Family: The Big Trend in Car Commercials

Every ad agency loves to do car commercials, and why not? Big bucks and a chance to do some real “creative” that gets national, sometimes international, exposure.

The fact that most car ads are either obvious, pushy or sappy testifies not just to a lack of agency creativity but the typically uninspired taste of management. Once in a while, you get some breakthroughs.

Lately, the theme of family has become a big one in car ads. The classic example is The Force ad (above) for the VW Passat, which went viral after the Super Bowl and had 45,248,798 YouTube views at last count. This is a great ad, which appeals through the age-old use of kids to sell product.

But it’s more than that. The Star Wars theme is reinforced by the family setting, which gives power to the powerless. Most of the family car ads I’ve seen use that kind of device, notably Subaru’s Baby Driver ad, which you’ll see after the break, and others that use animals, like VW’s Polo ad with the singing dog.

The Subaru Baby Driver ad was one of three car commercials nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award (Chrysler’s Eminem “Born of Fire” won). The ad dramatizes a dad’s confidence and anxiety as he gives over the keys to his daughter for the first time. Nice, without being sentimental.

A Panamera’s trunk appears to be the setting here. Which enables the viewer to be transported to all kinds of family-and-friends situations (happy ones, of course) that don’t have a hell of a lot to do with the car, frankly. And it’s a little too long. But the point is made at the end, when dad tosses keys to son.

Here we go with the family album approach, now with Ray Charles accompaniment. This one has gotten a lot of notoriety and, like the Porsche ad, borders on sentimentality. But the execution is flawless, I think.

I won’t ask which of these commercials you like best, but which do you think would be best at selling cars?


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  1. jgoods, you gotta check the demographics for the superbowl, there are lots of female oriented superbowl ads because there are so many women watching. Do family commercials exlude men? No, of course not, but they are not AIMED at men, they are aimed at women, who generally have the main say when picking the family car. Those Dodge Ram truck commercials with the sweaty guy hauling stuff and the Cadillac CTS running a road course at high speed are is aimed at men.

  2. @ Randy
    No, I didn’t miss the point. Unless you think family commercials somehow exclude men. These ads appeal to both genders. Why do you think VW placed “The Force” on the Super Bowl?

  3. You missed the point somehow. With women now so firmly entrenched in the car buying decision process, these commercials are aimed squarely at them. There is also a genre of commercials aimed at single women, like the somewhat creepy Gucci Fiat ad.

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