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Today’s Ad Madness Transportation Region match-ups are coming to you from Motor City USA, beautiful downtown Detroit! Seriously, I hear parts of Detroit aren’t so bad.

1) Volkswagen “Think Small” or This One
vs.
8) Greyhound “Leave the driving to us.”

In the age of the tail fins and rampant consumerism, the iconic Doyle Dane Bernbach print campaign to introduce the VW Bug made it possible to buy a small car and be happy about it. It embraced what was seen as a negative and, with a clever, self-deprecating soft sell, spun it all into a big positive. In doing so, it not only created a counter-culture icon, but changed the face of advertising. On the other side of the fence, the folks at Greyhound managed to make an 18 hour bus ride from Cincinnati to Birmingham, surrounded by a who’s who of mental illness seem like a good idea.

Winner: Volkswagon in a walk.

4) Fed Ex “Fast Talker”
vs.
5) Avis “We Try Harder”

These days we take overnight delivery for granted, but half of our staff at CurrentMarketing remembers when overnight delivery meant getting in your car and driving a package where it needed to go. (The other half of our staff doesn’t remember life without Cable TV, but we tolerate them, even if they don’t know the difference between Green Day and Morris Day.) In 1982, affordable overnight delivery was a fairly new concept and using motor mouth John Moschitta to communicate the speedy nature of the service was a stroke of genius. Avis faced a different challenge. For most people, being second isn’t a selling point. It is something you don’t even admit behind closed doors. For Avis, it was a legitimate reason for a consumer to give them a shot: “We’re #2. We try harder.” Braveā€¦and successful.

Winner: Avis by a nose.

3) Isuzu “Joe Isuzu”
vs.
6) Saturn “A Different Kind of Company. A Different Kind of Car”

This is a battle of diametrically opposed forces. On one hand, you have Joe Isuzu, the stereotypical car salesman…making outlandish claims to sell a car. With counterpoint subtitles to tell the real story and reinforce the positive attributes of the automobiles, they made for funny, clever spots and made a second tier carmaker memorable. With Saturn, you had just the opposite. A car company that wasn’t looking to “take you for a ride.”
With no haggle dealerships and a warm and fuzzy connection with its customers that included annual owner reunions at their plant in Spring Hill TN, Saturn set themselves apart not with claims of a superior product, but with a superior relationship.

Winner: Isuzu. You have my word on it.

2) Chevrolet “See the USA in your Chevrolet”
vs.
7) American Tourister, “The Gorilla”

OK, so putting an ad for luggage in the transportations division is a bit of a stretch, but we couldn’t have a list without a monkey ad, and this one is a classic. Watching a gorilla “go ape” on a suitcase was funny as a kid and it is funny now. On the other hand, you have Dinah Shore espousing all that is great with America. Less than a decade removed World War 2 and with the Interstate system just a few years away, America was ready to hit the road and Chevy gave them the push they needed. Car companies continue to go to the patriotic well, from “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet” to “This is our country,” but this campaign did it best.

Winner: Chevrolet. They just don’t write jingles like that anymore.

Monday: smoke ’em if you got ’em. It’s time for the Vice Region. Everything from cigarettes to chocolate. Stay tuned.

Comments(1)

  • Scott Miller
    March 28, 2008, 9:32 am  Reply

    Jim, I really hope to see Bob Uecker et al.’s “Great Taste, Less Filling” commercials make a strong showing in the vice category.

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