Fiat's latest ad for the U.S.-spec 500 AbarthEnlarge Photo
As highly as we might think of the Web, there's nothing quite as powerful as a television commercial. It takes millions of ad budget dollars and the perfect slot during the most widely watched show of the week. When it's done correctly, a great car commercial doesn't just capture eyeballs, it rivets us, and makes us consider something we may never have imagined ourselves driving.
Whether they were funny, sexy, ironic, or just plain weird, this year's best car ads showed off the power of the TV spot. And they weren't confined to television: since Web streaming's become ubiquitous, those clever TV ads went long-form on the Internet, in some cases finally making more sense than in their brief 15- or 30-second televised form.
With 2011 coming to a close, it's the time to take a look back at some of the best car commercials from the past year. Plug in your earbuds, and see if your favorites make it to the top of this list. The first batch takes us from the controversial, to the lighthearted, to the purely puzzling:
15) First up is Ford's controversial "press conference" F-150 commercial. This controversial ad put GM and Chrysler on notice that their bankruptcies weren't sacred cows when it came to selling cars. Ford pulled the ad down for a brief period, but posted it again when it was clear the ad resonated with lots of viewers.
14) Not everyone deserves a parade, but driving the 40-mpg Ford Fiesta earns one in this clever ad. The Fiesta's a pretty big deal for Ford, and this car ad won the Best Green Ad award from the 5th Annual Nielsen Automotive Ad of the Year Awards, so it sneaks into the 2011 consideration.
13) How do you promote a minivan to guys? Loud rock music, fireworks, and panthers. Panthers, of course! Honda conned us into loving the new Odyssey van with this ad and with one that showed today's kids aren't all awful, since at least some of them know vintage Ozzy.
12) It's a good thing when automakers thrash their own cars in their ads. Earlier this year Chevrolet called out the competition directly when it claimed it had to detune the Corvette to meet racing standards. That's a stretch if you know enough about the race cars versus the roadgoing cars, but it made for great ad copy, and for an entertaining commercial.
11) Lexus worked hard to get the word out when it came to the new CT 200h hybrid. We like this Euro-market commercial because of Ben, who clearly is a brilliant kid, since he knows the sound a hybrid makes, though we don't quite understand how it fits into Lexus' message of "The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection."
10) Earlier this year Infiniti launched its first hybrid, and it's being marketed as a performance model. If you buy into that, you'll buy into the commercials--especially the one M35h hybrid ad that uses Lexus' tag line against them.