Why Car Ads Waste So Much Money

Why do car company accounts make people so stupid? Where the Suckers Moon made me wonder. Everyone invoked knew how to make ads, sell cars, or both. And yet Wieden Kennedy made ads that sold no cars, and Subaru paid them well to do it.

George Parker says not to even bother with a car account, and it does seem that they’re toxic waste to common sense and real creativity.

I don’t know the answer, but I think it has something to do with this: a while ago, I happened to meet a planner at a very large, very serious agency—the sort that only hires people who are excessively good at what they do. I mentioned the Best Car Ad Ever, and how the headline was actually borrowed from elsewhere.

He demurred. This, he said, was the best car ad ever.

Now, I don’t doubt for a minute that he could come up with some plannerly justification for this, involving market segments and whatever else. But I don’t doubt for a second that that’s not why he loves it. He loves it for the same reason any sane person would: it’s funny, surprising, true, and perfectly executed.

None of which sells any Bentleys.

Car accounts involve so much money (even now) that a rounding error on the client’s bill can be big enough to fund a career-making opportunity for the creative folks involved. Everyone gets swept up in this, even the numbers guys. But add up enough expensive, arty ads that don’t sell cars, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.

But you’re also talking Cannes, so no wonder your audience is selectively deaf.

(Today’s post is short because last night’s Debate at Lolita Bar was long. This debate, on whether or not 9/11 should be reinvestigated, featured computer programmer Saul Devitt (no) and Sander Hicks (yes). Hicks, by the way, has some unanswered questions about a controlled demolition of his own.)

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| September 3rd, 2009 | Posted in Advertising |
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