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Seven Driving Commercials that Changed the Game

Throughout the history of media, we can zero in on innovations that changed the game. The printing press made the mass consumption of information possible. The radio introduced us to easy listening and the emotion that comes from hearing it live. The television beamed the action directly into our homes. Social media has revolutionized content and how we consume it.

With each of these innovations also came the inevitable “how can we use it to sell stuff” conversations. Advertising, at its core, is about motivating us to do things, buy things, and go places. But sometimes an advertisement is so good, it hits home and fits the moment so well, that it transcends its purpose and becomes something more.

Kia’s “Walken” Closet

When you hear the name Christopher Walken, what thoughts enter your mind? Irreverent. Eccentric. Intense. A little unsettling. This Kia Optima commercial from the 2016 Super Bowl embodies all those Walken-isms. Featuring Walken in a closet, asking a man in beige whether he’s a blend-inner or a stand-outer. He ponders on what socks say about who we are and how the car we drive is our on-road avatar, a symbol of our personality. The commercial is at the top of this list because it is quintessential Walken. It taps into pop-culture without being cartoonish and has a timeless quality plus, it gives a standard mid-size sedan from Kia way more depth!

Dodge Ram’s “Farmer”

The Ram line of pickup trucks has been elevated from a model originally produced by Dodge to a brand all its own, and this commercial from 2013 about Ram trucks makes it easy to understand why. Every now and then, while barely talking about the product they want to sell, a company finds a way to make what it does ubiquitous with a way of life. Farmer does precisely that by using a stirring narration played over the American heartland and stoic, steadfast farmers, and letting the commercial connect the act of farming to a higher purpose. The Dodge Ram is only shown at the very end, solidifying it as the official vehicle of this noble purpose. Setting aside the context, it’s easily one of the most effective commercials Dodge ever produced.

Triumph North America’s “Voices”

Many motorcycle enthusiasts would probably tell you that they bought their bike to get away from the noise. There is so much of this “noise” in our everyday lives - work deadlines, errands to run, appointments to get to, the news of the day, and it can come at us in a fast and constant stream. Triumph North America’s commercial provides stunning visuals, cinematic shots of the motorcycle itself, and a clear proposal: escape. This commercial uses 60 seconds unbelievably well, showing us that the escape route from noise to freedom is just a motorcycle ride away.

Chrysler’s “Dad Brand” Series

The minivan revolutionized family transportation when the concept was launched by Chrysler back in the 1980s. It was such a smashing success that other automakers were racing to emulate it in their own product lines, but as practical as the minivan is, it’s not always considered the most exciting vehicle option. In 2017, Chrysler partnered with comedian Jim Gaffigan to launch their new Pacifica model, highlighting the comfort and safety innovations that make it the perfect choice for considerate and thoughtful dads. Gaffigan then proceeds to forget one of his kids’ names and talk about what driving the Pacifica will do for his “Dad Brand.” The Dad Brand series features six commercials, all of which are pretty funny!

The McConaughey Lincoln Campaign

The first Matthew McConaughey Lincoln commercial dropped in 2014 and it immediately went viral. In typical McConaughey fashion, the ads feature the actor driving a variety of Lincoln products while philosophizing about life. Coinciding with the “McConaissance,” a reimagining of his brand from rom-com hero to deep and layered, serious thespian, the commercials injected new life into an old brand. The ads have been parodied and spoofed over and over, demonstrating their status as zeitgeisty pop culture artifacts. The original commercial had a surreal, arthouse film vibe to it, which made it cool again to drive Lincolns.

Volvo, Van Damme, and the Splits

In North America, Volvo is perhaps best known for their passenger vehicles but around the world, Volvo Trucks are a go-to for moving freight and cargo. All Volvo vehicles, passenger or commercial, have a reputation for quality and safety. In 2013, the company dropped a commercial featuring action hero Jean-Claude Van Damme perched on top of two Volvo trucks’ mirrors. The purpose of the ad was to demonstrate the stability and precision of Volvo Dynamic Steering. Set to a soundtrack of Enya’s Who Can Say, the trucks proceed to drive slowly apart, settling the actor into a low split. Part advertisement for Volvo technology, part showcase for Van Damme’s athletic prowess, the commercial was a mind-blowing viral hit, done in real-time, without CGI!

Mercedes “Tunnel” featuring BC!

The SLS AMG was released with a striking commercial in 2010, showing off the skills of Formula 1 driver Michael Schumacher as he navigates an enclosed tunnel. Local British Columbians might recognize the sprawling forest landscape and winding highway roads as our very own backyard! The tunnel featured is the China Bar Tunnel, located just south of Boston Bar, which was constructed over 60 years ago during the Trans-Canada highway expansion. Michael performs a gravity-defying stunt as he makes his way through the tunnel, bringing all the drama and hype that Mercedes is known for. Check it out and see if you can catch the Top Gun reference too!

These are some of our favourite vehicle commercials that we think of when a brand is mentioned or when asked about what changed our perception. Did we miss a commercial that always comes to your mind? Come tell us about it on Instagram and Facebook!

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