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Phil Bilbrough: Online cars, chocolate bars, and a city’s ripped backsides

Online cars, chocolate bars, and a city’s ripped backsides

By Phil Bilbrough [1]

What are cars doing online? I mean you can’t take them for a drive. You can’t get inside, smell the new car smell, push the new buttons, rev the gauge into red, you can’t hold the wheel and rub your shoulder blades and buttocks against the new seat. You can’t open the ash tray and glide it shut, and you can’t slam the car door and hear that thump of quality.

You know it looks so good tonight
I am the passenger*

One day you might. Maybe next Wednesday (late-afternoon), a Virtual Reality technology will appear in an online ad. You will have been sent some glasses (or a glasses-like thing) and when you browse your favourite site, and through your “glasses”, which connect to that site via bluetooth, you then experience a virtual reality ad. Maybe you will get to try out a new car – just maybe not the smells or at least not the car’s smells. When this happens it will probably be best that you do this at home. Or maybe you can do it now. [2]

I look through my window so bright
I see the stars come out tonight

So what can you get from our currently lame internet technology and what are car manufacturers offering you online? And why do they keep doing it? It must work, you don’t need to surf long to see an auto ad. Internationally it must be one of the biggest sectors in online advertising – Lexus [3], Holden [4], Renault [5] (this is very cool), Audi [6], Volvo [7] (you have to stay with this one – excellent social network integration)VW [8]BMW [9], Jeep [10](in-game advertising) – they are all online.

He looks through his window
What does he see?

There used to be the Mini ads [11]. They were all attitude. The Minis drove around the screens, you could pull and flick them, it was easy to imagine their fast freedom. Yes I imagined, I felt – yes me the passenger – I felt the freedom. Online car advertising is brand advertising and it is some of the best. Here is a recent Mini Campaign. [12]

He sees the city’s ripped backsides
He sees the winding ocean drive

I took a ride past the controversy of Cadbury [13]chocolates replacing some of their coca butter with palm oil in their chocolate and reducing the size of their bars by 50grams. Twitter  alerted me and many others to this outrage – not that I was raged, I’m just a passenger, there are other chocolates. And it was great to see the internet empowering people. Whatever the platform – Twitter, Facebook, or Bebo it’s easy to tweet up a movement and have a go at a big brand or a government agency. The traditional loser press are behind the game so they are looking for each and every new online movement to tell them what they should be writing their next nano-story [14] about it.

He sees the stars are out tonight
And all of it is yours and mine

But my ride didn’t end with rage against Cadbury, there was also Palm Oil [15]to learn about.  So Cadbury are screwing their faithful family customers (I’m fine with that – those customers have other places to go), but the palm oil industry is destroying the world [16].  I had no idea. Praise the almighty internet. I thought that my ride had come to an end, but no, there was still some way to travel.

He looks through his window’s eye
He sees the things he knows are his

So the Gorilla of the Gorilla Cadbury [17] “In the air tonight” ad, although its a guy/girl in a Gorilla suit [18], is notionally (given that it isn’t actually a Gorilla) in the same genus as the Orangutans whose habitat is being destroyed by the palm oil industry. A version of this ad that would better reflect the brand would be to pull the Gorilla from those drums put him/her into a cage and starve him/her to death. That would raise some eyebrows [19].

The sky was made for us tonight

Cadbury will survive this. Whittakers will pick-up some extra market-share (I’ve always liked their advertising [20]), but Cadbury have been brand building for decades. One benefit of a strong brand is that it weathers a few pies-in-faces.

Get into the car
Well be the passenger

For example, Mercedes hasn’t had all its own way, but you would think it did. It fought on the wrong side of a war, the A-Class mini-Merc had a rolling problem [21] and a couple of seasons ago the Top Gear crew gave Mercedes a rev up about its customer support in the UK. None of this mattered, a good brand can stand more than a few knocks and a bit of inconvenient truth – that’s one good reason for brand building. Those car companies – they really know how to brand.

Oh, lets ride and ride and ride and ride…

* The Passenger (1977) [22], lyrics written by Iggy Pop (music by Ricky Gardiner) and if you wanted to know,  David Bowie sings back-up.


Advertising.scoop.co.nz. [23]He can be contacted at phil@bilbrough.com [24].

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