everywhere:

And for your basic jingoistic, defend-America-against-the-Japs approach, the award goes to O.C. Welch:


Truck and car wraps have become a new medium for exploiting tasteless in-your-space advertising. Some of the worst offenders can be seen here.

Now, for the Best
Undoubtedly, the best manufacturer’s ads came from Cadillac for the CTS. Their ads for the Escalade, on the other hand, were almost as macho-silly as the concept of a hybrid 6,000-lb. vehicle is foolish. Anyway, you’ve all seen the CTS ads. Here’s some footage that shows their agency knows how to shoot car ads:

For the best classified ad I’ve seen, you’ve got to check out this Audi .a4-avant-for-sale22

Have you seen car ads better or worse than these? Happy New Year as we continue naively to look forward to better car ads.



  1. I absolutely love Volkswagens’s ad and abhor the rating system of this site. That was not tasteless in any sense (other than for fragile and overly sensitive PC’ers), it simply exhibits the reality of the today we live in. Go VW!

  2. Good point, tgriffith, good point. It shows again that the dealer is the weak link in the chain of car merchandising. The dealer structure is at fault and makes buying a car an exercise in customer conflict. Same as the ads–all focused on price, nothing on value. Even the typical car owner can write better ads: did you check out the one on the Audi?

  3. The contradictions between dealer advertising and manufacturer advertising is appalling. You’d think manufacturers would want to protect their brand consistency in dealers’ messaging, yet tackiness prevails. Cadillac comes across as seductive and luxurious on national TV, but in the local Sunday paper they look like any other marked-down item available at the corner dollar store. Where’s the brand equity in that?

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